The Pearl District has emerged into Portland’s hub of fitness and bodywork, and the vast majority of the neighborhood’s studios have been established by female entrepreneurs. From pilates salons to holistic-oriented chiropractors, here are nine of our favorite women-owned wellness businesses.
Back in the day, Linda Stimac and her daughter Sara toiled in the corporate worlds of law and financial services. They both became crazy about working out as a way to decompress. Then they decided to change everything. In 2012, they cut loose from their jobs and opened Firebrand Sports (500 NW 14th Ave, 503-715-5573, firebrandsports.com) in the Pearl.
“The bad thing about being in this business with your mother [who’s 71] is looking over while working out and seeing that she’s killing it while I’m modifying,” says Sara.
A quote that takes up a whole wall at Firebrand reads: “You don’t need more time, you need more intensity.”
Indeed, Firebrand’s classes are highly effective and intense, purporting to burn 1,000 calories per session. The Triple Threat is 45 minutes of dynamic circuit training that uses fierce 45-second intervals to increase strength and build cardiovascular endurance. Their Lagree Fitness and urban row classes are in the same school of burn and chisel.
Dr. Maria Mae McNash doesn’t think 15-minute doctor’s appointments provide enough time to address the physical, mental, and emotional needs of a patient.
“I started my own practice to change the paradigm of treatment,” says McNash. Sessions in her airy office inside the historic Gadsby Building on the corner of NW 13th Avenue and Hoyt Street last about an hour.
“Clients need more time, and now I can really practice the way I want to.”
McNash opened OM3 (1306 NW Hoyt St, Ste 304, 503-482-9039, om3body.com) in 2016. Her practice integrates soft-tissue manipulation and traditional chiropractic treatments, as well as the use of floral essences, which she believes inspire a more subtle internal transformation. She also provides nutritional and herbal support.
“Usually there are both physical and emotional components to a client’s injury or illness, and looking at the whole person is an important part of the healing process,” she says.
“As the Dalai Lama says, ‘world peace must develop from inner peace,’ and that’s the underlying mission of OM3.”
PEARL PILATES STUDIO
From Abs, Buns & Guns to Gentle Pilates, mat classes here offer a diversity of choices. The kicker: each class is limited to only six students. Since she opened her business in 2008, owner Jeanni Chrisman has valued and maintained low class numbers so each student can benefit from more individualized instruction and a peaceful setting.
Pearl Pilates (1211 NW Glisan St, Ste 207, 503-274-9728, pearlpilatesstudio.com) also specializes in private and small group Pilates and Gyrotonics. Using the latest equipment, Jeanni or one of her crew guides clients through movements that focus on quality not quantity and hinge on six principles: breath, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow. Chrisman taught dance and Pilates for six years before opening her own studio, where she could refine and explore her approach.
“Beyond anything else, I want to include a broad spectrum of people and not limit the practice to any one category of person,” says Chisman. “And I will always keep learning.”
Just a year after opening her first Pure Barre (1124 NW 13th Ave, 503-894-8623, purebarre.com) studio, owner Stephanie Richen was diagnosed with cancer. She practiced the Pure Barre method throughout her treatment, and it helped her bounce back faster.
As Richen describes it, what’s so appealing about Pure Barre for all types of people is that it’s low-impact—it protects your joints by avoiding any bouncing or jumping. And so it’s perfect for clients of all ages, fitness levels, and body types.
The studio’s 45- to 50-minute total-body workouts consist of a series of low-impact, isometric movements that use the ballet Barre and other light equipment to create long, lean muscle tone, improve cardiovascular health, and even help to relieve stress and anxiety.
Spinning fanatic Jessi Duley isn’t trying to solve the world’s problems. This “pint-sized powerhouse of positivity” just wants to improve your day. Her mission with Burn Cycle (910 NW 10th Ave, 503-946-8618, burncyclepdx.com): bring out the best version of clients, one workout at a time. Designed to fit into a lunch break, Burn Cycle’s 45-minute full-body indoor cycling class targets your upper body, obliques, and core with low-impact, high-intensity interval training. Instead of simulating an outdoor ride, classes use upbeat music and dim lighting so spinners don’t feel self-conscious while they crush it.
Sadie Lincoln and her husband opened the first Barre3 (1000 NW Marshall St, 503-206-8308, barre3.com) studio in the Pearl in 2008. As of 2019, 140 franchise studios are now thriving.
“Our alternative approach to fitness immediately appealed to people: be happy with your body right now, in this moment,” says Lincoln.
At a Barre3 class, expect sustained holds, micro-movements and cardio bursts that deliver you a delicious endorphin high and deep muscle burn.
Physical therapist Megan Moseley PT, MLT does more than just practice traditional treatments that address general orthopedics and sports injuries. Bodywise (402 NW 12th Ave, 503-701-4390, becomebodywise.net) offers a deep menu of modalities that integrate hands-on methods with Pilates-based movements, mindfulness, women’s health, and lymphatic drainage. She believes healing injury isn’t just physical—it takes place when mental and emotional blocks are removed, helping clients achieve true alignment of body, mind, and soul. Bodywise specializes in resiliency building, and tension- and trauma-release exercises, which induce the body into a tremor process that effectively releases chronic stress.
New Yorker Chantal Deeble traveled all over the world performing in Elizabeth Streb’s dance company, which is famous for extreme athleticism. All the while, she used Pilates and Gyrotonic methods to keep her body healthy. When her performing days were coming to an end in 2006, she decided to open Kinespirit (1231 NW 11th Ave, 503-235-3556, kinespiritcircle.com), a Pilates and Gyrotonic studio in New York City. In 2016, Deeble opened a sister studio in Portland.
“I wanted to pour my energy into creating spaces where others could benefit from these incredible practices,” says Deeble. “They make life better, with more joy, movement, grounding, and balance.”
ASULA WELLNESS CENTER
An urge to collaborate motivated Dr. Laila Marie Noll to open her wellness center Asula (818 NW Marshall St, 503-719-5335, asula.com).
“I wanted a workplace where different kinds of practitioners—from chiropractors to naturopaths—could work together to holistically address clients’ needs,” says Noll. “When you’re practicing on your own, you don’t get to bounce ideas off others or hear fresh perspectives.”
Noll—who specializes in chiropractic and craniosacral treatment for pregnant women and newborns—also created Asula with the intention of making a peaceful welcoming space for healing. Think candles, gentle lighting, reclaimed wood, and warm colors.
– Ellie Thalheimer | Photos by Michelle Mitchell, except Barre3 by Jennifer Gillette, OM3 Body by JD White photography, and Burn Cycle by Shelby Brakken photography