This Small City Is Headed for Big Things in the Wellness World

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Welcome to Hoboken, NJ: wellness boomtown.

With a yoga studio for every 10,000 residents and nearly half its population age 20–34, Hoboken, which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan (if you're not a local), is a major up-and-comer in the wellness world.

Things started to percolate in 2010, but in the past 18 months the fitness scene has really taken off. It used to be that "we had three privately owned gyms and New York Sports Club here," says Lisa Bruno, co-founder of Work It Out Gym (WiO), which opened back in 2010 with a variety of class formats and is considered a pioneer on the scene.

But today, the number of fitness studios in such a small area (they don't call it the "Square-Mile City" for nothing!) is surprising. As a resident of Hoboken myself, I've a ton of options within a few blocks of my apartment: at least two CrossFit gyms, a Bar Method, a dance cardio studio called Fitness Meets Dance, 35 Minute Bootcamp, plus yoga studios galore.

And it almost shares that feeling you get in the supersaturated fitness neighborhoods of Manhattan like Soho and Flatiron, where everyone's in workout capris and running shoes.


One reason for the boom is Manhattan overflow. Lower rent and a young market are making Jersey girls out of many a wellness maven—like Jennifer DeMarco, CEO and co-founder of Local Barre. Fed up with rushing to classes in the city before rushing to commute home, DeMarco opened Hoboken’s first barre studio in 2010. “Our classes were pretty well booked, with wait lists during peak times, not long after we opened,” DeMarco says.

So, the New York City expat kept opening new studios in Hoboken: two more barre locations and a cycling spot called Wheelhaus, all within a city that takes 15 minutes to walk end-to-end.

Local Barre’s success is a robust display of the demand for boutique fitness. There's no SoulCycle or Barry's Bootcamp (yet?), but other studios like WiO and Local Barre are capitalizing on the city’s young, ambitious demographic.


And it’s not just the fitness scene that’s exploding. Raw, cold-pressed juice spot Simply Juiced opened this summer, serving juices, nut milks, and light vegan meals all made in-house. Buddha Press opened a few months before, positioning itself as a “juice spa," and sourcing its organic ingredients from local growers and farmers markets.

A New Jersey skeptic at first (aren’t they all?) DeMarco fell in love with Hoboken. “Everything I loved about the city is here, and the things I don’t love or connect with aren’t here,” she explains.

And she's excited for what's ahead. “I can’t say, but there’s definitely going to be more.” She could be referring to the Athleta store opening in the fall, or the rumored Trader Joe's, but whatever the healthy news, it might be worth a quick jaunt on the PATH train one day to check it out.

Don't worry, New Jersey is nice. And we have kale salads here. —Amy Marturana

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(Photos: Facebook/Hoboken, Local Barre, Thaddeus Rombauer for Work it Out Gym. Second photo: The entrance to Local Barre West and Wheelhaus. Third photo: Work it Out Gym's hybrid studio space at its River Street location.)


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