It could be called the little neighborhood that could, and it’s filled with entrepreneurs who have harnessed their passion and stick-to-itiveness into places of business that are helping to revive the city in delicious and meaningful ways. Five Points Neighborhood serves as an intersection for some of the best new businesses on the West Side.
Pilates Art Studio, which opened two years ago, is one of the up-and-coming new destinations for those who want to strengthen their core muscles, increase body flexibility, and create something lovely through movement and art.
Sarah Griffin-DiVincenzo, a lifelong athlete, said when she was in her late teens, she became obsessed with the gym. “I became fascinated and obsessed with fitness,” she said, “studying everything I could get my hands on and spending time in the gym at school and our local Golds gym. I began working in the gym (the Village Glen in Williamsville) at 20 years old.”
Her pursuits led her to earn a B.S. degree in sports management from Medaille College. Through the program, she learned about the business of fitness, not just the mechanics of staying in shape. As a student, she interned with Pat Laduca from the Village Glen for five years. “She took me under her wing,” said Griffin-DiVincenzo, “and I advanced as a personal trainer.”
After college, wanting to leave her Western New York roots and see more of the world, Griffin-DiVincenzo went to San Diego, where she experienced a variety of gyms as a trainer and observed how they operated. She holds comprehensive certification through Balanced Body and completed half of her training in Costa Rica, where she spends summers studying. While she enjoyed the West Coast, Griffin-DiVincenzo said she missed family. She completed her certification in Buffalo.
“I grew up in Cheektowaga,” she said, “so California was a long way from home.”
She considers this experience—moving away from the comforts of home—to be an important part of her journey toward owning her own business, which was her life’s goal. Upon her return, she moved to the West Side to experience the rich cultural diversity of the city and sought training as a Pilates instructor.
Griffin-DiVincenzo considers her journey to owning her own studio to be an organic one. She worked hard and saved every penny and began buying equipment as she was able. Her parents graciously stored the equipment in their garage until she was ready to move it to her new shop. “It’s a little scary, opening your own business,” she said. “It takes a lot of time to develop knowledge and confidence.”
“Buffalo is so cool,” Griffin-DiVincenzo continued. “It’s diverse, different, and funky.” This could be said of Pilates Studio and Art Gallery, as well. It’s fitting that it is located in the triangular building perched at 429 Rhode Island St.
Read more about Buffalo's up-and-coming Five Points Neighborhood here
“Finding our current location happened in perfect karmic rhythm,” said Griffin-DiVincenzo. “As we decided it was time to start looking, we ran into our friend, Frits Abell, who was rehabbing this building that we have been admiring for years. I especially loved it because it is surrounded by windows, letting in tons of natural light. (My old studio had zero windows! So I prayed to find a space with lots of light).”
On the second and third floors, she and her husband, Mark, a respected painter in his own right, have created a unique, beautiful space where they can share what they do best—fitness and art—to anyone who desires to add their own splash of color to the world.
On the second floor, Griffin-DiVincenzo welcomes groups of three or more individuals to participate in Pilates to improve strength, flexibility, and mental awareness. On the third floor, her husband makes art and teaches. Together, they have created a beautiful space for expression.
“I can take a client at any level and help them build strength in their body,” said Griffin-DiVincenzo. “Being surrounded by works of art is unique and inspiring.” Her clients—just over 50 of them now—agree. She calls her clients “friends,” and they range in age from early 20s to late 80.
“’I wish I could do this every day’ is a phrase I hear a lot,” said Griffin-DiVincenzo. “I love teaching Pilates and they love doing Pilates. They leave feeling better in their bodies, and I am satisfied knowing that they can operate their bodies better and feel wonderful.”
“It’s amazing watching Buffalo grow and being part of that growth,” she added. When she thinks back over the past couple of years, Griffin-DiVincenzo doesn’t think the challenges to be anything much to consider. Finding their current location happened effortlessly, and having saved money all along the way instead of taking out loans just inspired her to work harder.
In their spare time, the couple make as much time as possible to spend with their three-year-old son, do art together—Sarah’s creations hang in Mark’s studio as well as his own—and travel to the ocean whenever they can. Griffin-DiVincenzo is still obsessed with the gym. And when they have moments together to consider how lucky they are and what the future might hold, they do dream. After all, their dreams—and hard work—brought them this far.
The couple have been working on a series of drawings of Pilates poses. “It is a side project we have been doing together, and we are not sure exactly where it will lead,” said Griffin-DiVincenzo. “It's another fun way we combine our passions. We plan to do many more drawings.”
By summer of 2020, they envision offering a Pilates-art retreat in a beautiful, inspiring location. Participants would do much of what they do at 429 Rhode Island St., except the setting would be other-worldly, and for a special time carved out in space and time, all attendees would put their cares away and focus solely on themselves—feeling better in their skin and putting brush to canvas, in a symbiotic creation of lasting beauty.