Walk into both CycleBar and Club Pilates and you will notice something immediately: both exercise venues have everything their customer would ever want or need to workout. This is due in part to their common owner, Katie Kannapell Ryser, whose laser focus and attention to detail is making both places all the buzz on the Louisville exercise scene. Katie does not teach any classes at either establishment, but she does exercise frequently at both. She is an entrepreneur, taking basic tried-and-true concepts and making them fresh and customized for this market. As she says “how fun can it be to ride a bike that goes nowhere,” and yet she tackles that challenge head on. She has accomplished all of this at a breakneck pace, in about 18 months. Though her family is from Louisville, this is the first time she has lived here and for her it felt like coming home. She has set her roots down here and is excited for what the future holds. Just to make everyone a believer in the power of exercise, one of Katie’s guilty (and regular) pleasures is a Chik-fil-A chicken sandwich with extra pickles. Meet Katie Kannapell Ryser, our FACE of Louisville today.
You have only been in Louisville for 18 months and have already opened up two exercise studios: CycleBar and Club Pilates. What was your impetus for opening up CycleBar and later, Club Pilates?
My husband and I decided to leave New York City for a quieter life with family and friends. We visited Louisville many times each year, so we know what it had to offer and what we felt was missing. I had been spinning the past 10 years in boutique studios on the Upper East Side and was puzzled as to why there wasn’t a dedicated spin studio in Louisville. I love the idea of being laser focused — the very best at one thing, rather than being “good enough” at lots of things like so many big-box gyms are. I was particularly keen on cycling because, as a former runner, I have not found a better cardio replacement to running than cycling. As I approach 40, I am all about no-impact and injury avoidance!
I contacted CycleBar and signed an agreement for the Louisville territory before we moved back. Club Pilates is a concept that my husband Fred found and fell in love with. He learned about it from afar but waited to see how Louisville received CycleBar. With a strong CycleBar opening behind us, he hopped on a plane to Southern California about six weeks after we opened CycleBar and the next thing I knew, we had the Louisville territory for Club Pilates as well.
How have you used your skills learned from your last careers in these latest ventures?
Event planning helped me greatly in implementing timelines and the importance of knowing how to prioritize. My other career in jewelry design taught me the importance of subtle details and that they really do make a difference. And my most important career as a stay-at-home mom in NYC taught me how to be efficient when I need to be and how to find the fun and joy in all situations.
You have taken familiar exercise concepts, both with spinning and Pilates, and made them your own. How have you customized both of these businesses?
We have taken two old concepts and modernized them. CycleBar is very experiential – it has to be, because let’s face it, how fun can it be to ride a bike that goes nowhere? We have a state-of-the-art theater with LED lighting; top-of-the-line equipment; an incredible sound system; a stats system that tracks your progress, calorie burn and lets you compete against others in the class (if that’s your thing); and amazing instructors who both motivate and inspire while DJ’ing a playlist of music that’s never been played before.
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Though your whole family is from here, you never actually lived here until recently. What are your impressions of Louisville now that you are a resident?
I love Louisville so much. It is ideal for raising children. The pace is so much more civilized than I was used to in New York. The people here are friendly, kind and genuinely care for one another. It is a beautiful place, and the quality of living versus the cost of living has to be the highest in the country. Louisville is a gem of a place, and I am proud to call it home.
What has been your experience with opening up a local business here?
A very positive one. People want to work, so finding the right folks to build our spaces was not a challenge. The people of Louisville love to support local businesses, and if they like you, they tell their friends and so forth. We have felt like Louisville has just welcomed us with open arms and given us this long hug. The quality of our employees is off the charts: incredibly hardworking, kind and talented people who embody a team mentality.
How are you managing both places at once?
With the help of incredible management, instructors and desk staff. I bounce back and forth, trying to give equal attention. I also get a lot of advice from my husband Fred on prioritizing. He has an incredible ability to take the long view on things while I can get somewhat mired in the details.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
That I am a recovering alcoholic. Nearly eight years ago my life was headed in the wrong direction — I was an unreliable mess. With unwavering support from my husband and family, I took small steps each day to slowly turn my life around. I never could have imagined that I would become someone that people would be willing to invest in, give a long-term lease to, give a bank loan to and seek employment from. Looking back, it is nothing short of a miracle. Everything in my life today is a gift from God and sobriety, which I will never take for granted.
What are three words that describe you?
Honest, passionate, hardworking
What advice do you treasure?
Two things: “Life is what you make it” — my grandmother often told me that. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _______.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Spend time with family — whether it is swimming or roasting marshmallows at our house, or helping in the garden or feeding birds at my parents’ house, as long as we are together, I am content.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss, and Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World by H. Stephen Glenn
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three of your favorite things right now?
Drybar, football season and taking a 9:30 a.m. spin class at CycleBar and following it with a 10:30 a.m. Reformer Flow class at Club Pilates. When I do those two classes back to back, I feel like I can take on anything the day could bring.
Thank you Adele Reding Photography for the beautiful pictures.
To be inspired by other great women in Louisville, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.