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Editor’s Note: We’re still inspired by these two women who were our first featured SB FACES back in early 2012. Lucy Gentry and Karen Handel, the co-owners of Pure Barre in Westport Village and Pure Barre Summit, do an amazing job juggling kids and careers,all while lifting, toning and burning our bodies.

As an added note, we are grateful to our servicemen and women each day, but especially thinking of them today, this Memorial Day 2013.

Karen Handel and Lucy Gentry
Karen Handel and Lucy Gentry

How did you meet and decide to open a business together in Louisville?

Lucy: Karen and I met several years ago when our oldest children were in preschool. We started working out together, always looking for the next best challenge to ‘whip’ us into shape. We tried boot camps, personal trainers, and often ran 5k’s. Karen and I were also looking for a business venture together, even considering owning our own preschool. Karen is an attorney and I’m a social worker, but we were ready to go off the beaten path from our everyday careers. We felt Louisville was the perfect city because of the health-conscious people, the ties and friendships we already had, the attraction to the city, and because of the population. We love Louisville and are reminded every day of what a great city it is!

Lucy Gentry
Lucy Gentry

Karen:  Lucy and I knew for a long time we wanted to go into business together, we believed at the time it would be centered around something that we were passionate about such as working with women or children. When we took our first class at Pure Barre in Lexington, we did not expect it to turn into a business venture. We were just looking for a way to get in better shape. It did not take long, however, to become intrigued by the way the Lexington owners ran their studio and how they seemed to enjoy every minute of doing it. Lucy is a licensed clinical social worker and I am an attorney. We both still maintain our other practices, but Pure Barre is a lot more fun!

Karen Handel
Karen Handel

How did you feel after your very first Pure Barre class?

Lucy: I was in shock and in awe of the amazing workout. According to Karen, I had the “deer in the headlights” look during my first class. I wasn’t sure if I loved or hated it, but I knew I wanted more, so I signed up for 10 more classes and I haven’t looked back. Pure Barre gave me an hour out of my hectic day, and I could block everything else out. It’s like no other workout I had ever done. I cheered in college and I’ve always been in some type of fitness arena, but I knew I had found something very unique!

Karen: We both were a total disaster in that first class, to be kind. Our bodies trembled so badly and embarrassingly, it was nothing short of sheer madness to have agreed to the class. I distinctly remember at one point in the class, Lucy looking at me with a deer in the headlights look as if to say, “We do not belong here!”  I concurred a “You think!” glance back at her, and once the class was over, we were both in total eye contact agreement that we would not be back for any more —  ever! Our teacher was so impressive and after class came up to offer words of encouragement. Completely exhausted, embarrassed by such a pitiful performance, and awkwardly star-struck by her, Lucy nor I were able to get any recognizable-as-English words out of our mouths in response that day. It was because of her words to us after class that we both signed up for 10 more classes — that day.

What do you love the most about Pure Barre?

Lucy: It’s several things. Most important to me, it’s about the relationships with the clients, most of whom I now call friends. It’s about the energy in class whether I’m teaching or taking. It’s about the amazing group of women I get to work with every day. It’s the music and the way I feel when I’m taking class. The music can absolutely take you back to a memory or time, or propel you through that 3rd and FINAL THIGH exercise.  It’s seeing how Pure Barre is changing lives and bodies, and of course it’s the technique. I get to work and do something that I’m passionate about… I’m very lucky to say that. It doesn’t feel like work at all; I absolutely love it.

Do you think you have achieved a balance with family and two jobs each?

Lucy: I’m trying to everyday! Pure Barre just celebrated our one-year anniversary and it felt really good to get that year behind us. Karen and I learned a lot and worked hard — there was little time for play. We are moving into our second year with another location soon to open. I have two  young children, a very supportive and flexible husband, and I continually strive for a balance. We are thrilled with the growth and new opportunities, so we will see what the future holds for us!

Karen: Certainly! Everything in life is a balance and I suppose I could be described as a type A personality (for whatever that really means) taking on a lot in life. I prefer the description that I like to challenge myself daily, not just in health and fitness terms, but also, in achieving success in varying businesses. However, my boys and their needs will always be top priority in my life.

As owners of a new business venture in our city, what is the best advice you received?

Lucy: My mom suggested my housekeeper come every week, instead of bi-monthly. I think she is right!

What feeling do you want your customers to leave Pure Barre with?

Lucy: Any variation of their own “WOW.”  I want customers to leave class being totally swept off their feet by the workout and have the experience of the mental release that comes along with it. PB gives clients that one hour all to themselves, to block everything else out, and just focus on themselves. I also want them to feel a warm and inviting welcome from our team, and feel the notion to want to come back.

Karen: I would like for each client to leave feeling challenged by the technique, as well as feeling a strong sense of support from our instructors.

What three words best describe you?

Lucy: Loyal, compassionate, funny.

Karen: Driven, determined and, at times, ornery.

Karen, what is your favorite thing about Lucy?

Lucy is a therapist, so she has a very calming demeanor. This is fantastic about her, not just because I get my therapy for free, but also because she is very cool-headed during our most stressful and challenging times. I believe to become successful at any business, this is a key trait. It also is a nice and vital balance to my divide and conquer mentality.

Lucy, what is your favorite thing about Karen?

Oh my, does it have to be just one?! Her work ethic, honesty, loyalty, style, love for shopping and sense of humor!

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Lucy: I have three brothers, and was quite the tomboy growing up in Harlan, Kentucky.

Karen: Goodness, who knows… I suppose that I have no social life. I have very little time for it, and honestly, don’t miss it either. The boys’ sporting activities and teaching Pure Barre classes have become my excitement, and taking class is my relaxation.

What are you reading right now?

Lucy: All The World is sitting by me now, along with my daughter.  It’s a book I read to her. I’m reading This I Believe II: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.

Karen: I read only non-fiction and I tend to become obsessed on current event subjects, most involving white-collared crime. I am, however, currently reading John Locke’s non-fiction book titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. It is great for anyone in business, not just authors, and John is the husband of one of our daily clients, Annie Locke.

What is your favorite thing in Louisville?

Lucy: Most everything at Westport Village! I love Heine Brothers CoffeePlay Things is a must for my kids, and Clater Jewelers is always a treat for me! I love my neighbors at The Trail Store and their big dog, Murphy, too.

Karen: Hard to not say Derby here. Really is an unparalleled event and such an exciting time for the city of Louisville and everyone here.

What is your favorite thing to wear when you are not wearing workout clothes?

Lucy: Right now, jeans, boots and a fashionable shirt.

Karen: “Beyond Yoga” sweat pants. They are cute enough not to look like you’re wearing sweat pants, but you still get the comfort of sweat pants. Can’t help it… love them!

Name three things you can’t live without (excluding family, friends and God.)

Lucy: Coffee, Listerine Strips, and my iPhone!

Karen:  Starbucks iced latte, my phone, and music.

We would like to thank Adele and Sean Reding from Adele Reding Studio for their wonderful photography.  For a behind-the-scenes look at our Pure Barre photo shoot, click here.

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About the Author
Heidi Potter