The sounds of flailing feet and fists correctly striking padded opponents pervade Absolute Martial Arts’ 3,600-square-foot facility, where students learn how to lose weight, tone up, and defend themselves simultaneously. Atop a large mat that the staff disinfects daily, professional instructors lead structured muay-thai kickboxing classes that slowly introduce exercisers to the fundamentals of the 1,000-year-old sport, which is similar to kickboxing and dissimilar to napping. Many of the trainers, including Thai-native Master Toddy, boast years of extensive training and practice, pushing students beyond their perceived limits but always keeping their safety in mind. It also offers Brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed-martial-arts classes to allow students a chance to explore new forms or augment their muay-thai practice.
Pole Position Raceway’s Formula EK20 Pro Karts rumble over the track powered by 18-horsepower motors (nearly triple that of average gas karts), which reach speeds up to 45 miles per hour without filling the temperature-controlled arenas with fumes.
After the first Pole Position Raceway opened in Corona, California, it soon spawned 10 locations stretching to the Atlantic. Technicians maintain the fleet via handheld computers, and top drivers are regularly sent out to evaluate karts’ handling and reading comprehension. During races, up to 12 guests compete in contests that last about 10 minutes.
Heyde Sewing Machine Company needs every inch of its 5,500 feet of retail space: shelves groan under the weight of more than 5,000 bolds of cloth, and in addition to sewing notions and quilting supplies, the store stocks machines from brands such as Brother and Pfaff. This wealth of fabric and needlework necessities sets the stage for classes on subjects ranging from basic sewing-machine operation to advanced undertakings such as quilting or navigating embroidery-lettering software. In addition to friendly instructors, the staff includes skilled technicians ready to repair sewing machines of any make or model and sharpen shears dulled by snipping obnoxious neighbors’ power lines. The store’s encouraging embroidery and quilting clubs, as well as its library of patterns, make for a creatively fertile atmosphere that brings crafters back again and again.
Originating in 1952 under the name Mel Bay Music, City Music & Education Center continues its founder's pursuit of supplying students with musical instruments, education, and resources. Alongside band and orchestra instruments available for rent or purchase, the harmonious retailer stocks its shelves with sheet music, PA systems, and powdered wigs for burgeoning composers. The scent of coffee wafts through the air as baristas grind local beans behind the enclosed counter of Note Worthy Café, and trained repair technicians remedy damages to instruments without the abuse of harsh chemicals. Thirteen spacious lesson rooms accommodate students and experienced, music-degree-bearing instructors for private instrumental and voice lessons, and a jam room, recording studio, and recital hall shelter musicians in every step of the creative process. In addition to its year-round services, City Music & Education Center hosts a smattering of seasonal events, including barbecue fundraisers for local school bands, battle of the bands for teenage groups, and recycling drives for glam-rock-era spandex pants.
Jennifer O'Faoláin-Bartley has been dancing as long as she can remember. “I was itty bitty when I started,” she says. “Just four.” The young Jennifer began learning the fast-stepping footwork of her heritage at the urging of her Irish grandparents, and once she started, much like an obsession with capybaras, she never stopped. Today, certified by the An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, Jennifer helms The O'Faolain Academy of Irish Dance, where she shares her love of jigs and reels with students whose ambitions range from just having fun to joining the ranks of competitive foot flickers. The academy welcomes pupils old enough to buy lotto tickets or young enough to eat them, teaching feet of all ages how to move rhythmically while also building self-discipline and self-esteem.
In 1976, Joan Barnes—a Californian mom frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time—took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play and Music. In the decades since Gymboree’s founding, Joan’s vision of a safe place where youngsters could build confidence and creativity has come to fruition and spread to 30 countries around the globe. Staffed by attentive and expertly trained instructors, each Gymboree outpost adheres to a curriculum of activities designed by experts to foster the development of children’s’ cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play and close readings of Goodnight Moon. The staffers also conduct entertaining classes that cover subjects ranging from music to sports, imparting valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. To further set apart her business, Barnes employed nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beck to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
It's fitting that the Central Institute for Human Performance is located inside a restored high-school building. Since the original lockers still line the hallways and the Karel Lewit Clinic for rehabilitation sits in what used to be the administrative offices, the glossy walls and floors often remind visitors of their athletic dreams when they once strolled through their own high schools. While the rehabilitation clinic treats injuries and physical trauma, the immaculate and spacious gym helps athletes improve or maintain their physical well-being. Fitness instructors challenge their students through innovative, small-group classes such as Strongman workouts. The center's consulting team, which earned a nod from Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, offers nutritional guidance and lifestyle coaching to help members reach their goals. Professional jerseys hang above modern equipment to further inspire athletes to dream big and remember to pick up their dry cleaning.