When Kim Dwerlkotte tore her rotator cuff, she decided to try Pilates to rehabilitate. Her neighbor and best friend, Diane Lewonowski, went along to keep her company.
“Diane was nice and said she’d do that for me,” Dwerlkotte said. “We both loved it.”
Enough, in fact, that the women decided to get into the fitness business themselves.
“It was just our stage in life – over 50 and wanting to stay fit,” Lewonowski said.
Today the pair own Core Strength Wichita, which offers Pilates, Gyrotonic exercise and other workouts on the ground floor of downtown’s historic Eaton building. While the women leave most of the client training to employees, they are involved in the business, attending classes and spending a couple of hours there most mornings. Lewonowski credits Pilates with giving her back “100 percent range of motion” in the injured shoulder.
The partners’ first venture into the fitness business was selling exercise wear, which they said was in short supply in town. They opened Zezi Pilates and Yoga Apparel on the east side in 2010.
“We decided we didn’t like the retail side of it,” Dwerlkotte said. “It’s really hard with online (competition) and stuff.”
As they were closing that business, several exercise instructors asked them if they’d consider opening an exercise studio. After viewing a 3,000-square-foot space in the Eaton, they decided to make the leap.
“We just decided that was a great opportunity,” Dwerlkotte said. “The downtown area definitely needed something like that. We fell in love with the space and gutted it.”
Exercise machines for Pilates and Gyrotonic workouts sit in front. Originally, there were saunas in the back, but when that service didn’t take off with customers, the owners turned the space into a large open studio. Recently, they began offering yoga and ballet barre classes there in response to customer requests. Gyrokinesis and Yamuna Body Work are other exercise regimens taught at the studio.
Dwerlkotte said Core Strength Wichita offers different kinds of workouts “because they’re just really specialized and they kind of complement each other. It’s a small, private studio.”
Dwerlkotte said the workouts are especially popular with men trying to come back from golf and running injuries. Dwerlkotte’s daughter-in-law, Kayla Hiemenz, manages the studio. A half-dozen more instructors work there as well.
That leaves Lewonowski, a former nurse, and Dwerlkotte, an interior designer, free to enjoy the classes themselves and focus on customer service.
“It’s not a health club,” Dwerlkotte said. “Ladies come in, they don’t worry about putting on their makeup. Men come in, they can go back to work (downtown) afterward. It’s just a real professional environment with qualified instructors.”