I first met Sarah Griffin-DiVincenzo (lead image) in the winter of 2018 when I moved to Buffalo.
It just happened that I wanted to get a taste of the local scene, so I went to Remedy House in the Five Points neighborhood with my laptop to work, and enjoy what has come to be my regular order there: a nonfat vanilla latte and an egg on a roll. If you’re new to the city or want to try out a new funky neighborhood, Five Points on the West Side is just the ticket – eclectic, fun, and full of bars, restaurants, and shops such as Urban Roots and Blue Table Chocolates. These days, you can spend an entire day within the two-block radius and find plenty to see and do.
As for Sarah, she runs Pilates Art Studio with her husband Mark, on the second floor above Remedy House. It turns out that while I was in line at the café one fateful day, Sarah was awaiting the arrival of her Americano. That’s when I complimented her on her leggings. The rest is history. She and I got to talking, and once she mentioned her Pilates studio I was all ears (I have done mat work and Pilates since 2008 but I was well out of practice.) In true Buffalo fashion, she invited me upstairs to get a private tour and lesson to test out the state-of-the-art reformer machines. I signed up that day. Aside from the tremendous workout, meeting someone as friendly and informative as Sarah made me feel like I was immediately part of the Buffalo community. And as a runner, starting upon an exercise regimen outside of cardio could only help my running. I was ready.
Embarking upon any kind of exercise routine is daunting, but I will tell you this: Sarah is the most nurturing instructor I have ever come across – a poster child for “The City of Good Neighbors.” When the pandemic shut down Buffalo, she went remote. I conducted Zoom mat classes with her and other participants for almost a year. It was a way to connect, stay strong and flexible, and feel confident that I could get back to reformer classes. Eventually I went to my first reformer class (since 2019!), as her studio was taking all necessary precautions, while still guaranteeing fun and informative hour-long Pilates workouts (see inset photo).
As I got to know Sarah, I wanted to hear more about my friend and instructor’s journey to opening this beautiful space in Five Points, so I sat down with her to ask her a few questions. I was very interested in how long she has been practicing the craft, and what inspired her to study it…
“In 2009 I moved home to Buffalo from San Diego and took a job as a personal trainer inside a Pilates/fitness studio. I hadn’t known anything about Pilates before that. I watched, intimidated, as the instructors put the clients through workouts on this foreign equipment. When I started practicing Pilates, I was humbled. I prided myself on my fitness level, but this was different. My mission is always to help people feel better in their bodies, so I just knew in my heart that this was the next step for me. I started studying Pilates manuals and practicing the exercises. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by other teachers and I did a lot of research to find the right program to enroll in. I wanted to be immersed, without the distractions of daily life. So, my husband and I decided to go to Costa Rica for an extended amount of time to start my teacher training. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
It was her background and the intense studies that inspired and propelled her to open her own studio on the West Side.
“I knew many years before I opened my studio that I was going to do this. I remember telling my husband when we first met that it was my dream to have my own studio and that my studio would be surrounded by beautiful art. I think it was just meant to be. Over the years I worked in and visited a lot of different gyms and fitness studios. I love to visit other studios when I travel and see how other people provide their services, take care of their people, and design their environment. I slowly collected my ideas and saved my money to purchase equipment. Little by little everything fell into place, and now here I am. I love coming to my studio every day, and I love that other my clients love it too. Many people tell me that my studio is their ‘happy place’ and that is music to my ears.”
Much like my intense love for this area, Sarah saw no other spot in Buffalo to land and open up her own space.
“My husband and I have been living on the West Side for 10 years. Living in this part of the city has been quite a different experience for me as I grew up in the suburbs. Mark, my husband, being an artist needs to have an art studio, not just a little room to do art, he needs a big space with big walls to work on. So we settled into a building on the West Side that has lots of space and natural light, a space that is made for an artist to live. 10 years ago, the 5 points neighborhood was not like it is now. It was pretty beat up, and kind of scary to walk around. After I had my son, I wanted to have everything close, I wanted my work to be close to home. I also wanted a neighborhood, a community to be a part of. Once I was clear on what I wanted, it just mystically happened that we ran into our friend, Frits Abell, one day and he told us we should come to see the building he renovated at the corner of W. Utica and Rhode Island. Once we saw it, I knew. I know that a lot of my Williamsville friends and family thought I was nuts to move my business to the West Side of Buffalo, but I knew it would be great. And the rest is history.”
A big part of the special feeling you get when you enter Pilates Art Studio is that it is a collaborative effort between Sarah and her husband Mark. Mark is an artist whose studio is located on the third floor of the building. Mark’s art adorns the Pilates studio walls (and gives me inspiration when I am taking a reformer class.) Sarah knew how important it was for both she and Mark to embark upon this journey together in the same building.
“Years back when I was starting my Pilates teacher training in Costa Rica, we stayed there for 5 magical weeks. Our lives felt very open to all the possibilities and there we came up with our idea of Pilates Art Studio. We talked about having a big space where we could combine our studios and make a unique experience for people. There is something about being surrounded by art that is inspiring, soothing, and energizing. We just had an idea, a vision. We wanted to design the Pilates studio like an art gallery. Always changing the art and having art for sale right off the walls.”
Sarah’s dedication to Pilates, and the willingness she has to adapt to her clients’ needs, is one of the best parts of practicing with Sarah.
“My favorite part of being a Pilates instructor is the relationships I have with my clients. My studio is a very positive environment and the people I attract into the studio are all working towards positive, healthy goals. It is so rewarding to watch clients get stronger and more confident as they grow in their movement practice. We have fun, we laugh, we support each other, and lean on one another. This business also gives me the flexibility to build my schedule in a way that allows me to be the kind of parent I want to be to my son. It is important to me that I can pick him up from school each day and have enough quality time together.”
Having her clients feel at home during Pilates classes is just part of the puzzle for Sarah. She loves to find new and exciting things to do in her neighborhood and the city she calls home. She loves where she lives – that passion is evident as we discuss the Five Points neighborhood, and the city of Buffalo. Summer is far and away her family’s favorite season around here, but she loves all 4 seasons and is gearing up for a fun fall and winter ahead with her family.
“As much as we are summer/beach people we love the snow season! About now is the time we start to pray for snow. We as a family love to spend time cross-country skiing. Gianluca is 6 years old and this will be is 4th season on xc skis. I fell in love with the sport 11 years ago and each year my love grows deeper, and my skill level goes up. Last year, the highlight of the season was when I went skied Mt. Van Hoevenberg at the Lake Placid Olympic XC ski center. There are few things that can compare to the feeling of being out on the xc ski trails, it is pure bliss. In the fall, we love to hike and admire the beautiful colors. As much as we can be outdoors we get out there!”
While Sarah and I share a firm love for all things Buffalo, we both realize how much still needs to be done in and around the city. It is my belief that loving a city also includes wanting it to change and grow. I asked if she had one wish from a “Genie in a bottle” for Buffalo, what she would use it for. A safe, sustainable place came to mind.
“I know there are some big issues in the city. For the last 10 years, I have lived in a neighborhood where there are some families who are very poor. I see kids running around with no shoes on and no parental guidance. It’s hard to see that and be in my busy life and not be able to do anything about it. If I was a genie, I would make sure that everyone in our city had a nice, safe place to live. All the kids would have the right shoes, and coats for the seasons and parents to really care for them. We would all work together to pick up all the litter and make the city really beautiful. It’s a level of consciousness that if I was a genie, I would bring everyone up to. At this level of consciousness, we care about our environment, and the food we feed ourselves and our children. If I was a genie, our city would radiate a vibe of health and vitality.”
Practicing what you preach is important for Sarah. She knows that to be the best instructor for her clients she must put the work in as well. It is no surprise that she loves to do Pilates regularly on her own. A good balance between work and family is extremely important to her.
“I do Pilates myself on most weekdays. I usually squeeze in a quick workout whenever I can. The equipment is so fun to play on. With my athletic and bodybuilding background, I love to find new ways to challenge myself and sculpt my body. Every day is different and with Pilates, I can always execute a workout that fits my energy levels and goals for the day.
“Outside of the studio, I try to get out and get my heart pumping in a fun way. I like to rollerblade, skateboard, bike ride and cross-country ski with my family or by myself. Our favorite places to go are the Outer Harbor and Delaware Park. Having a little boy has been the most fun way to squeeze in a workout. We play soccer, or baseball, hide and seek, or wrestling. It’s never-ending. When we get home, we are beat. We love to get lazy and snuggle, play video games and read.”
Equally important to her growth and development as an instructor is finding that balance in her life, and learning things along the way. She finds herself reflecting on her time since she opened the studio, and figuring out what has worked for her thus far.
“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can do it and to believe in myself and my vision. To trust the process. I am surrounded by amazing people who emotionally support me as I grow. But the reality is, it’s all up to me. I have to take full responsibility for everything that happens here, in my business, and in my life. My biggest goal is to live up to my potential. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but every day I am studying and learning and applying what I learn into my daily life.”
Part of growing her business is allowing for time to be with her family. She does this by opening up her studio to other instructors that can fill in the gaps in her schedule. She has added another teacher to fit those needs.
“Right now we have two teachers at Pilates Art Studio. Myself and Mary Grace. For the first few years it was just me. I was praying to find the right person who I can trust and respect. I wanted someone who takes their education seriously, and someone I just clicked with. When I met Mary I knew she would be a great fit and as it turns out, I was right. We offer private lessons, duets, and classes for up to 3 people.”
It is no secret that Sarah loves what she does. It is immediately apparent when you speak to her about Pilates – how much she enjoys it. For her, she finds joy in getting to know people of all walks of life, in order to better understand their needs.
“Pilates is so wonderful because it really allows me to work with every type of body, from a professional athlete to a 90-year-old woman. I can’t believe I can say that I’ve been working with clients for almost 20 years, first as a personal trainer, and now as a pilates instructor. I have worked with all kinds of people, and each person has their own set of ‘issues’ they are dealing with and most of them stem from an imbalance in the body. I learn about my clients’ bodies and can determine exactly what they need. The way the equipment is designed is brilliant. The machines work on spring tension and the springs vary in resistance so it is very adaptable to different levels. Also, the beauty of this system of exercise is that the machines and the springs can support you to get through an exercise that without the support you would find impossible. That way you can slowly build strength, flexibility, fluidity, and control. Little by little your whole body improves, you sit and stand taller, and you have the strength and endurance to get through your day-to-day activities with ease.”
Sarah feels the same sense of community in her studio that she does living and working on the West Side.
“What I love most about living in Buffalo is the people. I love how it seems like everyone knows each other and it feels like everyone looks out for one another. This city feels like one big family. I love having my studio at 5 Points on the West Side because when I walk out of work each day I see friends sitting at the cafe downstairs, or walking down the street and we can smile and wave or stop and catch up. All the small business owners in the neighborhood are wonderful, we have a tight group of like-minded people here who are committed to taking care of, and providing a top-notch experience for our clientele.”
Getting to know Sarah, since I moved to Buffalo in 2018, has been an absolute pleasure. Her passion for Pilates, the city itself, and her family and friends is readily apparent. My personal Pilates journey has not always been easy: I have fought injuries and had to adapt my practice to best suit my needs. At the same time, I am proud to say that Sarah has become a good friend – I met her at a time when I knew next to no one in this town. That’s the thing about Buffalo: when you least expect it, the City of Good Neighbors has your back.
If you are looking for something new to try or want to get back into Pilates shape, I highly recommend taking a class with Sarah or Mary Grace at Pilates Art Studio. You won’t be disappointed. If you see me in your class there, say hi! We can grab an Americano at Remedy House afterwards. The first cup is on me.
For more on Sarah’s studio in Five Points, her pricing, and class availability, please visit her website: pilatesartstudio.com
Or sign up on the mindbody app: www.mindbodyonline.com
Professional photos of Sarah courtesy Ginny Stewart