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Dec. 6, 2021

The History of RiversZen - Total Serendipity

How in the world did a CPA and an Entrepreneur open up a fitness studio? Enquiring minds wanted to know so here is the story. It's 100% Serendipity.

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How in the world did we start a fitness business when my wife, Peggy was a CPA and I had owned multiple businesses, everything from a publishing company to a print shop, to a gold mine, to a fuel additive? 

So how in the world did we start RiversZen? 

One day we were on the Riverwalk in Astoria Oregon. We walked it often. The Columbia river is just stunning. It's four miles wide at that point. There's the Astoria Meglar bridge. There's always wildlife and activity and boats, it's one of our favorite places on earth.

We would walk this almost daily. One day, we're walking along the riverwalk and one of the few buildings that are actually out over the water, built over the water on piers, had a for rent sign on it. 

At the time we raised alpacas. We had close to 100 alpacas and we harvested their fiber... we were more breeders than fiber people, but we had lots of yarn.

We had to send away our fiber every year and get yarn. We used that yarn to build all kinds of great products. Peggy would knit caps. We would have people create rugs and we needed a place to market these. 

It was nice having the ranch store. We had a little store out at our ranch but we were about 10 miles outside of town and we just thought, Hey, wouldn't it be amazing to have a little shop in town? We could have limited hours, but we could still be there on weekends and such and make our alpaca products, our beautiful, beautiful alpaca products available to the general public.

We called up the owner and we looked at this beautiful space. We were looking on the east side of the building and we decided to lease it. 

As we were leasing it, we noticed the other side of the building was also empty. 

We said, what about that? 

They said, it's available and they told us a little bit of information about it.

We said, let's take a look. 

We walked in. Windows on the water, stunning view. We looked at each other and we said, oh my God, would this be a place for a yoga fitness studio!

We thought about it and decided, crazy as it was, we were not yoga instructors at the time, we had a really solid fitness base. We were starting to do resistance stretching. We had cured ourselves 5 years before. We had already been working with a lot of people, sharing our knowledge, sharing what we knew, sharing how they also could move better, could get off medication. 

We did it. It was nuts. We didn't even know what we were going to do. 

We were at coffee girl, little coffee shop, very close to our new studio. 

We were mentioning to one of the baristas there that, that we had rented this space and were considering opening a yoga studio. 

She said, oh my God, my husband, Peter, is a yoga instructor.

He teaches out at Tongue Point , which is the local Job Corps youth training facility. And boy would he loved to teach adults. 

So we got ahold of Peter and he said, yeah, I'd love to. 

So our first instructor was Peter. 

Then she says, you know, I know this really amazing meditation, lady.

She's a doctor from Merrill Hurst University, has taught, studied meditation and mindfulness and stress reduction her entire life. 

We contacted her. All sudden we had a meditation instructor. 

Then we had an instructor we had studied with for years, and she had moved to Portland. Which is about two hour drive away.

We called her up and said, Hey, next time you're in town maybe you could teach a class occasionally. She said, oh, I come to town every week. In fact, I'm moving back and we said, you want to teach some classes? And yeah, she says, yeah, I'd love to teach some classes. 

Amazing. We ended up with like four instructors plus I was very versed in what I call my signature stretch now.

A stretch I'd been doing in San Diego in the mornings, 6:00 AM class. It was a stretch class with long held stretches, which I incorporated resistance into. Even what I went to the class, I would add resistance to my stretches and it kept my me moving well and my back never hurt.

So I started teaching that class even with no official qualifications. I taught that class. It was well-received I taught at six mornings a week at 6:00 AM, which in the Pacific Northwest is pretty early, but we did it, we did it. 

Then Peggy decided she wanted to start teaching some classes. So she did too. 

We went back to Miami on and off for 18. months getting an internship in a discipline called Kihara.

Kihara is a form of resistance stretching, and it's the basis for our stretch pro system. We took that training. 

We started adding more and more classes as our levels, our fitness level became better and better. 

We added more teachers and pretty soon we had a full blown fitness studio with over 40 classes a week in Astoria Oregon. 

We decided we wanted some yoga trainings, so we took Strala yoga with Tara Stiles. We went to Seattle a couple of times and trained with her and got a nice basis for the movement yoga.

The ease of movement, the not about the pose, but about moving well. That's why we say moving well, move with ease. That's a big part of our training. 

Her husband, Mike, taught Tai Chi. He has a very free flowing Tai Chi practice. So we started incorporating that all of that into our practice.

I do a combination class with Tai Chi and Qigong and yoga and resistance stretching, most importantly, resistance stretching.

It helps a lot of people. So we started teaching more and more classes ourselves and the studio grew. Pretty soon we moved to a new location on down the Riverwalk, still over the river.

Every location we've been in has been spectacular.. We moved there and things were going great. 

Then we discovered again, serendipitously... I see a post on Facebook about this art studio in Ilwaco that had downsized and left this big, beautiful space on the port of Ilwaco. The windows are wide open, looking out over the boats.

So five years after we opened the original RiversZen, we expanded to the second location. We had teachers in both locations. We taught in both locations and it was amazing.

As the company grew, we got more and more people to move better and stay healthy. 

Then the pandemic hit and everything got shut down.

Fortunately, we were able, I had already been working on this. We had an online presence, so we had to go into a crash course and learn how to feed our classes live. And we did. 

Many of you have followed us online and we're still open in Ilwaco and in Astoria. 

That's Ilwaco Washington and on the Southwestern corner of Washington state and on the Northwestern corner of Oregon in Astoria Oregon. Two beautiful studios. 

We welcome people into the studios, but our online practice, with live classes online, became very popular and we're really enjoying it. We limit the size of those that everybody still gets individual attention just as if they were in the studio.

We do combination now. We will have live in classes, studio and simulcast them online. 

We have it so the instructors... it's interactive. You're just like you're in the studio. It's almost like you're on a mat in one of the positions in the studio. 

It's been quite a journey. 

As the country's starting to open back up, we're finding more and more people that we can touch.

We built an online practice. 

We have this podcast that you're on right now that we started recently, so we can share what we know, what we do with as many people as possible and not charge on the podcast. We charge for our classes both online and off. We have to support things, but we're so damn grateful.

I have to use an expletive because I don't know how to express the gratitude. 

That's the history of RiversZen.

Where it's going to go from here, who knows? 

I'm 68, Peggy 70. We don't see ever retiring. We love, love, love what we do. We love the people that come and we just can't imagine life without this.

It's our passion.

So that's the history of RiversZen. 

I thought you might be interested, wanted to share it with you. 

If you have any questions, if you ever want to get together, if you want to talk about your health and fitness, let us know. Let us know. 

Send in suggestions for our podcasts. We're more than happy to cover any subjects you'd .

Thank you for sticking out to the end. 

May you move well, stay healthy, be happy, find a passion in your life as we found ours. 

We will talk to you soon.