Lamorinda Weekly issue 24 volume 8

Page: A10
The Transformation of Star Pilates
By Sophie Braccini
tar Pilates and Fitness in Moraga
is undergoing a complete transformation under the new leadership of
Andrea Ruotsi. The young mother
lives in Moraga with her 5-year-old
son, Oliver, and has the energy, training and business sense to make the
studio a big success. She is adding
classes and services that cater to a
clientele who are looking for fun and
stimulation in a casual atmosphere.
Definitely not your average suburbanite, Ruotsi also has an interior design
Ruotsi’s business goals for Star
Pilates are lofty: adding barre, yoga,
TRX and spin classes, while providing morning childcare, making sure
that the relaxed atmosphere is preserved, and the existing clients who
come for Reformer or Pilates Mat
classes don’t feel pushed out of the
“I bought the studio last November,” she says with a big smile. “I
thought that this place had a lot of potential for development.” Ruotsi was
raised in Alamo and has lived in many
different places in the United States
including Reno, where she got her interior design degree, as well as New
York and Los Angeles where she
worked in the design industry. She
came back to the Bay Area when she
decided to start a family. Throughout
her life, Ruotsi was athletic, participating in soccer, track and a lot of skiing. She started teaching fitness
classes in high school as an extension
of her summer job as a lifeguard at
Livorna pool in Alamo. She’s continued teaching fitness in tandem with
her interior design career, steadily
building her body of knowledge and
“I loved teaching so much that I
always knew someday I would have
my own place,” Ruotsi says. “I love
barre classes but I didn’t want to own
a barre franchise, with someone limiting what I can do. I think that the
healthiest thing for everyone’s body
Andrea Ruotsi teaches a barre class.
is to mix different exercises.” She
started teaching barre over 10 years
ago, first in Marin County, then San
Francisco, before coming back to the
East Bay two and a half years ago. “If
someone comes to my class regularly
three times a week, I guarantee that
person will transform their body
within three months,” she says.
The expansion of classes and
services started at Star Pilates are all
with the goal to better serve the needs
of her clientele, such as opening the
morning daycare that runs during the
week or selling a selection of sports
On the business side, she has partnered with her family. Her father is
the behind-the-scenes finance officer
of the company. “He was an executive and is now retired. This business
endeavor is his way of fulfilling his
dream of having a business, vicariously through me, and we’ve become
very close in the process,” she says.
Ruotsi has always had a business acu-
Photo Sophie Braccini
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
business briefs
Carefree Moves Celebrated
(510) 336-2455 or (925) 330-1988
[email protected],
men. Even when she was working
for Anthropology in Los Angeles creating displays, besides the esthetics,
she also had the drive to grow the
business. “I would walk my stock
room every morning and see what I
owned a lot of,” she remembers, “and
then I would create displays around
those units.”
With Star Pilates, her goal is to
make her space in the Moraga Center
more visible. One of her first changes
was the barre room that had no natural
Photo provided
light and felt like a storage area. She
removed the panels masking the very
Carefree Moves was recently recognized by Score (Service Corps of Retired
large windows, replaced the carpet Executives, an affiliate of the Small Business Administration) and nominated
with wood, and installed mirrors as for an honorable mention as Outstanding Small Business Owned by Women.
well as beautiful red oak bars with Since the two owners Dee Vance and Cynthia Nolan purchased the Lafayettecustom-made stainless steel brackets. based business in 2009, it has been growing steadily. They say word-of-mouth
Ruotsi’s goal is to offer between is the reason for their success. They remove all the stress from moving and tailor
five to eight different fitness classes a their service to their clients’ needs, from simple packing and unpacking help, to
day. She won't touch the main lobby hand-holding throughout the moving process. “We work with all kinds of
where the Reformer classes are lo- clients,” says Vance, “from busy families, to people downsizing.” Vance adds
cated and she is continuing to employ that their bigger assets are the 20 to 30 women they employ. “They are local
the master teachers who are the foun- women, professional organizers and packers who love to help people and be of
dation of Star Pilates. “I don't want to service,” says Vance. “They love to do a job that’s out of the corporate world
disrupt the existing classes; I don't and that’s project oriented.” Packing, transport, un-packing and setting up the
want to lose the intimacy of the busi- new home takes one to four days, depending on the size of the home. The preness, either,” she says. “I'm not look- packing is a different story: it can take much longer if people are moving to a
ing to pack the seams.”
much smaller space. “We help them choose what they want to keep, what will
Ruotsi now offers a Sunday yoga be donated or recycled, and we employ men with a truck to transport everyclass and is looking for more yoga in- thing,” says Vance. The team has many emotional stories to tell, such as the
structors to offer power yoga. She husband who took his family for a vacation before the move and secretly hired
also wants to add space to have a ded- Carefree Moves to do the job while they were gone. “When they came back
icated spin room and possibly locker and discovered their new place ready to live in, including the kids’ rooms, the
and shower rooms.
wife said that it was the best thing he had ever done for his family,” recalls
Ruotsi continues to run Flutter In- Vance. The ladies also love to work for the Warriors when they trade a player.
teriors, her design business. That, “In that case we do only the unpacking for them, but we completely set up their
coupled with raising her son, makes homes, including their closets, the kitchen, hanging the pictures, and we even
put fresh flowers on the table,” says Vance. Carefree Moves charges by the
for a very full and busy life indeed.
Information about classes is hour and Vance says that a complete move costs between $2,000 and $4,000.
available online at www.starpilate- Since 2009 they have moved hundreds of families in the Bay Area.
News from the Three Chambers of Commerce
Star Pilates and Fitness
1460 Moraga Road, Ste. F, Moraga Lafayette
(925) 376-7500
Ribbon Cutting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29 at the new location of Bay Sotheby's
International Realty, 3725 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lamorinda Weekly business articles are intended
to inform the community about local business
activities, not to endorse a particular company,
product or service.
Orinda’s In Forma Integral
Fitness Celebrates 20 Years
Andrea Colombu started In Forma in 1995, starting with the idea of
blending Eastern and Western approaches to fitness. The Italian man,
who had been involved in semi-professional sports in his country,
moved to California in 1986. In 1988 he went back to college to study
anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, exercise science and nutrition. In
1990, he started his personal training career (AFAA & ACE certified),
earned a certification in massage therapy from the McKinnon Institute
and started his private practice. “We expanded the studio twice, doubling its size to offer all of our classes,” says Colombu. “We offer pilates,
barre, yoga, strength and cardio classes, nutrition and TRX.” Colombu’s
ambition is to offer tools and practices for both the body and the
mind. He went back to school in 2003 for a psychology degree and
has made his meditation practice a big part of his life. “I started teaching meditation in the yoga studio in 2014,” he says. Some of his clients
have been with him for the past 20 years and new ones come in all the
time, ranging in age from 13 to 93 years old. He says that he’s seen a
shift in what people demand over the last 20 years. “The awareness
has increased, people want to live healthy lives, and they also want a
meaningful lifestyle.” In Forma also holds a Parkinson's working
group (Colombu’s mom had Parkinson’s) with a specialized trainer. In
Forma is located at 23A Orinda Way, Orinda. For info, call (925) 2546877 or visit
The Marquis Business Person of the Year annual dinner honoring Leila Douglah
of Douglah Designs will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30 at the Lafayette Park
Hotel and Spa. The evening also includes the introduction of the chamber’s
2015 board of directors, incoming president Debbie Cooper of Mechanics Bank,
and the “State of the City" address by Mayor Brandt Andersson. Reservations
can be made online at or by calling (925) 284-7404.
Ribbon Cutting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 for Merrill Gardens at Lafayette,
1010 Second Street.
Welcome breakfast for chamber members starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 6 at
Terzetto in the Moraga Shopping Center.
Save the date for the Business Person of the Year dinner honoring Moraga
Royale’s Dianne Wilson at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 at the Moraga Country Club.
[email protected]
Save the date for the Chamber Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 20 at the
Orinda Country Club. The Orinda Chamber of Commerce will present annual
awards recognizing outstanding contributions to the chamber and the Orinda
business community.
Tickets are $30; contact Candy at
[email protected]
If you have a business brief to share, please contact
Sophie Braccini at [email protected]
from front page
The Lamorinda Woman Behind Champion Dogs
... continued from page A1
Judie Howard works with her dogs on differing commands. Photo Andy Scheck
After Howard won her first Utility title – an American Kennel Club
advanced obedience trial category –
with her first two dogs, she felt confident enough to start her own training
school in Moraga in 1974. “We first
used the tennis courts at Campolindo,
then the gym,” she remembers. She
trained at Acalanes High School, Del
Valle High School and Saint Mary's
College. Soon word spread about her
training. “At some point we trained
350 dogs a week,” she remembers.
She had Novice classes that she ran
with the help of one assistant for
every four dogs, and had as much as
45 dogs at a time. “Within 15 minutes
we could get every one of them to sit
and not bark,” she remembers.
Howard focuses on praise. “I'm
very consistent, I am lavish with
praise, and I set very clear boundaries,” she says. “I don't punish, and
when I raise the level of difficulty I
explain to the dogs why I do it.”
With the help of her husband,
Gary Howard, she built her own training site on her property 20 years ago.
“Training is very good for the dogs,
both physically and mentally,” says
Debbie Hughs of Moraga, who's been
working with Howard for two years.
She brings her Papillion Remy for
one-on-one training because he is
very shy. “He was afraid of the
wind,” she remembers, but she is sure
he will qualify at his first competition
scheduled at the end of this month.
Nia Surber has been training with
Howard for 10 years. “I trained with
a Shetland Sheepdog that was afraid
of everything,” she remembers. “It
took us a long time, but we went all
the way to Utility with him.” She is
now training Dexter, a vivaciously
small 2-year-old dog. During the session Dexter practices scent discrimination, as well as fetching a dumbbell
that his handler has touched, fetching
on command in spite of distraction,
responding to hand commands, jumping, walking side-by-side with his
owner without a leash, and sitting in
place when his handler goes away. “It
is so much fun, and Judie is the best;
she’s as good as it gets,” says Surber.
“She has the ability to come up with
at least five different ways to fix a
problem, and she knows every breed
of dog.” What’s different about her,
Surber adds, is that she is also very
good with people. “It's nice to be able
to have a good laugh sometimes,” she
Howard says that over her career
she must have trained 60,000 dogs of
every breed one might think of, and
does not remember one failure.
Howard also trains her own dogs and
is now going for an unprecedented
14th AKC Obedience Trial Championship.
Levels of Competition in AKC Standard Obedience
According to the American Kennel Club, there are three levels of competition in Standard Obedience: Novice, Open and Utility. Novice is for the dog just getting started and includes exercises such
as heel on leash and figure eight, as well as standing for examination. The Open level includes more
complicated exercises, and Utility is the third and highest level of obedience competition, involving
more complicated tasks including scent discrimination and signal exercises. To achieve the Obedience Trial Champion title, dogs with UD titles must win 100 points and a first-place in Utility B and
Open B, plus a third first-place win in either class, under three different judges. For more information, visit