On a recent Monday, Eastwood Cycle Sanctuary was flooded with afternoon sunshine. Past the front desk, tucked behind a carefully curated retail area, husband-and-wife team Craig and Jillian Sheridan were hanging out in a cozy back corner filled with colourful textiles and woven floor pillows.
By the time you visit, however, it might look completely different—that’s part of the Eastwood philosophy. “You’ll notice that no matter when you come in, seating spaces are always changing,” says Jill, “Because we want people to always feel like they’re in a fresh space.”
Eastwood Cycle Sanctuary opened three years ago, in the summer of 2014, and they’ve been keeping things fresh and unexpected in their Gastown flagship ever since. “We kind of landed here,” says Craig, of the 4,500-square-foot space. “We never imagined ourselves in Gastown, but we’ve fallen in love with it. And looking back now, it’s really the best place we could have been.”
The unique elements of the space—high ceilings, exposed brick, a long exposed rock wall in the basement—sold them on establishing their flagship location in a neighbourhood they hadn’t considered. “We were looking for character,” Jill explains. “Craig and I are both very affected by the spaces where we live, and travel, and work. Everything in this space—the staff, the people, the things that we sell, the music that we play—it all contributes to this beautiful and unique vibe. You have to love where you work and where you spend your time.”
It’s hard to believe, standing in front of the striking blue doors that separate the foyer from the cycle studio, that this light-filled, texture-rich place was ever a Crossfit gym. “It was very bare bones when we moved in,” Jill says, “Just a big open room filled with equipment. In the basement, there were these huge nails coming through the ceiling.”
Prior to opening Eastwood, Jillian ran a social media marketing agency, Gold Lemon Creative; Craig worked in food distribution until recently, a position he left to focus 100% of his attention on Eastwood. A former child athlete, Craig grew up cycling outdoors and training in the off-season in cycle studios. “Jill and I just came up with a concept that we felt the city didn’t have,” says Craig, “so we decided to build it.”
It was the first time opening a brick-and-mortar space for both of them, but Jill’s experience in retail and running her own business, and Craig’s background in sports, gave them a foundation to build on. From there, they drew on their own passions and inspirations to create a space that reflects the inviting, welcoming energy that greets every person who walks through the door.
“We’re big on experience, we want to make sure all the touchpoints are there,” Craig adds. “The sights, sounds, smells, everything. It’s not just about coming in and getting a workout, it’s about how our community interacts with us—how they feel. We want them to come in, no matter how their day was, and leave feeling positive.”
“We don’t want people to come in and feel like they’re just a number, or that this is a big box brand,” Jill stresses. “We want them to feel like they’re in their local community hub, and that they can come early or stay late to just hang out and relax.” She spearheaded the design with input from her mother, an interior designer, and the couple pulls inspiration from their travels to continually evolve and refresh the space.
During busy months, Eastwood runs eight to nine classes a day, with up to 300 people passing through those big blue doors. Many are regulars, and the community is diverse. “It’s been very cool to see the different types of people who come through all the time,” says Jill. “Every age, every demographic you can imagine is here. But they all have one common goal in mind.”
Over the past three years, they’ve seen their community members transform through spin. “A lot of people come through and don’t know what spin is, but then they become totally addicted and show up every day,” says Craig. “They find that they really fall in love with it.”
Now that they’ve built a community around cycling, they’re preparing to introduce two new concepts: Eastwood Boxing and Meditation. They’re undertaking a radical renovation of the Sanctuary to create new distinct environments for their expanded offerings. “We’re adding a secret hallway that will bypass the cycle studio and take people down a cool hallway to the boxing room,” Jill says. There, participants will cardiobox by candlelight, accompanied by heart-rate-elevating music.
Downstairs, which currently holds change rooms and lockers, will be transformed by the addition of a meditation studio and a blowdry bar. Jill’s passion for design has a fulfilling outlet in the creation of the meditation studio, featuring huge Moroccan doors, meditation sets from Mala Collective, and a mural by local artist Tiffany Collins.
That’s not the only undertaking ahead for the couple; they’re also searching for a third location in Victoria, to compliment their Gastown flagship and new North Shore location. With so much growth ahead, it’s safe to say that every visit to Eastwood will reveal a new element or transformation. But the heart of the sanctuary will remain the same: a warm, welcoming community.
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