A Bethesda fitness center offering an innovative cycling studio to a growing clientele in its first few months in business has abruptly closed.
Velovoom co-owner Marc Caputo and his partners have parted ways, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Caputo said in a March 21 email that he was cutting ties to the startup because of “irreconcilable differences.” He declined to discuss those differences.
Co-owner and investor Kelly Weinberg, meanwhile, said she fully intends to open Velovoom again.
“The cycling studio on Cordell Avenue will be reopened,” she said. “[Membership] packages will be honored.”
That’s welcome news to fitness professional Michelle Beaumont, who had been attending one or two of the 45-minute classes per week at Velovoom, which was profiled by The Daily Record in February as part of its new multimedia series on starting a business after the Great Recession.
Beaumont had purchased a package of five classes at $23 apiece, which could be used as credits to sign up for classes.
“I went, I got involved, I was excited,” she said.
About a month ago, she went on the Velovoom website to sign up for a class, but the site was gone. She had two credits remaining, but heard nothing from Caputo or Velovoom about where her money was or whether she’d get it back.
“I would just like to know,” she said. “I think it’s bad business when you don’t communicate with your clients.”
Caputo, Weinberg and a third partner opened Velovoom and positioned it as a studio that combines cycling, muscle strengthening and core movement. They invested about $750,000 in the operation, Caputo said in January, with plans for it to be profitable in six months and generate $1 million in revenue by the end of its first year.
The 3,500-square-foot facility had a locker room area, the studio and a back room that was undergoing renovations. Caputo said he and his partners had planned to open two more locations in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.
According to the U.S. Small Business Association, three out of 10 small businesses fail in two years, and only five out of 10 make it to five years.
The studio boasted a unique approach to the gym experience, but due to the absence of Caputo — who some clients viewed as the face of Velovoom — and the abrupt closing, its fate is still unclear.
Weinberg said last week that they are in the process of retooling the website and making some tweaks to their system of reserving classes on the site.
Velovoom will offer a free class, she said, “so our clients can enjoy their first ride back on us, to thank them for being so patient.”
They also plan on having a grand opening in the next few weeks.
Beaumont said that she would go back to Velovoom to take classes if it reopened, but believes it will lose a lot of business without Caputo, who was responsible for bringing in a lot of clients.
Tami Mensch, who had been the director of marketing for Velovoom but is no longer employed there, said she would be interested in coming back.
“I believe in the vision, I believe in the business,” she said. “It was really starting to take off. I was disappointed that it had to turn out like this for now.”