Written by The Business Journal Staff
Local fitness program Whole Body Boot Camp (WBBC) has expanded its reach within the community, adding three new locations in Fresno and Madera within the last eight months.
Based in Clovis, the company was founded in 2008 by owner Debbie Coate in order to create a more appealing and sustainable workout environment for women.
“I got started in the fitness industry in 1980 when I was 18. Then I got into personal training while working at George Brown [Sport’s Clubs] and I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I loved training women and helping them transform their bodies.”
The business quickly outgrew her garage studio space and in late 2010 she moved WBBC to a warehouse facility in Clovis.
The industrial neighborhood may not be the most obvious choice for a women’s workout studio, but Coate said the environment suits her and her clients.
“It kind of fits my personality. I’m a little rough around the edges anyway,” she said.
WBBC spread to a location in Madera near Pine and Maple streets in August 2015, followed by a new two-story site on Blackstone Avenue in north Fresno in October. Most recently, WBBC opened a studio off Avenue 11 near Highway 41 in the Rolling Hills/Madera Ranchos area.
Each facility is between 2,500- and 5,000-square-feet and offers the signature WBBC boot camps and friendly training environment.
“The instructor is their coach so even if a class is really big, if they see someone struggling they will stop the class and make sure to help them find the correct form,” Coate said. “I really wanted to create a community here.”
Staff will also reach out to students who regularly miss sessions during the six-week boot camps in order to see how they can build a better fit at WBBC, and she said the business offers members clean eating instruction and community-building events like dinners and weekend run clubs.
“Most of my clients are between ages 36 and 65 — that’s my sweet spot. They’re individuals who have had children and given to their families for years and now it is time to teach them to focus on themselves and their health,” Coate said. “Accountability is big so we try to address any limiting thoughts or excuses that may be standing in their way.”
By focusing on fitness, personal goal development and clean eating, WBBC members avoid the plateau effect that can accompany other workout regimens, she said.
“You can’t do the same thing over and over again without getting stagnant so we try to mix things up and encourage women to find new movement patterns they enjoy. That way they can be refreshed when they come back for the next camp,” Coate said. “We see real results that way because you’re building lasting habits.”
Tree of Life Café
nourishing mind and body
One local family is bringing a unique business model to Downtown Fresno, serving comfort food as well as a supportive message for the community.
Tree of Life Café owners Carolyn and Steve Ocheltree say they were inspired to start a restaurant in order to help feed the body and soul of local residents. The business will focus on serving home cooked food to downtown crowds while employing recovering addicts.
“We really started thinking about this 20 years ago. There was just this burden in our hearts about the gap in our community for people who are getting sober and reintegrating into the community,” said Carolyn Ocheltree. “That’s often the challenge because it can be difficult to find work after coming through that.”
Recently the couple began soliciting feedback for their business plan, first at Fresno Pacific University’s 2015 Spark Tank Pitch Fest where they won $2,000 and then through the inaugural Create Here Business plan competition sponsored by the Downtown Fresno Foundation last fall.
While their idea failed to win the second competition, Ocheltree said the program prompted the business to begin looking at facilities in Downtown Fresno.
“We always felt that when the time was right, God would give us a sign,” she said. “When we were looking at spaces for the Create Here competition, it really seemed like a good time to get going with our business model.”
The couple, along with son Phillip Ocheltree, is now in the midst of renovating a 3,000-square-foot restaurant space on Kern Street across from The Republican.
Once complete, the space will feature reclaimed wood furniture and art made with refurbished wood pallets, concepts closely connected to the central business theme of finding use in previously discarded items, said Phillip Ocheltree.
“The name, Tree of Life, comes from a concept in the Bible,” he said. “We’re trying to start a restaurant that promotes healing and we felt that idea and name was very fitting.”
The café is expected to open early next month and will help create 10 jobs, most of which will be filled by individuals who have recently completed drug rehabilitation programs.
Tree of Life Café will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., serving cafeteria-style breakfast and lunch. Similar business models in larger cities inspired the concept and Carolyn Ocheltree said the style should suit the busy downtown lunch crowd while still offering slow-cooked meals.
“Our whole idea is that it’s slow food served fast. Stuff like soups, casseroles, lasagnas, stews and salads,” she said. “Things that we’ve taken the care and time to prepare but will be served quickly to you.”
Take-out will also be available, and Ocheltree said the café will offer take-home meals so customers coming in for lunch will be able to pick up dinner for their families.
“We are wanting Tree of Life Café to be a family atmosphere, so the minute you walk through our door, you’re part of our family,” she said.
Bella Pasta moving back
to northwest Fresno
Fresno favorite Bella Pasta will move back to its original neighborhood next month as part of a larger update to the business model.
Owner Fabian Rodriguez said the restaurant would move from its current spot near Cedar and Herndon avenues into a 1,500-square-foot space at the North Pointe Center on Palm and Herndon avenues.
“I’ve been trying to get back to that side of town for a while. It’s our original neighborhood and a lot of our original customers who live in that Old Fig and San Joaquin County Club area do not like going past Blackstone Avenue,” he said. “We’re trying to get back on their radar with the move.”
Rodriguez took over the restaurant 17 years ago, while it was still located near Palm and Bullard avenues. He purchased it while still working as general manager of Max’s Bistro in Fresno, but eventually shifted his focus entirely to Bella Pasta.
“It was just a hole in the wall back then, but it was a great hole in the wall. We were really packing them in,” he said. “Every night there would be a line. I can even remember people waiting in their cars in the rain just to get a table when one opened up.”
By 2005, Rodriguez had expanded the business to a second location and began offering catering services.
The restaurant took a hit with the economic downturn a few years later and he eventually closed the original spot in 2008, concentrating instead on the new Cedar and Herndon location.
“I’ve got a lot of hindsight on that,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been dying to get back to the old neighborhood for years.”
With Bella Pasta’s lease up and the old By the Sea restaurant space opening up, Rodriguez said it seemed like the right time to move back to northwest Fresno.
The move will be a bit of a downsize—Bella Pasta’s current location features a 2,500-square-foot indoor dining room and 1,500-square-foot patio—but also offer a chance to get back to the restaurant’s roots.
The new space will feature a more rustic-aesthetic than the current location, which has splashes of bright colors and design.
All 13 of Bella Pasta’s current employees will stay on through the move, and Rodriguez said he hopes to clean up the menu while also bringing back the lunch service.
Bella Pasta plans to host an open house event from 4 to 9 p.m. on March 1 as a way of saying thank you to all its loyal customers who have stuck with the restaurant through its various moves, he said.
“It’s a way for us to officially announce we are coming back to the neighborhood and say thanks to all our loyal customers who have supported us through the years,” he said. “There will be appetizers and wine and it will just be a good time.”
National spa chain opening
first Central Valley location
Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa is set to open a new location in Fresno’s River Park shopping center on March 14.
The spa is taking over the old RaceRoom space between the Yard House and Blown Away Blow Dry Lounge. The updated 3,000-square-foot space will feature 11 massage rooms including a couple’s space for side-by-side services.
When it opens, the Fresno location will be the first Hand and Stone business in the Central Valley and 12th facility in California.
“The Central Valley market connects our pre-existing Los Angeles and Bay Area markets,” said Todd Leff, CEO of Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa. “We’ve really been focusing on expansion and want to fill in major spots that are open.”
Local franchisees Robin and LeeAnn Prideaux expect the spa to create 20 jobs ranging from sales and reception to licensed esthetician and massage therapists.
The business will offer a variety of massage and facial services for men and women as well as the “lifestyle program” membership, which allows clients to select a monthly service at a cheaper rate.
“The company’s mission is to make luxurious spa services available to the masses,” Robin Prideaux said. “They fit right in the middle of the massage industry spectrum because they offer affordable services while still maintaining an upscale setting.”
He and his wife decided to transition into the franchise business after decades of working at Costco locations along the West Coast. The two signed a development contract for two Fresno locations, but for now the focus is on opening the River Park spa.
“I’m excited about the location. It should be a really good spot for a new business to get their name out there and get recognition,” Prideaux said.
Eventually, Leff said he would like the see the Central Valley support three to five Hand and Stone locations and plans are underway to make the market a priority within the company’s larger California push.
Based in New Jersey, the company has expanded to more than 600 locations across Canada and the U.S. since it was founded in 2004.
Hannah Esqueda | Reporter can be reached at:
490-3466 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org