Across the country, Americans are celebrating Black History Month. This is a time to shine a light on the Black community and its contributions to the nation, both past and present. Hoboken is rich with history, including change-makers of today. Kennyth Montes de Oca is making moves as one of Hoboken’s newest Black business owners. He is the owner of a new pilates studio, Ken Pilates, located at 702 Grand Street. We had a chance to connect with Ken about his work in the fitness industry, breaking into the business as a part of the Black, LatinX, and queer communities, how movement has helped him throughout life, and his favorite local businesses. Read on to learn more about Ken Pilates.
Ken Montes de Oca is a proud immigrant from the Dominican Republic who started his career with dance. “Movement has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a professional dancer with a BFA in Dance from Rutgers, I’ve always been all about keeping my body in motion,” shared Ken. After studying dance, Ken knew he wanted to take this passion even further. In 2017 he obtained his certification in pilates and has shared this passion with countless people. “I’ve taught at some of the top studios in New York and even had my own home studio where I taught private Reformer sessions.” Despite sharing his passion for pilates with his clients, Ken still wanted to do more.
During the summer of 2022, Ken wanted to bring his classes to the Hoboken community. Along with his partner, Matthew, Ken created Pier A Pilates in Hoboken, a community-based, outdoor pilates class. He taught all summer long along the waterfront and was able to build a client base before opening his studio earlier this year.
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The Sky’s the Limit
After a summer of outdoor teaching, Ken was ready to take the next step in his career. He was able to obtain Unit 2 in 702 Grand Street for his commercial space. “We’re expanding the business to a commercial space in the heart of Hoboken where we’ll be able to teach even more people. And now, the sky’s the limit,” shared Ken. He went on to say “I’m so excited to bring Pilates to the masses and help others achieve their fitness goals.”
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Ken Pilates provides clients with an opportunity to take small group classes or private sessions. The studio offers both mat and reformer classes with no more than six students per class. Duet and single sessions are also available for a more hands-on experience directly with Ken. There are plans to grow the studio in the future, but Ken’s vision is to provide individualized experiences for each person. “At Ken Pilates, we believe in delivering a tough workout that’s tailored to each individual in the class. That’s why in our small-sized group mat classes, we keep things intimate with no more than six people. This way, every client gets the individual attention they deserve,” said Ken.
Heritage + Movement
Ken immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. One conversation with him and you will know he is proud to be himself. Ken credits his background for who he is today and has learned that conforming to some of the standards in his industry is not something he is willing to do.
“Being an immigrant from the Dominican Republic is a true source of pride for me. I wear my heritage like a badge of honor and it has molded me into the person I am today,” shared Ken. He continued by saying, “I am overflowing with gratitude for my rich and dynamic culture that has taught me the true meaning of resilience, hard work, and joy.”
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This immense pride and confidence in his true self has helped Ken to navigate a part of the fitness industry that is, historically, less diverse than others. “It’s a shame that in every studio I’ve taught at, I am often the only Black person on the team. The Pilates industry lacks diversity and this is evident in the few Black business owners in Hoboken,” shared Ken about his experience thus far.
Because of this, Ken has made it his mission for Ken Pilates to have a different story. “My goal is to provide a space that is inclusive, welcoming, and free of judgment, where all feel accepted and supported, especially those from marginalized communities,” he shared. “That’s why Ken Pilates is inspired to create a diverse team of instructors, including women of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and immigrants, to create a space where everyone can feel confident and comfortable.” Looking locally, Ken knows that choosing to open Ken Pilates here in Hoboken will have a positive impact on the city. “By opening my studio, I hope to inspire others to pursue their passions and make a positive impact in their communities, despite any challenges they may face,” shared Ken.
More than Pilates
When Ken decided to go into pilates, he did so intentionally. “Pilates is a low-impact exercise that’s perfect for everyone from athletes to older adults. It helps improve flexibility, build strength, and increase balance, all while minimizing the risk of injury. Plus, it’s a great way to relieve stress and find inner peace,” shared Ken when asked why he chose this area of fitness. With his goal of bringing his community together through movement, pilates made sense as it’s a workout for all body types, abilities, and fitness goals. It allows people to connect with their mind and spirit through exercise. “I believe that when we take care of our bodies, we can also take care of our minds and our spirits. This is a safe space for everyone to feel good, let go of stress and embrace their own journey of self-discovery through movement,” said Ken.
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As a small business owner, Ken knows the importance of keeping the community thriving by supporting other businesses in the area. “I’m all about supporting my local small businesses,” said Ken. With classes as early as 7AM, a caffeine fix is always in order. Ken’s favorite is Joey No Nuts Cafe and when he and his partner, Matthew, are looking for a nice date night, it’s Cafe Michelina all the way. Even a fitness instructor can’t resist a late-night bite. Ken’s go-to for this is their neighbor, Willie McBride’s. Outside of the fitness studio, Ken and Matthew also enjoy fun activities around town. “On special nights, we love to grab a bottle of wine for a fun paint-and-sip at ArteVino,” he said. “These small businesses are not only great, but they’re also great neighbors and make our community even more special,” shared Ken.
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Ken Pilates is already making its mark on the Hoboken community and in the fitness industry by breaking barriers and debunking outdated stereotypes. Through his confidence, positive energy, and knowledge of his craft, Ken will continue to impact all who come into his studio for class and conversation. Be sure to check out the schedule to experience for yourself.