Q+A: Lawson Harris of The Lab

Dumbo-based Pilates and Personal Training studio The Lab is a community of people who believe that smart, innovative exercise is the key to happiness. We spoke with The Lab’s founder, Lawson Harris, to find out more about this family of exercisers and their experience jumping in and working out in DUMBO.

Tell us about the Lab and how you got started, and how long you have been here?

We’ve officially been here since January 2007 because of the good graces of Bruce Silverglade of Gleason's. I started my career as a professional dancer at the age of 15. Pilates was always my survival job, but after I got married and had children, I stopped dancing. I wanted to take my survival job and make it my career. One of the things that makes The Lab really unique is that we only train staff from within our studio. Before any of our staff even teach a class, they’ve spent 600 hours training with us. All of our staff get certified via our work-study platform, and end up certified in both physical training and pilates. The Lab is my fantasy space, it has all the toys I wish I could have afforded when I was young and struggling. Now we have everything I had ever wanted! We have all the equipment I know I need to transform people into what they want to be.


What brought you to DUMBO?

I was living in DUMBO already; I had just bought one of those soap factory lofts over on Bridge Street. I had studios in Brooklyn heights, TriBeCa, and Chelsea. And it was just too hectic. At the time my kids were 3 and 8; having two children, two dogs, and three pilates studios was just bananas. I decided I wanted to find space in my neighborhood so that I could be a mom in the morning, work until 3, and still pick my kids up from school. Since this is the biggest operation I’ve ever had, it’s nice to be close enough to the physical studio so that if I’m needed, I’m there. DUMBO has worked for me big time. And I’ve watched it grow and watched it change. I miss the old DUMBO, but my business probably wouldn’t have survived if things didn’t progress the way they have. So, you take the good with the bad.


What are your favorite spots in DUMBO?

I love Atrium, it’s my favorite restaurant in DUMBO. A lot of special things have happened there. I love to sit at the table in the back and watch the guys cook. My favorite place to work out is here, obviously. We have a lot of people that say they aren’t leaving DUMBO because they don’t want to leave The Lab, which is awesome. Clothing wise, I like to shop at Trunk. Those girls have it going on. I love the Archway, we’re actually going to do some events in the archway. I love the Pearl Street Triangle too, I hang out there. Brooklyn Bridge Park is off the chain. I live overlooking it, so I can see all the construction. I know what’s behind that chain link fence, and it’s purely magical. The piers are crazy. It makes me wish I had younger children because there is so much to do. But, I have older children and I can just release them and say “go play” and they can actually just go play--which is weird in the city.

How is The Lab a community? What do you mean when you say that your studio is a family?

Yeah, we feel like a family. We know our clients pretty intimately. We keep their secrets. In terms of the staff, we are huge family. I only have two biological children, but I am wired to be a mom and to take care of people. I know my staff incredibly well. I’m here for them as more than just a place to educate them and help them make money. When bad things happen to them, we band together and support them, same with our clients. We are small and family-oriented. The desk staff talks to people about their exercise and about what they want to accomplish. We want people to know what we offer here and how we can help them. It’s not a regular sort of mega gym, where you go in and you’re anonymous. If you’re looking for that, you would be hatin’ it here. But if you’re looking for a more personal experience where you have a fitness family, we are your fitness family. And we’re you’re smart fitness family.

For more information about The Lab, click here.