New York Spaces, Inc., dba Ripley-Grier Studios, dba Ripley-Grier Flexible Spaces
A PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL HISTORY
“What’s Love got to do with it?....a lot!
In 1984, West Side Rehearsal Studios @ 131 West 72nd St. New York, N.Y. opened.
Patricia Ripley was the manager. She was a NYC fitness teacher and former manager of The Lotte Berk Method, on the upper East Side of Manhattan starting in 1971 and the Creative Energy Studios on the upper West Side until 1984. She and her business partner split up and in 1984 she was looking for a new space. She met a contractor on West 72nd Street renovating the 131 building. He was looking for a manager for rehearsal studios. “What are rehearsal studios?” she asked, (Duh!) An arrangement was made: she got her own teaching studio and became the manager of the West Side Rehearsal Studios.
Originally from the Jersey Shore, she had attended Monmouth College in Long Branch (now Monmouth University). She was a bartender at the iconic ‘Student Prince' club in Asbury Park, a mainstay venue in the hot music scene there in the late 60’s, early 70s. She and her partner, Ike, managed the famous Asbury Park nightclub “Pandemonium”. One night while at the “Upstage Club '' a quasi-private after hours club in Asbury for musicians, waitresses, bartenders and club owners, she introduced a west coast music manager, Tinker West, to Bruce Springsteen. He became Bruce’s first manager and she worked as his assistant. She co-produced Bruce’s first concert with his band “Child” at the Pandemonium. They opened for the James Cotton Blues Band. In the summer of 1969 she and Ike, along with a local musician, Donny Lubitz and his girlfriend, Diana drove a VW van to Woodstock for three days of “Peace, Music (and Mayhem)” In 1971, She and Ike moved into Manhattan where he worked as an assistant manager at ‘Arthur’ an east side night club. In 1972 she trained and became an instructor at the Lotte Berk Method, a popular celebrity fitness studio on the Upper East Side. She taught there for 7 years, managing the Manhattan & Bridgehampton studios. After suffering “ burnout”, she left NYC and moved to Florida,(but kept her apartment). It was hot and boring. She moved back to Manhattan and taught at Lotte Berk for 1 more year. In 1982 she moved to the West Side and opened the Creative Energy Studios on West 72nd St.
Butch Grier was a stuntman/actor who had ridden his motorcycle up from Oklahoma to follow his acting/stuntman’s dream. He had previously toured with the Bugs Bunny Follies produced by Roger Hess. He was a stunt driver with the Tournament of Thrills: Mustang Auto Daredevils. He did car stunts on TV and in movies as a specialist appearing in ” Die Hard” with Bruce Willis, “Fire Down Below” with Steven Seagal and episodes of “America’s Most Wanted '' and “Rescue 911” He was the stunt coordinator on the movie “The Spaghetti Incident” with Roseanna Arquette. As many actors do, he supported himself as a waiter/manager at Captain Nemo restaurant on West 72nd Street in the early 80’s.
Butch and Patricia met at Capt Nemo’s in 1982 where Butch was the manager just downstairs from her studio at 133 West 72nd Street. Patricia spotted his motorcycle out front and said “is that your bike?” He responded “yeah, do you want to go for a ride for a couple of days?” Whew!! What a line! (She had parted from Ike). Off they went, in love and living together, poor, but happy.
In the Spring of 1984 Butch was offered a management position at 410 Bank Street, a new restaurant in Cape May, N J, owned by a film industry couple who attended Patricia’s class. A long distance relationship ensued as Patricia took two buses every weekend to visit him.
After the summer, Butch moved back to NY and worked for the contractor at 131. In January 1986, that contractor defaulted on the lease at 131. Patricia and Butch took over the business the next day. (they had contacted the landlord months earlier when they found out the rent had not been paid). They incorporated as New York Spaces, Inc. and renamed the studios: West 72nd Street Studios. After borrowing money from Vicky, the owner of Captain Nemo, and pawning some jewelry they were able to fund the operation, but with no money to rent an apartment, so they lived at 131 on the 4th floor ( Studio 4R). They cleaned the studios at night and ran them during the day. Patricia continued to teach her fitness classes. They slept on a futon on the floor in 4R, opened and ran the studios 7 days a week. They had a hotplate and a 13 inch tv with a hanger antenna. They ate rice and beans, clam chowder, bread and pasta for two years. The days were long, the work was hard but they were independent, and never worked for anyone else again. It was liberating! They had 5 studios on three floors.
In 1989, they acquired the 2nd floor, with a reception office, a restroom w/shower, and a kitchenette, (they bought a stove). They converted a back storeroom into a bedroom. That year they created 2 studios from front offices (1F & 2F). Total of 7 studios. They lived in the back for two more years while building the business. They hired Jorge to clean (he is still with RG), and two receptionists. Two years later they decided they could create a studio out of their bedroom (1R). They found a one bed/ two bath 1st floor duplex on W. 82nd St. & CPW. “It was heaven!”
As West 72nd Street Studios prospered, their clients asked for more and larger spaces. They searched, and in 1990 they renovated old dance studio spaces at 939 8th Ave and opened 5 studios, (a total of 13 studios). They hired four staff members & a manager, Scott Eck. Having Achieved a good reputation with the entertainment, dance and fitness community, they decided to expand again. In 1998 they began a long search for a suitable space. In 1999, taking a huge location risk, they leased space at 520 8th Ave and built 7 studios on the 16th floor. The new studios were named the Ripley-Grier Studios.. That same year (in the middle of construction) they adopted the lovely Jean-Michelle. In 2001, breaking through a wall, they built 5 more studios in the back of the 16th floor and named that space RG II. They now had 12 studios at that location. In 2002 they were offered space above RG II on the 17th floor and the landlord built a stairway up. They created 4 more studios, RG III, now 16 studios in all. Total staff 10.
“Build them and they will come” became the motto.
In 2002, after 9/11, (and many years renting in Manhattan) Butch, Patricia and Jeannie moved out to Long Beach, Long Island, a beach town where the kids played outside; a place for Jeannie to grow up. It was an hour commute to Manhattan by train. Another dream came true.
In 2003, the front of the 16th floor at 520 became available and RG IV was created. Patricia had been studying Feng Shui and she used those principles to create and decorate the spaces. 10 more studios were added at the 520 location, now 36. Ripley-Grier Studios consisted of three locations named RG 520, RG 939 and RG 72nd Street. In 2005, more space became available in the 520 building on the 10th floor.
RG 10th floor opened in May 2006 with a sub-tenant, “Shut Up and Talk”, a voiceover company in 5 of the 9 rooms. RG 10 and other expansions made 43 studios.
That year, going in another direction, Patricia and Butch began to produce a musical with Lynne Taylor-Corbett as director/choreographer. (they had produced several Off-Broadway showcases). Originally titled “Lorca” then “Deep Song” and lastly “The Flamenco Poet”. That was a very unique, creative (and stressful) educational experience (the show is still in the can).
In 2006, the last remaining space, on the 16th floor was offered to RG. “Butch’s Cafe Oasis”, executive offices, a staff break room and 2 studios were created. That same year, a dream of bringing Butch’s son, Shayne and his family up from Tulsa, Oklahoma was fulfilled. They moved to Long Beach and Shayne joined the company.. Heather, his wife, Jackson, Ethan and Brooklyn now lived in Long Beach. Shayne had spent many summers with Patricia and Butch when he was younger and loved New York. He was a comedian and wanted to pursue that in New York. In 2009, Butch and Patricia bought a new house in Long Beach and the Griers moved into their former house.
In 2010, “Shut Up & Talk” left the 10th floor so RG took over their spaces, creating 5 more studios including a voiceover studio and booth giving them 9 spaces on the 10th floor. Next, two more studios were created out of spaces at 131 West 72nd, 1R and 1F. (52 studios).
In 2011, another addition occurred in the Ripley-Grier family, Griffin Noah Grier, Shayne and Heather’s 4th child was born on 1/4/2011, a real New Yorker. What a beautiful family!
In the Spring of 2012, Ripley-Grier Studios celebrated 25 years of serving the theater, entertainment and teaching community in New York and were voted #1 in the Backstage Readers Choice awards campaign for years. That year RG built two big beautiful studios on the 2nd floor at 939 8th Ave. 2A & 2B, (the 53rd and 54th studios). The staff increased to 25.
In the fall of 2012, Ripley-Grier was offered a large front space on the 17th floor at 520 and one of the largest projects in RG history was undertaken.and completed in 2013, right after the“Sandy” storm. This project ultimately increased the studios total by 12 to 66 studios. In the summer of 2015 a new studio was created on the 10th floor. As of 2016, Ripley-Grier Studios consisted of 67 studios. “The World’s Largest” rehearsal studio complex. Out of a storage room and an unused kitchen space RG created two more studios at 520 up to 69 Studios. In 2015 a space was added to the 939 location and studio 2C was created.
Still needing more space? Yep! Hiring a broker, Joe Harkins from Cushman & Wakefield, they went on the search. After months of construction and design, 305 West 38th St. became the 4th location. Out of 12 former dance studios, 22 studios, waiting areas and a performance space was created with a private entrance on West 38th St. The doors opened in September of 2017. Ripley-Grier Studios consisted of 92 spaces with a staff of 45.
Covid hit in 2020. RG struggled along with everyone in the Entertainment Industry to make it through those bleak years. They continue to persevere to regain their momentum with the help of government programs and loans and loyal clients. Their dba's included Ripley-Grier Flexible Spaces, which opened their spaces up to other uses. In 2022 the last space on the 17th floor at 520 was offered to Ripley-Grier (their landlord made them an offer they couldn’t refuse), so they built 7 more beautiful spacious studios and now had full floors: 16 & 17 and part of floor 10. In
2023 another studio was formed out of an unused AC room on 16, the beautiful 16-Q2.
Also in 2023 an office space became available at the 939 location on the 3rd floor and so they laid down a beautiful wood floor and studio 3E was created. The total studio/spaces in Manhattan in 2023 is 100 rooms, in four locations on the West Side of Manhattan.
In October 2023, Ripley-Grier Studios & Flexible Spaces at 520 8th Avenue launched a newly renovated and repurposed 10th floor space and created the “RG Artists’ Oasis” , 10 independent spaces created for multimedia purposes including self-taping/video use, voiceover/podcasts hosting, a photo studio space as well as rooms for private lessons, meetings, seminars, workshops and classes. A more “quiet” space.
In addition to an amazing talented, dedicated staff RG now employs 7 members of the dynamic Ripley and Grier family group.
Ripley-Grier Studios & Flexible Spaces endeavors to create beautiful, clean, professional audition, rehearsal, pre-performance, class space and multi use rooms for rent to support our creative and talented clients.
Why is this amazing success story a true New York story?
Ambition, the search for independence, some real estate savvy, the desire to create special places for artists , performers & teachers, hard work, tough decisions, patience and love created a thriving partnership between two very different people from different backgrounds. Meeting In their mid 30's they decided to change their life paths and move in one direction. Good Karma and Good Luck were important factors in keeping their business growing.
Most importantly, in the 37 year history of this unique business, finding, hiring and keeping loyal, talented and hardworking staff members has added to an amazing story of growth and expansion in the greatest city in the world. Some staff members who have become managers also became fathers and mothers, raising their families while working at RG and some of their family members have joined the crew. Other staff members have moved on to pursue their careers. We are so grateful for all our staffs’ professionalism and loyalty. Thanks to all the CSR’s, Bookers, Custodians, Maintenance staff, Cleaners, Location, AR & Bookkeeping Managers and Executives throughout the years who have been instrumental in the success of Ripley-Grier Studios and Ripley-Grier Flexible Spaces.
With Love and Respect,
Patricia Ripley, Butch Grier, Shayne Grier, Heather Grier, Jackson Grier, Ethan Grier, Brooklyn Grier, Griffin Grier & Jeannie Ripley-Grier