“What’s Love got to do with it?” ...a lot!
In 1984, West Side Rehearsal Studios (131 West 72nd St.) opened, with Patricia Ripley as the manager. She was an exercise/dance teacher and had her own exercise studio next door at 133 W. 72nd St., ”Creative Energy Studio”. When she and her business partner parted ways, she began to look for another space in the area. She met a contractor who was building a three story addition to the building next door at 131. He was looking for a manager for his rehearsal studios. “What are rehearsal studios?”, she asked. (Duh!) They worked out an arrangement and she became the manager of West Side Rehearsal Studios. She also taught her classes there. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she had worked in the 60’s & 70’s as a nightclub manager in Asbury Park and on Bruce Springsteen’s managerial staff. She moved to Manhattan in 1971, trained at the The Lotte Berk Method, a popular East Side fitness studio and in 1972 taught there in Manhattan & Bridgehampton for 7 years. She took a year off, moved to Orlando, Florida and played tennis every day. Got restless and moved back to New York, (had kept her NY apartment just in case)..
Butch Grier was managing a seafood restaurant, “Captain Nemo’s” on W. 72nd St. He was a stuntman/actor who had driven up from Tulsa, Oklahoma on his motorcycle. He had been doing gigs with The Bugs Bunny Tours. He had started his career as a stunt driver in the Tournament of Thrills: Mustang Auto Daredevils.
They met at Capt Nemo’s in 1982. 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. So their journey began together. In love and living together they were poor, but happy. In the spring of 1984, Butch moved to Cape May, NJ to manage a new restaurant, 410 Bank Street, owned by a flilm industry couple who attended Patricia’s classes. It was a long distance relationship, with Patricia taking busses every weekend to visit. After the summer season ended, Butch moved back to New York and began working for the contractor as a driver.
In 1986, the contractor defaulted on his lease at 131 and Patricia and Butch took over the business in the winter of 1987, incorporated as New York Spaces, Inc and renamed the studios: West 72nd Street Studios. They had to borrow money and pawn jewlery to fund the operation. They lived on the floor in a 4th floor studio, 4R for two years to keep the business going, cleaning the studios at night and operating them in the day. They had a hotplate, a futon and a 13 inch tv with a hanger for an antenna. They ate beans and rice, soup, bread and pasta for two years The days were long, the work was hard, but they never worked for anyone else again. It was liberating! They had 5 studios in the upper floors. In 1989, they took over the 2nd floor in the building and opened a reception office and another two studios. They converted a storeroom in the back of that floor into a bedroom and lived in that space for two more years, building the business. They hired Jorge as the cleaning man (still with us). Deciding that if they converted their bedroom into a studio they could afford to move out and rent a proper apartment, they found a one bedroom duplex on West 82nd St. near Central Park. It was heaven.
The business continued to prosper and determining they needed more and larger spaces, they expanded to 939 8th Avenue and built 5 studios in an old dance studio space in 1990. They hired four staff members and a manager to help with both locations. They had 13 studios in all. Business was good and in 1998 they decided to expand again and began a long search for a suitable space. They took a huge risk and leased space at 520 8th Ave on the 16th floor and built 7 studios. Thus, later named RG I was created in 1999. That same year and in the middle of construction they adopted the lovely Jean-Michelle at birth. After deciding to rename the studios combining their last names, Jeannie became the namesake of the studios. Ripley-Grier Studios. In 2001, breaking through a wall, created RG II, now 25 studios. In 2002 they were offered space above RG I, the landlord build a stairway up to 4 more studios, RG III, now 29 studios in all. The staff increased to 10.
“Build them and they will come” became the motto.
In 2001, after 9/11, they moved out of Manhattan with Jeannie looking for a permanent home. Long Beach, Long Island was the town they chose to raise Jeannie. The commute was an hour by train. A place where the kids played in the street and the beach was a block away. A dream come true.
RG IV opened in 2003, in the front space on the 16th floor. Patricia had studied Feng Shui and created the spaces to reflect those principles. !0 studios added. Ripey-Grier Studios now consisted of three locations, 39 studios. In 2005, more space became available in the building on the 10th floor and opening in May 2006, RG 10th Floor Studios were built with a sub-tenant, “Shut up and Talk”, a voiceover company in 5 of the rooms. They added 4 more spaces to the RG group on 10 and now had 43 studios. During that same year, Patricia and Butch began to produce a musical with Lynne Taylor-Corbett as our director/choreographer. Originally called “Lorca”, then “Deep Song”, and then “The Flamenco Poet”. (Previously they had produced some Off Broadway showcases) A very unique and educational experience. This show is still in the can.
Also in 2006, the last remaining space in the front of the16th floor was offered to Ripley-Grier. A cafe, “Butch’s Cafe Oasis”, executive offices, a breakroom and two studios were built. RG 520 had the whole 16th floor.
That same year, a dream of bringing Butch’s son, Shayne Grier, up from Oklahoma and into the busines was fulfilled as he and his family moved up from Tulsa to join the company. Heather, his wife, Jackson, Ethan and Brooklyn moved to 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 experience New York for that pursuit as well. Butch and Patricia moved to another house in Long Beach and the Grier family moved into their former house.
In 2010, Shut up and Talk moved out of the 10th floor and RG took over those spaces, creating 5 more studios including the voiceover studios.Total 9 studios on the 10th floor. That same year 2 more studios were created out of spaces at RG West 72nd St. adding up to 52 studios.
In 2011, another addition occurred in the Ripley-Grier family, Griffin Noah Grier, Shayne and Heather’s 4th child was born on January 4th. A real New York native. What a beautiful family.
In the Spring of 2012, Ripley-Grier Studios celebrated 25 years of serving the entertainment/teaching community in New York. Voted #1 in the Back Stage Reader’s Choice awards every year they held the voting, they were considered the best. That same year RG built two big beautiful studios on the 2nd floor t 939 8th Ave. 2A & 2B, adding 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 their history was undertaken.and completed in 2013, (after weathering the “Sandy” disaster). This project ultimately increased the studios total by 12 to 66 studios. In the summer of 2015 a new space was created on the 10th floor. As of 2016, Ripley-Grier Studios consist of 67 studios. “The World’s Largest” rehearsal studio complex. Ripley-Grier Studios works hard at creating beautiful, clean rehearsal and class space and are currently looking to expand to offer multi-purpose rooms for meetings, seminars & workshops….
Why is this amazing success story a true New York story?
Ambition, real estate savvy, the desire to create special places for artists and teachers, hard work, tough decisions, patience and love created a thriving partnership between two very different people from different backgrounds In their mid 30's They decided to change their life paths and merge into one direction. Good Karma and Good luck were important factors in keeping their business growing. Most importantly: In the 29 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 of the staff members have become managers, while becoming fathers and mothers, raising their families while working at RG. Some have moved on to pursue their careers. Ripley-Grier Studios are so grateful for their professionalism and loyalty. Thanks to the managers and staff throughout the years who have been instrumental in the success of Ripley-Grier Studios.
Patricia Ripley, Butch Grier, and the Ripley-Grier Studios Family.