Bread dough no longer rises in the brick building that once housed part of the Italian French Baking Company, a North Beach fixture for almost a century until it closed in 2015. The space is now home to The Hive San Francisco, an aerial arts fitness studio where you can take your exercise routine to new heights. Or just get a taste of what it’s like to be a circus performer.
If hanging upside down from a trapeze or swinging from the rafters on a silk — a curtain-like swath of fabric that dangles from the ceiling and is used for climbing and tricks — isn’t your thing, don’t worry. The Hive also offers a variety of classes that take place on solid ground, including yoga and bootcamp, as well as circus arts classes for teens, and special programs for younger kids.
A young student nails her first attempt at hanging from a trapeze with a little help from instructor Layla Tripod. | Photo credit: Dorothy O'Donnell
The studio opened on March 20 and is co-owned by five friends who are all practicing aerialists: Jennifer Hwang, Thai Lam, Ivonne Wahjudi, Meggie Lu Hwang, and Maria Wu Kiskis. They met at another studio, Aerial Artique, that closed right before COVID hit. During the pandemic, the friends did their best to keep their aerial arts community alive and continue training by meeting in some of their backyards. But there was only so much they could do without a properly equipped indoor facility.
Two of The Hive San Francisco co-owners, Thai Lam and Jenn Hwang. | Photo credit: Dorothy O'Donnell
“The Hive San Francisco came out of desperation for a lack of space to do aerial, and even more so, missing the community we’d cultivated at Aerial Artique,” says Lam, who’s also an aerial instructor. “A lot of us came together there and had a place of support and empowerment for each other. We were missing that.”
Jennifer Hwang tells Hoodline that they looked at lots of different places around the city before settling on their North Beach site. A building with high ceilings and plenty of open space was a must. Many of the spots that met those requirements were warehouses. While they were spacious, they were also cold and sterile. The business partners wanted a place that felt friendly and inviting. With its beautiful exposed brick walls and soaring ceilings, the old bakery ticked all their boxes. A year’s worth of renovations that included adding skylights amplified the interior’s bright, airy look.
“We hadn’t really considered North Beach, but when we saw this space, we thought it was perfect,” says Hwang. “And once we got here, we loved it. The community is so strong and welcoming. We’re looking at different ways to be a part of that community."
For starters, they’re offering locals a neighborhood discount. Just stop by the studio to get the discount code, which is good for 10 percent off the regular price of a class. You can also apply the discount to The Hive’s special intro package, three classes for $75. In addition, notes Lam, they plan to expand their involvement in the community by collaborating with North Beach Circus Arts Flow. The organization run by Michael Angelo holds a variety of circus arts events, including monthly Circus Saturdays in Washington Square. These informal gatherings give participants a chance to hone their performing and acrobatic skills.
Instructor Layla Tripod helps a student with the lyra. | Photo credit: Dorothy O'Donnell
Lam and Hwang stress that you don’t have to be young or super-fit to try an aerial class. They were both well into adulthood by the time they got into the aerial arts. Now, they love helping students of all ages and fitness levels experience the thrill of mastering a new skill, like hanging upside down for the first time or shinnying their way up a silk.
“People of all ages, body types, and backgrounds can come here and challenge themselves and discover new capabilities they never knew they had,” Lam says. “That’s at the core of why we want to do this.”
The Hive San Francisco is located at 1503 Grant Avenue and open daily. Check the schedule for hours and classes.