Tone up, chill out! A café and gym in one

The owners of Café Move in Wilton have combined keep-fit with a social hub where you can chat over a coffee. CHRIS DUNNE finds out about the modern-day enterprise
Tone up, chill out! A café and gym in one

TEAM WORK: Robbie O’Driscoll and his fiancee Karen Lunnon, who run Café Move in Wilton.

IS it a gym? Is it a cafe? Or is it something else?

For Robbie O’Driscoll and his fiancee Karen Lunnon, the concept behind Café Move in Wilton is something new, something tailor-made for modern people in the modern age.

“We are more than a cafe,” says Robbie. “We are more than a community centre. We are all of them and none of them. It is an environment where moving is a social life.”

As their website states, Café Move is a social club of members that develop and maintain the integrity of their physical structure through physical practice.

Basically, you can work out or do your exercise and movement thing, such as yoga or martial arts, and have your coffee before or afterwards.

Robbie O’Driscoll, a former self-employed electrician, and Karen set up the venture two and a half years ago.

“She had the same mind-set as me,” says Robbie. “We put two and two together and came up with Cafe Move.”

Robbie recalls the days when he was out on the road as a sparky. 

“I was your typical tradesman. Myself and my mate travelled the length and breadth of the country for work. It was isolating and we often didn’t get paid. Then the recession hit and everything went belly up. I decided things had to change.”

Robbie, a regular gym user, had a gut feeling that a different approach to working out would appeal to people.

“I wanted people to feel pleasure coming to the gym, instead of feeling the guilt that they had to go to the gym,” he recalls.

Robbie got to work. He came up with a business model and his dad backed his son’s entrepreneurial drive.

“My dad believed in me,” says Robbie. “He is my inspiration. Both my parents are role models for me. I have tradesman’s hands, and a creative head. I had the idea long before I got the keys to the premises.”

Robbie travelled to London to take part in personal training courses and did courses online.

“I worked in a studio in Blackpool as a personal trainer on a one-to-one basis,” he says. “I was booked out. The idea of opening my own place with a different approach occurred to me.

“In 2013, I took the plunge and began to work towards my goal. Good coaches, good coffee in nice surroundings... it seemed the perfect combination.”

Robbie had the coaching expertise, Karen had the eye and taste to create a comfortable cosy space where people came to have a coffee and a chat pre-workout or post-workout.

“The table we are sitting at has been up-cycled from a cable drum,” she tells me. The painting above us is framed by an old frame my nan had.”

Karen, who is originally from Belfast, worked in radio for ten years and is a photographer.

She adds: “I found the most flavoursome coffee for the cafe. I visited lots of other cafes for inspiration and for ideas for nice decor. We wanted to create a social hub.”

WORKING OUT: Patrick Brett in the Café Move gym, which he says has changed his outlook on fitness
WORKING OUT: Patrick Brett in the Café Move gym, which he says has changed his outlook on fitness

Apart from regular classes like Yoga and Brazilian Shiatsu, a qualified nutritionist is available, as well as a neuromuscular therapist, a movement specialist, a sports specialist, and a mobility expert.

“Our Might Movers keeps the kids happy,” says Robbie, speaking about the movement class for children. “Often the dads stay with their children in the café to do their homework after the class. There’s always a comfy corner. They feel so at home here.”

Robbie and Karen, who are in their early thirties, like a cheerful, positive vibe.

“If we are surrounded by miserable people, we too become miserable,” says Robbie. “We believe our members deserve an environment that supports a rich sense of self. Cafe Move has the environment, teachers, tools and practices for this to be an enjoyable, enlightening, and desired process.”

Robbie says Cafe Move is an alternative way to socialise. 

“Popular social scenes for people seem to be predominantly based around the consumption of alcohol, we like to think we are offering an alternative.”

Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet is advice we hear over and over again.

“Yet a very small percentage are actually doing it,” says Robbie. “We believe the reason for this is the missing link of enjoyment. Connection with others is vital. We, as humans, need other humans to be healthy and happy.”

And fit?

Robbie smiles.

“Taking part in classes like martial arts or shiatsu with others is fun and in a group people get more out of it. The social element is really important.”

The warm-ups are fun too.

“We do hand-stands and dancing,” says Robbie. “I love to dance. It’s one of my favourite things.”

Are he and Karen keep-fit fanatics?

“Not at all,” says Robbie. “We like a drink and we like to party every now and again.”

Robbie is less hands-on now. He is more a facilitator and director who supplies the space to qualified teachers to run classes.

“I hope to work with PE teachers in schools. Movement is such an important tool for children to practice,” he says. “It has been proven that a sedentary lifestyle has a negative on our health and also on our mental health.”

Robbie is an avid advocate that movement is the way to go. 

“It’s all about introducing movement and then finding your thing. Do it the way you like to move, and then do it regularly.”

This month, the couple introduced a new early morning meet-up group, enabling people to exercise and enjoy a coffee — a great start to the working day.

“From 7am to 9am the place is heaving,” says Robbie. “The classes begin. The children arrive in the afternoon for Mighty Movers. Coffee is brewing. Then the people come in after work in their suits.”

Robbie has a short commute to work.

“I free-wheel down Spur Hill on my bike,” he says. “This is our home and our baby.”

Patrick Brett, who attends Cafe Move on a regular basis, says it is not like other gyms. 

“In other gyms, people don’t integrate,” he says. “They are one-dimensional and you don’t get to meet people.

“I found in other gyms, the emphasis was on your look. The image and stereotype on magazine covers seemed to be the focus.

“Lifting weights for 10 years, I became disillusioned with the constant emphasis on appearance and the endless cycle of gaining muscle and losing fat.

“Cafe Move is different. It has completely changed my outlook on health and fitness.”

Patrick was instantly hooked when he joined Cafe Move. 

“I thought the novelty would wear off,” he adds. “But I soon realised there was more to learn about movement. The group classes are challenging, but are not physically draining. This is ideal for athletes and sports people.

“While the facilities at Cafe Move are excellent, it is the sense of community that differentiates it from other gyms. The cafe provides excellent coffee and a comfortable space to socialise with other members after group classes. The holistic approach is appealing, instead of focusing just on appearance.

Cafe Move, Unit 3, Karlbrooke Business Park, Doughcloyne Industrial Estate, Sarsfield Rd. Wilton. Phone: 021-2061939

Membership, €80 a month, including all classes.

Intensive workshop starting in February, building movement and strength slowly and gradually, €80.

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