Katie Shopkorn Finkelstein walks into the bright, kid-friendly, clean space that is Jodi’s Gym – a gymnastics and movement education center that provides safe, fun, developmentally appropriate gymnastics – and she instantly feels at home.
It’s a typical day here, with toddlers chasing bubbles, instructors teaching moves on the uneven bars and a child practicing handsprings on the floor. Some who know about Jodi’s Gym are surprised to learn there really is a Jodi. Not only is there a Jodi, but she is and always has been the driving force with continued passion for what she does that keeps this business alive and thriving after 35 years.
Katie Shopkorn Finkelstein’s mom enrolled her at Jodi’s Gym when she was young and now she brings her children here to enjoy the supportive, non-competitive environment. “No one cares more about children than Jodi Levine, her passion for teaching young kids goes further than just gymnastics,” she says. “Her warmth and energy are unparalleled to anyone else out there. I am forever grateful to Jodi and so thankful that my daughters get to have her and the Gym in their lives!”
Yes, Jodi’s Gym has been around long enough that the babies she once taught are having babies themselves, and they are taking their kids back to Jodi’s Gym. “You tend to come back to something you love.” Levine says of these second generation of clients. “Some have told me their memories from Jodi’s Gym are some of their happiest childhood memories.”
Jodi Levine, an original female entrepreneur when there really weren’t many, started cartwheeling at a very young age and didn’t formally start gymnastics until she was about 12. Her talents and efforts earned her an athletic scholarship to college, and she eventually went on to get a Masters in Psychology. While taking a break in between her graduate studies, she began teaching non-competitive gymnastics to young kids before it was considered the norm. She soon discovered that teaching children was a passion and her “true calling.” “Kids actually love and need to move. Teaching them body awareness and what they can do with effort and perseverance – that really spoke to me,” she says.
Contrary to what most think, this pioneer’s passion for gymnastics and love of kids began way before she had children of her own. What started as a one-woman operation back in 1982 where Levine did it all from teach, set up, clean up, manage and marketing, has since become a company with more than 30 employees, two locations (Mt. Kisco and New York City), camp programs, birthday parties, Jodi’s To Go, a preschool alternative program, and music, ninja and fitness classes. The programs cater to 9-month-olds through tweens, and there really is something for every child.
It’s her understanding of children, experience and awareness of what kids love and what parents need, that keeps attracting families to Jodi’s Gym. “We really care sincerely about every child and their safety, that has never wavered,” says Levine. “Also, my core staff has been with me a very long time. That’s rare, and I think it helps when families know they can come to a place they know and trust.”
Add to that, high quality programming and giving families more than they expect, and you’ve got a formula that never goes out of style.
Kim Sunshine is a local freelance writer.
©2017 Community News Group