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Intense Drive Propels New Deerfield Business

Merilee Papale puts her energy into opening another Essence Pilates studio in her adopted hometown.

When Deerfield’s Merilee Papale was asked to define the main ingredient behind her business success she had a one word answer.

Drive.

“I love challenges,” Papale said. “I take the fear out of them and interpret challenges as opportunities.”

The latest challenge for Papale is opening the newest location of her business, Essence Pilates, in the Deerfield American Legion Hall. She has set August 1 as a target date. She currently has a studio in Highland Park as well as one in Chicago. She will close the Chicago location.

Part of Papale’s drive is not taking no for an answer. She turns negativity into a positive as she accepts a challenge. She has run eight marathons since being told she would never run again because of an injury.

Family is a major reason for making Essence a suburban only business. “My children are going into junior high and high school,” Papale said. “I will be a lot closer to them than I would be in Chicago.”

Papale began Essence Pilates in Chicago in 2004 and opened the Highland Park location five years ago, two years after finding a home in Deerfield. When she first decided to move to the suburbs, she was looking in Glenview and Evanston.

“I kept driving north on Waukegan Road and when I saw a I decided that’s where I want to live,” Papale said. “I can walk there (from my home).” She will be able to walk to her Deerfield studio as well.

Though she may have become a Deerfield resident by circumstance, it was drive and intensity that propelled Papale into the Pilates business. She was a full ride cross country runner at the University of Colorado when she had a serious injury that put her on the path to Pilates.

“I blew out my knee and was told I couldn’t run again so I went to cycling,” Papale said. She was not performing up to her expectations and her coach suggested Pilates. It worked so well for her she not only became an outstanding cyclist, but she began running again.

“I felt good and said why not try running,” Papale said. Not only has she has run eight marathons since incorporating Pilates into her regimen, she has competed in triathlons including a pair of half Iron Man events which include swimming 1.2 miles, cycling 56 miles and running 13.1 miles.

Papale had already been a spinning teacher and a personal trainer when she set out on a path to add Pilates instructor to her repertoire. She took the necessary courses, began teaching and eventually opened her own studio.

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