The iconic company is celebrating its 90th birthday—and 50 years of producing Pilates equipment. At a recent lunch, company president David Rosencrans surprised Pilates Style editors Anne Marie O’Connor and Amanda Altman with these little-known tidbits.
1.GRAT ZORIG INALLY PRODUCED HIGH- END METAL WORK AND INDUSTRIAL DESIGNS .
The company was founded in 1928 by Frank Gratz, an MIT-trained engineer, and Edward Treitel. Frank’s son Donald joined the company after college in 1955 and ran it from 1972 until his death in 2004. His wife Roberta Gratz, a journalist, author, preservation activist and Pilates devotee, is still a partner in the company.
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2. IT ’ S AN OLD – FASHIONED ARTISAN WORKSHOP.
“We have 30 employees, including skilled woodworkers, upholsterers and metal artisans, who make the different parts and assemble our apparatus from scratch in our factory in Philadelphia,” Rosencrans says.
3. UIT’S PROBABLY AN RBAN LEG END THAT GRATZ PRODUCED PART S FOR JOSEPH PILATES ’ ORIG INAL EQUIPMENT.
“When I came to the company in 2006, I was told that Gratz had made parts or equipment for Joseph Pilates,” he says. “We actually haven’t been able to prove that, and researchers were unable to disprove it, either, as our records from that period were destroyed in a flood in 1972. What we do know is that in 1968, Romana Kryzanowska chose Donald Gratz and collaborated with him to recreate the equipment based on Joe’s original designs and the apparatus he and his brother had built for his studio in New York, the same equipment we continue to make today. This makes Gratz the original manufacturer of Pilates apparatus.”
4. WHILE PIL ATE S FANS KNOW GRATZ FOR IT S EQUIPMENT, THE COMPANY IS EQUALLY E S TEEMED IN THE ART AND DE SIG N WORLD.
It manufactured the frames for Mies van der Rohe’s classic Barcelona chair, as well as designs for Isamu Noguchi and Le Corbusier. Gratz also produced major sculptures, for Maya Lin, Sol Lewitt and Robert Rauschenberg and the Button and Needle sculpture in New York’s Garment District. The company continues to produce a line of mid-century furniture, including the TG-10 chair that’s sold at BDDW, a high-end showroom in Soho in New York.
5. T HE COMPANY IS RELEASING THE GRATZ ARCHIVE 80-INCH ALUMINUM REFORMER TO CELEBR ATE HALF A CENTURY OF M ANUFAC TURING PIL ATE S EQUIPMENT.
“We recently developed the Archive Reformer based on an older unit belonging to Jay Grimes and other apparatus belonging to first- and second-generation teachers we are in touch with. We realized that small changes and customization had occurred over the years. “This anniversary-edition incorporates some of the details from these older apparatus that teachers seemed to really like. For instance, it has a firmer, dense foam similar to some original Reformers from Joe’s studio. It also features an aluminum footbar, like Joe’s had, though Gratz’s easily removable Full Contact footbar cover is included.”
6. HALF OF GRATZ BUSINE SS IS FROM ABROAD — MAINLY EUROPE AND ASIA .
One of the most remote places ever to receive apparatus, according to Rosencrans: Mauritius, an island 1,200 miles off the African coast in the Indian Ocean.
7.L IKE JOE AND CL AR A PILATES , DAVID WORKS WITH HIS WIFE , MICHELE (“ WITH ONE L ,” ROSECR ANS SAYS WITH A SMILE).
Michele is Gratz’s operations manager; she and David have been married for 32 years and have three kids and two grandchildren.
8.DAVID DOES PILATES , TOO!
“I suffered many injuries training to achieve a Black Belt in Seido karate; practicing Pilates has helped me regain my range of motion and flexibility. I take Pilates classes every week at different studios here in Philadelphia and while visiting friends and studios all around the world when I travel.”