Husband-and-wife team Marcus and Karman Lovely own DUO Houston—a half Pilates studio, half coffee shop located in River Oaks.

The couple said their business surviving the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, with plans to open a new, larger space at luxury high rise community Hanover Autry Park by early 2024, is a testament to their perseverance.

“We signed our lease here on Feb. 1, 2020—right before COVID hit,” Marcus said. “A lot of people asked if we wanted to pause, but we kept pushing through it. We ended up opening Jan. 1 [2021].”

In their own words

Marcus said he believes much of their success has also come from cultivating a sense of belonging. His and Karman’s goal was to build something that brought people together and to make Pilates less intimidating, they said.

“We’ve built a culture of inclusivity. We are obviously a multicultural family," Marcus said, referring to the couple and their two sons. "All four of us are completely different, and we love that. So we wanted to make specialty coffee [and Pilates] for everyone. We want people to understand [coffee's] origins and get excited about fitness.”

The owners name their price points and the diversity of their staff—who are instructors and baristas of varying ages, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds—as evidence of this commitment to inclusion.

“That really represents Houston,” Karman said. “Because we are people who come from everywhere.”

What's in a name

The concept for DUO Houston was created during Karman’s battle with breast cancer.

“I was going through chemotherapy, and we had planned a wellness retreat to Costa Rica,” Karman said. “We got off the plane and literally in that moment, we looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do with our lives?’ We wrote out a plan and shortly after started working on DUO.”

Though the origin of its name can easily be traced to the business doubling as a fitness studio and coffee shop, for Karman it means so much more.

“It means we’re better together,” she said. “We believe everything is better together: coffee and Pilates are better together. ... Marcus and I are better together. All of us are better together."
2147 Westheimer Road, Houston