San Francisco by Avant-Barre

San Francisco-born Nini Gueco tells us why she never tires of her City by the Bay

PHOTO: Quoc Ngo.

Over 30 years in San Francisco, and Avant-Barre‘s founder Char “Nini” Gueco has a palpable love for this fair city. Born in the City and raised in the Peninsula, Nini stayed in the Bay Area to attend Santa Clara University where she graduated with a degree in Accounting. Travel opportunities happened domestically through work (her first career move was as an accountant with a big 4 firm) and internationally through dance (she was a premier soloist with Likha Pilipino Folk Ensemble), but she always made her way back home to the Bay. I had the privilege of meeting Nini 27 years ago when I was born her second sister, and she’s one reason I cannot wait to make the move back this summer. After hearing what she had to say about San Francisco, I found a few more reasons to add to my list (one of them is Avant-Barre’s brand new SoMa studio that opens today).

C: You’ve lived in the Bay Area your entire life. How have you found ways to keep San Francisco “new”?

It’s not hard to do when San Francisco is always changing with the times—with industry, with food. There’s always something new happening! Right now there’s a technological renaissance bringing in a wave of renewal and ideas, changing the food, fashion, and fitness industries. Everyone is trying to keep up with the excitement. Things refresh on their own. Even if you’ve lived here for 30 years like me, it all ends up feeling brand new.


C: San Francisco may be one of the most stereotyped cities out there (everyone is gay, everyone is nerdy, everyone is eco-friendly). Give it to me from your perspective.

Everyone is real. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with fitting into one of those stereotypes. Nerds pretty much rule the City right now. San Francisco allows you to be what and who you want to be, which is probably why it’s the most invigorating place to be right now. It’s  If you’re a nerd and you embrace it and run with it, you’re probably the CEO of a tech company. No one is afraid to let their freak flag fly, and here you can succeed by being who you are.


C: That’s refreshing to hear, especially knowing that most people want to be the next so-and-so. Be yourself, and be the first! What makes the city appealing for a Single Girl*? (*definition = young, ambitious, go-getter girl)

There is no shortage of opportunities to join forward-thinking companies or to create your own. People are smart, motivated, and therefore inspiring to be around. Plus if you are looking to date, San Francisco is chock full of accomplished tech entrepreneurs and businessmen (and women).


C: I have heard it’s a great place for singles. How have you made it your “home”?

I’ve embraced the constant change. But I think the best way to make any city your home is to host visitors… invite people from your hometown and people you’ve met along the way; show off your version of the place you call your home. Though I’ve lived here my whole life, my husband Kevin moved here after college, and he’s definitely made it his own this way.


C: That is a great way. Plus playing tourist in your own city when you have visitors helps you appreciate it in a different way, creating a new sense of pride. What is your favorite thing about the city?

Despite the fog’s bad rap, I love the weather. You can rock mild weather style and wear cute jackets all year long. You never get distracted from work because it’s never too hot outside. Though when it is nice, everyone takes the day off and enjoys the beautiful weather together. Warm days are definitely not taken for granted.


C: What has surprised you most about living there?

How much I freakin’ love it! How I can never be bored of it. How it’s changed since I was young… it’s changing for the better! I loved San Francisco 33 years ago, and I love it now. A lot of people are still getting used to the change… the City has always been rooted in local culture, but now we have to accept that we’re becoming an international city drawing people from all walks of life that aren’t “typical San Francisco.”


C: Any advice for someone looking to move there?

It’s an extremely friendly city, so be prepared to adapt. Embrace the city for what it was (eco-friendly, granola), what it is (an innovative hybrid due to transplants), and what it’s becoming (who knows what’s next!). No matter what, keep the friendly culture alive… it’s likely what drew people in in the first place.


C: Best spot for a first date?

Anything with alcohol and an activity (not to mention some great food!). My favorites are Urban Putt, Mission Bowl, Lucky Strike. A fun second date would be walking at Lands End or along the Embarcadero. For a third or fourth date, take a hop-on hop-off tour to see the city from a visitor’s perspective. I’m a fan of active dating.


C: Those would make great friend dates as well! How have you made new friends in this city?

How most people probably make new friends: doing things I like. I fell in love with barre fitness several years ago and met awesome people through becoming an instructor and, last year, opening my own studio. I’ve also strengthened old friendships through founding Avant-Barre. It’s exhilarating to see this dream coming true, to recognize the whole-hearted support from my inner circle, and to feel the anticipation of the community we’re forming.


C: Girls night out: where do you go?

AsiaSF for a night with girlfriends to enjoy some wild entertainment if you don’t want to worry about guys hitting on you. nopa, nopalito, or Bar Crudo for a grown and sexy dinner. If you want to meet guys, head to the bars on Polk Street. (Not me… I’m happily married!)


C: If you have girlfriends coming to visit. Where do you take them?

On Friday night, we would head to Nopa because I’m grown and sexy haha. Saturday morning will begin with a visit to the Ferry Building for RoliRoti, Blue Bottle, and Delica. No girl will turn down Sunday brunch. San Francisco does buffet and bottomless mimosas at Cliff House and Ironside.


C: You miraculously have a free Saturday. How do you take advantage?

Escape to Tomales Bay for a picnic and fresh oyster shucking. Or if I’m staying in the City, Biergarten in Hayes Valley followed by drunk shopping in the neighborhood.


PHOTO: Daniel Morris for © Moanalani Jeffrey Photography

PHOTO: Daniel Morris for © Moanalani Jeffrey Photography


3 words I’d use to describe San Francisco: Friendly, Evolving, International

The tourist spot I secretly love: The Ferry Building

I absolutely can’t resist eating: Boba from Plentea

When I’m hunting down a good sale I head straight to: Jeremys or Aritzia

You know you belong in San Francisco when: The temperature surpasses 70 and you say “oh it’s too hot”


Avant-Barre‘s new SoMa studio opens today; click here to sign up for a class. Follow on Instagram to see more of Nini’s City adventures.


Originally posted on The Single Diaries.

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