SHELTON, Conn. — To say Nicole Heriot-Mikula loves her job is a bit of an understatement.
“I’m happy. I look at hula hoops all day,” she said while looking around her shop, Bring the Hoopla, in the Conti Building downtown. “It’s a very happy existence to be hooping every day.”
And she’s not alone. Since forming as a fitness-minded company in 2011, Bring the Hoopla has grown into a retail shop for custom, handmade hoops and a special events business with a thriving educational component and after-school instructional programs in about 85 schools.
A Shelton native, Heriot-Mikula has been hooping for as long as she can remember. After a 10-year stint in musical theater in New York City, she decided to turn her hobby into a career.
“I wanted to do something I believed in, something from the ground up,” she said. “I was always a big festival-goer and there are always hoops there. It really made me feel good and beautiful and awesome!”
Heriot-Mikula’s program director Sarah Murphy and instructors Marisa Caron, Alexandra Capaldo, Ashley Permijo and Tatiana Rivera try to re-create that feeling with each class, birthday party, Girl Scout meeting or continuing education event they host.
She estimates they have taught thousands of people about hooping over the past few years.
Meanwhile, master hoop maker Lauren Devereaux of Shelton works her magic, creating sparkly circles of fun for sale in the Howe Avenue shop, which is the only retail outlet selling hula hoops exclusively in the Northeast, Heriot-Mikula said.
They’ve also branched out into tie-dyed clothing, a line of T-shirts and Hoopla huggies, a cloth carrier for the hoop enthusiast. The shop also does repairs for hoopsters near and far.
Bring the Hoopla’s emphasis is on having fun, but Heriot-Mikula said hooping has great health benefits. The American Heart Association says just 20 minutes a day keeps the heart in shape, while burning about 600 calories an hour, she said.
“The biggest focus is on healthy minds and healthy bodies,” she said.
Bring the Hoopla, 415 Howe Avenue, is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. The store is also open the first Saturday of each month during the Downtown Handmade Market, which is held in the building.