Inspired by their own health struggles and a canny sense of what’s missing in the $4.2 trillion wellness industry, an intrepid trio of 30- and 40-something entrepreneurs is about to open a chain of integrative health clubs called The Well.
“The thing that differentiates us most is our breadth and integration of services. So much has happened in the wellness industry. Boutique fitness is incredible, functional and integrative medicine has become more widely known and available, and Chinese medicine products and acupuncture clinics have expanded,” says CEO Rebecca Parekh, who spent a decade in structured credit at Deutsche Bank before becoming COO for Deepak Chopra Radical Well-Being. “We’re bringing it all under one roof and making it truly integrated. All of our specialists will collaborate and put together a personalized plan for each member.”
Set to debut in September, the first club, a luminous three-floor, 18,000-square-foot space near Manhattan’s Union Square, will employ 50 health and wellness specialists and offer everything from a reflexology lounge and daily yoga classes to physical therapy and a private training gym. To promote socializing, the club will have a restaurant run by the chefs from Greenwich Village’s Cafe Clover and host weekly discussions and events about subjects like emotional well-being, financial health, food as medicine and stress management.
Memberships costs $375 a month and includes monthly sessions with one of The Well’s dedicated health coaches, all of whom have completed 12-month certification programs, primarily at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York.
“Members will meet at least once a month with their coach, and more often if needed, to make an individual wellness plan. Coaches review the foods you eat, your physical movement, your spiritual practice and your personal relationships. All of it affects your wellbeing,” says COO Sarrah Hallock, a former Vitaminwater executive with health coaching certifications from Duke Integrative Medicine and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. “The coach can guide you to an MD or a physical therapist, or they’ll help you start a meditation practice. They’re wellness concierges that make sure our members take advantage of all of our offerings.”
Among those offerings: unlimited yoga, meditation and movement classes; use of the club’s chic gym and sauna and steam rooms. Particularly appealing to busy New Yorkers, membership also includes access to in-demand, hard to see practitioners like functional medicine physician Dr. Frank Lipman, the club’s chief medical officer; women’s health specialist Aimee Raupp and sports medicine expert Keith Pyne. Additional charges will apply for medical appointments and spa treatments like craniosacral therapy and lymph drainage massage.
With an initial funding of $18 million led by venture capital firm NEA, the brand intends to expand to 10 clubs internationally, aiming to open the first three to five by 2024. After their current location, the owners are planning to add a second Manhattan club and one in Los Angeles.
Designed by Liubasha Rose, who helped develop SH Hotels and Resorts’ 1 Hotel and Baccarat brands, The Well is bright and airy, with a muted gray palette, plenty of natural light, plant walls and gently curving surfaces. Artist James Turrell’s installations and Mexican sweat lodge huts inspired the circular, cement-walled meditation room, which feels like an especially clean, plush cave. Spa treatment rooms have beds with built-in infrared heaters. Rather unusually, the club’s sauna and steam room are co-ed.
They also hope to have a busy library, which will host frequent workshops and lectures by wellness practitioners like Shiva Rose, Reshma Saujani and Eddie Stern. “Our vision is to empower members to take greater agency for health and wellbeing, and they do that through education,” says Parekh. “We’re not here to be dogmatic or tell members what their spiritual practice or diet should be. There’s so much happening in wellness, but not always a good explanation, and that’s why it sometimes gets a bad name. There’s science behind everything we’re doing. We’re really looking to demystify some of these traditions like Ayurveda, acupuncture, shamanism. When you distill them down to their essences, it’s best practices for strength, sleep, gut health, immunity. We’re looking across disciplines and creating actionable plans.”
The idea seems to be resonating with the overscheduled urban professionals The Well is targeting. So far, the still-unopened space has 350 members, with membership capped at 1,900. “As someone who seeks out various wellness services around the city, I’m excited about having a place where I can create a routine for balance, exercise, community and health all under one roof,” says new member Agatha Capacchione, founder of The Ashima Group. “Plus, the space is gorgeous. I look forward to advancing some of my existing wellness practices and exploring new ones once it opens.”
This is what people are looking for.
The Well’s founders and their investors are banking on the assumption that the demand for holistic healthcare, with its precise approach to individual care, is growing.
“The beauty here is that all the practitioners will talk about everything and come back to the member with the best approach,” says Hallock. “It might combine modalities. We firmly believe in bio-individuality, and there’s no one size fits all. We’re going to look back in five years, or hopefully sooner, and realize that this is so obvious, and ask why didn’t we have this earlier? This is what people are looking for.”