Are L.A.'s One-Stop Wellness Spots The Country Clubs Of The Future?

Photo: Courtesy of The Springs.
About once a week, Katie Horwitch packs up her laptop and heads to her favorite Downtown L.A. vegan restaurant to work. After she’s done, she might hit up a yoga class, peruse a pop-up shop filled with eco-friendly furniture, or catch up with a friend over a bottle of organic, biodynamic wine. And she doesn’t have to give up her parking spot in order to do so.

Welcome to The Springs, the first in a new wave of one-stop wellness destinations that are cropping up around L.A. In late July, this visionary Arts District space was joined by three-story yoga utopia Wanderlust Hollywood. A few days later, boutique/exercise studio/cooking school Vegan Scene debuted in Venice. And in Culver City, juice shop and cryotherapy spa Cold & Thirsty recently opened in a storefront adjoining popular boutique fitness space Studio Elevate.

Think of these spots as fresh takes on the neighborhood rec center, geared towards style- and health-conscious urbanites. Instead of water aerobics, you’ll find vinyasa flow sessions with live DJs. In place of arts-and-crafts workshops, expect dance parties and themed movie nights. And forget potluck dinners — try fresh, local, gorgeously plated fare from some of L.A.’s most talented culinary pros. Sure, you can find some of these amenities at your local high-end gym or country club, but indie spirit is a huge part of the newcomers’ appeal — and there’s no monthly membership required at any of these spots.

“[I go to The Springs] and somehow end up being there for, like, four hours,” says Horwitch, a content editor for Pressed Juicery and founder of Women Against Negative Talk (W.A.N.T.). “It’s very easy to lose track of time while you’re there.”
Photo: Courtesy of Vegan Scene.

Where Community And Chai Lattes Collide

Talk to the founders of these new wellness Shangri-Las, and one word will consistently come up: community.

“It’s almost like reinventing the country club,” says Jared Stein, co-founder of The Springs. “You can go and spend your day and have a sense of belonging, like, ‘Oh, my people are here.’”

A former New Yorker, Stein and his partner, Kimberly Helms, dreamed about The Springs for years before it debuted in October 2014 — they wanted to indulge all of their wellness obsessions in one place and have some meaningful conversations while they were at it. They were drawn to L.A. because of the then-cheap warehouse spaces and burgeoning scene in DTLA’s Arts District. Wanderlust co-founder Jeff Krasno also chose to put down roots in L.A. for real estate reasons — he inherited the former Golden Bridge yoga space from a longtime friend — yet he also saw an opportunity to create connectedness in a city where isolation is the norm. And that meant giving a permanent home to the Wanderlust brand, which draws Coachella-scale crowds for its annual yoga/music/arts festivals.

“I felt like there was a thirst for community in L.A., and a lot of that is just the logistics of living here — car, device, work, and home are the four guiding principles of people’s lives,” says Krasno. “That was the inspiration: Can we rip the mom jeans off the community center and make it young and vital and fill it with all sorts of weird shit, like poetry workshops and alternative book clubs and vegetable-fermentation classes?”
Photo: Courtesy of Cold Thirsty.

And so far, Angelenos have been lapping up what these intrepid entrepreneurs have been laying down. “Wanderlust has given me a safe place to practice yoga with not only like-minded but also like-hearted people,” says Eden Sassoon, a beauty and wellness expert and owner of Eden by Eden Sassoon Finishing Studio and Eden by Eden Sassoon Pilates. “[It’s refreshing] to sit and just be, and feel no outside pressure. I can eat clean and mentally and physically ‘get clean’ too.”

No Dogma Allowed
Although healthy living is clearly at the core of these nouveau social clubs — totally unsurprising, considering that açaí bowls and Spinning are the new happy hour in many L.A. circles — you won’t get scolded for coming in with Gummi bears in your bag. That’s particularly important at Vegan Scene, where many who attend its daily workouts, plant-based cooking classes, and ticketed parties — gasp! — consume animal products on the regular. Says founder Amy Rebecca: “Most of the people that come to our classes just want to learn. I wanted to make the word [vegan] less scary for people that aren’t used to it. There are a lot of stereotypes about us, but we don’t really bite.”

Case in point: Her shop is stocked with animal-friendly, sustainable (and seriously cute) clothes and accessories by local brands such as Gypsy 05 and Show Me Your Mumu, while she’s planning a Big Lebowski-themed bash for August 29 (complete with dairy-free White Russians). After all, she says, “Vegans like to drink and do our thing, too.”

The same goes for The Springs. “I’d say about 80% of the people that come here are the furthest thing from vegan,” says Helms. Adds Stein: “We wanted to remove the exclusivity that people can feel towards yoga or even health; we wanted it to be about everybody.”
Photo: Courtesy of Cold Thirsty.

The Convenience Factor
While we can probably all use more leafy greens and camaraderie, there’s another reason why all-in-one health hubs are finding favor with L.A. locals: They cut way down on driving time. That kind of practicality was the force behind Cold & Thirsty. “We wanted to be a one-stop shop for healthy living,” says Katie Kaufmann, who met co-founder Brooke Rewa at a farmers' market and bonded with her over their shared vision of opening a wellness center. They decided to combine their love of cryotherapy — which involves hanging out in a –240-degree cauldron for three minutes in hopes of soothing sore muscles, rejuvenating skin, and boosting energy — with a retail space for Rewa’s Renew brand of cold-pressed juices and nut milks, as well as pantry and beauty products from other organic makers.

“We like to say you can come here and get healthy in five minutes,” Kaufmann adds — or 55 minutes, if you add in a Pilates and cycling class from the neighboring Studio Elevate.
Photo: Courtesy of Wanderlust.

And what if none of these temples of glowiness is in your 'hood? Don’t stress — given the warm reception of this first wave, you’ll most likely find one nearby in the very near future. “I think people are realizing that the way we’ve been living and eating aren’t sustainable,” says Stein. “It’s important that more [healthy] opportunities and experiences are available to people so they can make that choice more often.” We’ll raise a glass of green juice to that.


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