Her new spa and cafe hybrid Chillhouse is everything the modern New Yorker needs
Amongst the bars, liquor stores, and bodegas on Essex Street in New York City’s Lower East Side, lies a chic, cozy beauty oasis. Noted by a teeny white sign with slim peach letters, Chillhouse was opened earlier this year by entrepreneur Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton. It is part cafe and part spa, a place where you can order matcha lattes alongside manicures, white wine alongside deep tissue massages. It is, as the space itself says, “a modern path to total rejuvenation.”
Rejuvenation starts when you walk in, with the space organized by different levels of chill. In the front, sunlight streams in from a window overlooking the space, casting rays onto light wooden benches punctuated with golden tables and white chairs. The cafe counter is in the center, lit by warmly toned minimalist light fixtures. Next to it, a white neon sign bears the word “chill” written in sleek cursive. After the cafe is the nail studio, a series of neatly placed, elegant white marble manicure tables, a crayon box of non-toxic nail polishes and beauty products displayed on a wall to the left. The massage quarters, swathed in soft pastels and whites, are in the back. “A modern path to total rejuvenation,” yes, but also an Instagram-worthy paradise (fun fact: before Chillhouse even opened, it had thousands of followers, #chillatyourwill) of relaxation in the heart of a bustling city.
Ramirez-Fulton came up with the idea for Chillhouse with her husband, Den Hospitality partner Adam Fulton, in January 2016. “The idea was inspired by a day where we wanted to get massages. We didn’t find a single spot in NYC that called to us. Something very approachable — not expensive, nor obnoxiously ‘lax,’” Ramirez-Fulton says via email. “We then started talking about manicures and how he never wants to come with me because he doesn’t feel very welcomed unless he’s getting a service. Then it dawned on us: there wasn’t really a cafe element to a spa-like environment in NYC.” Accordingly, Ramirez-Fulton says, there’s a service at Chillhouse for everyone no matter what their interests might be: just hanging out? There’s a cafe for that. Looking for some new nail art? Chillhouse has a menu of designs both seasonal and ongoing. Need to banish a deathly hangover? There’s even a massage for that called “The Hangover Cure” that flushes the kidneys, clears the sinuses, and rubs that headache away.
Ramirez-Fulton first built her career by founding lifestyle site Taste the Style, which started as a small restaurant review blog. After launching it, though, Ramirez-Fulton realized she’d prefer to be her own boss and repositioned blogging for herself into a full-blown media company. She is still the Editor-in-Chief of the site, which now covers not just food, but travel, fashion, beauty, and culture. And though she blossomed in the digital space, Ramirez-Fulton always had an interest in a brick-and-mortar experience as well. “I grew up waitressing and bartending, so I guess it was only a matter of time until I ended back in the space,” Ramirez-Fulton says. “My husband opened a few bars which I’m also a partner in [like Manhattan’s The Garret Bar and Dinnertable, and Jersey City’s Dullboy], but I obviously felt that I needed something that was mine.” This past March she got it, all while still heading Taste the Style—she actually has Taste the Style meetings with her staff in the cafe portion of Chillhouse. And with Chillhouse featured in the likes of Forbes, WWD, InStyle, and W, she’s created something successful.
Like all successful entrepreneurs, Ramirez-Fulton, a millennial herself, noticed a demand and saw an opportunity to fulfill it, tapping a market of people under 35 that was previously underserved by the spa and wellness space. While Ramirez-Fulton says she never expected to be owning her own spa, she feels she “always knew something should exist for a younger demo, and those who are health-conscious but still want to be inspired when they walk through the doors,” she says. Because after all, when you’re just beginning or in the middle of your career, you should be able to have a beautiful place to relax, too, and it would be great if using that space didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. “I think we all have an image in our heads that spas are too uptight and you have to tippy toe your way through them — and that they’re extremely pricey! We don’t want people to feel like we’re a splurge,” Ramirez-Fulton says. “We want them to feel like we’re their home away from home, and a place where they can meet like-minded individuals. It’s as much of a community as it is a space for self-care.”
Ramirez-Fulton sees Chillhouse as a multifaceted experience. It’s a meeting spot, a venue for girls’ night out, or just a place for a restorative massage. “I suppose we’re the epitome of millennials that don’t want to be pigeonholed into being just one thing — we like to apply all of our interests into real life experiences,” Ramirez-Fulton says, especially ones that are good for your well-being. The latest experience Chillhouse is offering is a membership option, where for $75 a month, you get one discounted 50-minute massage with a free add-on like aromatherapy, heat packs, muscle soothers, or deep tissue; as well as a 10% discount on nail services, cafe, and retail; access to spa events like ‘Matcha Mornings,’ in which members are invited to join fashion, lifestyle, and wellness innovators for a discussion on what makes a well-lived life—Norma Kamali recently made an appearance—and more. Massages at Chillhouse are actually Ramirez-Fulton’s favorite way to relax. Or, in her words, “Massage all day, everyday.”
In its multifaceted nature, Chillhouse is very much a disruption to traditional spa environments, its modern outlook and design carving out a space for itself among younger people. But after launching another successful brand with Taste the Style, Ramirez-Fulton has proven that carving out a space for herself is a skillset that’s by no means foreign to her. “I’m not good at sticking to one thing,” Ramirez-Fulton says, “and luckily for your own entertainment, neither is Chillhouse 🙂 “
Check out Chillhouse and book an appointment here.