From yoga instructors to juice bar enthusiasts, there can be an aura of smugness that comes with those who ply good health and wellness.
That’s why it is so refreshing that Cyndi Ramirez–the fresh-faced owner of spa-café Chillhouse, editor of the blog Taste the Style and co-owner of dinnertable (among other restaurants)–is such an anomaly to that world that can be so preachy and self-satisfied.
The same goes for her husband Adam Fulton, another multi-tasking force in the hospitality business. Fulton is a co-founder of Den Hospitality, which includes healthy-indulgent restaurants dinnertable, The Garret outposts in both the East and West Village, and the Chelsea cocktail bar The Lately.
They met while working at a Manhattan club as a waitress and promoter, respectively, six years ago, and were wed last year. Perhaps it’s why they’re so grounded. Together they’re bringing a slice of Chillhouse to the Nautilus hotel as a decompression pop-up during Art Basel next month. Healthy drinks, pedicures, massages, and the like, for those who may have over-indulged in the buzz of Basel, or are just looking for some beach-side pampering.
To some it may seem as if the two are nearly too perfect in that they juggle so much and manage to stay so, well, chill. Wine helps, says Ramirez. “I’m not going to lie. We definitely don’t shy away from using wine as a decompressor. After all, we do own bars,” she says. “But in all seriousness, we just try to take a couple of nights a week to do absolutely nothing. It’s not easy, but oftentimes we’re exhausted enough that we ditch plans at the last minute. Netflix-out on our couch, and spend some time with our pup. That’s all the chill we need… outside of bi-monthly massages at Chillhouse.”
Young, stylish, and attractive, the perfect couple, she says, they are not– though friends often perceive them as such. “Sometimes it feels like we’re spread out too thin,” says Ramirez. “But the nine-to-five life would probably bore us–this is how we stay occupied and what makes us happiest. That’s the only way to put our lives into an understandable perspective, I suppose.”
Spa regimens are often only accessible to the rich. It’s why lower income families often eat poorly and have little time for pampering. In the case of Chillhouse, Ramirez and Fulton have tried to make it possible not just for those who live the life of leisure, and pay for it. “Part of the reason we launched Chillhouse was it for it to be appealing to all, and priced moderately for that reason.
“Right now, as it stands, the traditional spa industry is split entirely in half. It’s either super luxury, or super low end. We thought there was a void in the market where prices are attainable without exploiting employees. Can someone with low incomes afford to go get a massage regularly? Probably. They’re as cheap as $25 for an hour in Chinatown! Now understanding the margins, it just feels so wrong for a service that strenuous to be that cheap. We believe that everyone of all income brackets should be able to afford a relaxing service from time to time.”
Asked how the two work together as mutual owners in so many businesses, Ramirez says: ”We’re both alphas and we’re both the ‘boss,’ so that can sometimes get a little testy.” She laughs. “I think learning how to disagree as partners, rather than as lovers and family, has been the biggest goal in strengthening our relationship every day. Since getting married, it’s been amazing and full of exciting moments, both in love and in work. I grew up an only child–though I have two wonderful half sisters on my dad’s side–so for me it’s been a huge learning experience in sharing and not always getting my way. Additionally, there’s never a day I’m not learning from my husband. He’s a million times smarter than me. He’s that freak of nature that has infinite knowledge and creativity. He’s been the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
The couple is launching their own wellness drinks this month, and it will be part of their Art Basel activation at the Nautilus. During the week, on Wednesday through Thursday, they will be serving the so-called Chill Blends, as well as coffees, and detox- and beauty-powders. “Nautilus is the perfect spot to grab a drink that will curb those other drinking binges,” Ramirez says.
Ramirez is excited to get back to Miami, which she sees as having a renaissance, with the broadening of districts that were once not on the hipster visitor map. “Every time I go now I discover something new,” she says. “There’s so much happening in Midtown and around the Design District and Wynwood too, obviously. The food scene is exploding, and though hotels continue to thrive, there’s much more excitement around the other neighborhoods these days.
“Miami is where, well, privileged, New Yorkers go to play in the winter,” Ramirez says. “I think, though, that the main difference is the daily luxury lifestyle that Miami can so easily encourage. New York City is the polar opposite. As luxe as you may feel one second, the next you’re dodging a man tweaking out on drugs at the same time you step in dog shit. New York City is humbling, whereas Miami not so much.”
A former child model and actor growing up, Ramirez nonetheless knows something about being humbled. She says she spent her early 20s “fucking up a lot,” and didn’t start her “real career” until she was 26. “Nightlife has a way of sucking you in, financially and from a party perspective. I’m lucky to have made it out alive and well.”