Women of the Elm City have a new haven where they can take off their superwomen capes and draw from a “well” that aims to restore them to fight another day.
That place is The Well For Women, which officially opened its doors at the Blake Center at 495 Blake St. on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Owner Julie Robbins was joined by her family, staff, Mayor Toni Harp, and other city officials as she marked the expansion of her massage therapy empire in Westville, a section of the city she calls home.
Robbins, who also owns Westville Massage on West Elm Street, said she opened the new location because she couldn’t keep up with the demand without bringing on more therapists.
She didn’t want to tell women, particularly new moms and moms-to-be, that they had to wait two months for an appointment with her. So she went on the hunt for space she could bring in just one more person.
Instead, she found a space that could accommodate 10 employees and a whole host of activities.
She said when she saw the light-filled space at 495 Blake St., which used to serve as a factory’s office space, and its massive fireplace, the wheels started turning.
“I started thinking about all the possibilities,” Robbins said. “I thought, ‘We can have more massage therapists, and we can have a yoga class. Oh, in that room we can have yoga and pilates.’”
She also thought about dance, particularly belly dance and the international renowned Dancing Thru Pregnancy program created by Ann Cowlin from the Yale University School of Nursing.
Robbins was sold.
After she signed the lease, it took about two months to renovate the space. She transformed the fireplace that she fell in love with into a cozy seating nook andthe wood storage space next to it into a place for reflection and meditation.
Robbins was able to do the renovations with the help of a $9,500 matching city grant from the “Main Streets” leasehold program.
In addition to offering fee-based dance, yoga, and pilates, Robbins said, The Well will offer free workshops and support groups for things like breastfeeding which will be open to the community.
“We wanted to take care of women across the age spectrum but in particular we want to support pregnant women,” she said.
Supporting women across the spectrum isn’t just about the stages of women’s lives but also the very definition of womanhood. The Well will serve women who were assigned the designation of female at birth, who identify as female or consider themselves gender-fluid.
Robbins said in the age of #MeToo, it is important to have women-centric spaces.
“This is a sanctuary and a safe space for women to come and know that nothing is going to happen,” she said. “That they’re safe here and that we can build each other up in a positive community in that way and support each other in our self-care journeys together. I think it’s time for that.”
Robbins said she plans to divide her time between Westville Massage and The Well.
“I love New Haven. I love Westville,” she said. “We landed here because my husband teaches at Southern. And it is a huge value for our life to not have to drive.
“So we live in the neighborhood. We’re putting down roots. He’s tenured, and this is home and it’s my legacy project.”
Mayor Toni Harp said it was fitting to open a business that focuses on the well-being of women so close to a time when more than 103 women serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She noted that those women made their presence known at the most recent State of the Union address by wearing white.
Harp said the city is proud to have a place of respite “meant to help women return to their awesome responsibilities refreshed and revitalized.”
Amity/Beverly Hills Alder Richard Furlow said that he was glad for Robbins’ decision to invest in that part of the neighborhood. He said he hopes that all the women who come to avail themselves of The Well’s services also will make their way into the village for coffee, chocolate, wine, and even brunch.
“When women are happy,” he said, “the world is a better place.”
Click the play button to watch some of the pre-ribbon cutting remarks.