According to the staff at the front desk, cleverly known as “mood-lifters,” Blink fitness offers a “clean and happy environment.” That was certainly the general vibe I got from being there - the first man I saw gave me a high-five and everyone was all smiles. Owned by Equinox, Blink is strategically placed in accessible locations with prices that vary depending on income levels. The main idea behind Blink is that fitness should be for everybody because everybody blinks.
Co-founded in 1994 by former number one middleweight boxer, Michael Olajide, and Leila Fazel, a former ballerina, Aerospace claims to offer “a revolutionary new fitness that engages body, mind, and spirit. ” Leila explained that the Aerospace workout is “revolutionary” in two ways: first, it does not involve any machines, and second, it has its foundation in athlete-level boxing to engage cardio, muscle endurance, and core strength. The company has its own boxing ring and jump rope line. We had the pleasure of seeing Michael, who lost vision in one of his eyes in the early 1990s, guide a student through some boxing combinations as part of the Aerospace workout. Although Michael and Leila intend to maintain the “authenticity of boxing” in their program, Aerospace is open to everyone, with or without boxing experience. While some learn to hit bags on the second floor, others in a more advanced program spar in the boxing ring on the first floor. Leila also runs a workout that combines shadow boxing with ballet.
Jared Kaplan strongly believes that while how you work out is important, where you work out is equally – if not more – important. This is why he created Arrive (formerly Studio 26), a lovingly-designed gym with a clean and refreshing ambience, filled with plant life and eco-friendly equipment. Jared calls himself a “native New York City boy. ” He worked for many years as a dancer before becoming a pilates instructor and personal trainer, a shift that he said “evolved organically. ” After many years of training and studying his body, it was only natural to take that training into a health and wellness field. For many of his years as a dancer, Jared prided himself on having never been to a gym. However, after an injury, a physical therapist referred him to Pilates. His exploration of physical training continued when he got involved in more demanding choreography, which required him to do weight training at the gym. He eventually became an instructor, working at studios throughout New York. When Jared retired from dancing, he redirected his creative spirit into establishing Arrive, his own space. Chelsea seemed like the perfect place, both because Jared’s client base was there and because people choose gyms and studios based on a sense of community – and he saw Chelsea as an amazing, vibrant neighborhood. It also helps that the Highline is nearby, a space designed using the same principles that Jared holds dear. Upon walking into Arrive, which was built in 2010 and expanded in 2016, the first thing I noticed was the amount of natural light and the plant wall mounted behind the receptionist’s desk. Jared believes strongly in having plant-life in the workspace in order to provide “a psychological and aesthetic trigger for wellness. ” His green thumb started in high school when he took a job with a landscape designer in order to get out of the city and “see nature. ” The specific idea for the green wall, however, was inspired by Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, and from the work of Patrick Blanc, father of the modern green wall. The result is a unique, comforting space in the middle of Manhattan. Jared was pleased that even a few years after opening, “People still walk in and feel like they’ve discovered something. Their mouths go ‘wow. ’”In addition to the calming and beautiful environment that Jared has created, Arrive stands out because it is composed of a network of independent instructors with equally independent clients. There are no members and each instructor is free to manage their own schedule and style. The studio provides a support system and helps each trainer with the business side of things, but otherwise keeps things simple. As Jared put it, “We’re taking the pressure off and giving fitness professionals a platform to develop relationships. ” These strong relationships are not only formed between instructors and clients, but between the team members at Arrive. Jared has a lot of faith in everyone who works at the studio, which includes physical therapists, massage therapists, pilates and personal trainers. Even though I spoke to Jared only a short time after he had expanded Arrive, in the summer of 2016, he was already looking to the future. He said that the endless possibilities available to him are what let him sleep at night. “I’m really excited for what we haven’t gotten to yet. ”
Hailing from a family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu royalty, Renzo Gracie is not a good man with whom to make trouble. He is, however, a good man to train with, carrying several blackbelts and fight records, including bouts against past world champions. In 1995, while still an active (young) fighter, Gracie moved to New York and opened Renzo Gracie in midtown Manhattan, a few blocks north of its current location. Since then, the gym has moved south, added Muay Thai to its training acumen (as well as comprehensive MMA and boxing programs), and seen more than one world champion come to train.
Arriving from South Africa, Albertus Swanepoel attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, which led him to an apprenticeship and ultimately his own glove-making business. The appeal of gloves, however, was “incredibly limited, ” as most people wear them only seasonally. So, renaissance man that he is, Albertus switched gears and slid seamlessly into the world of hats. Now he is firmly entrenched in his new niche, and has been producing haute couture headwear since the 1990s. Grounding his practice in old-fashioned millinery traditions, but using techniques from multiple fashion disciplines, he is able to approach hats creatively and expertly. This is a must for a bold garment that can fall flat if not done stylishly. “I try to make things that people wear everyday and look cool but not nostalgic, ” Swanepoel explained. And New Yorkers are wearing his high-end hats across the city. Albertus has a very optimistic take on his environment: “I think that’s the great thing about Manhattan. There are so many people living here that you can almost do anything and people will want it. ”
“We wanted to be that diamond in the rough, ” explained Ashley, the co-owner of Blank Slate. When Ashley and Zach, spouses and co-owners, were searching for a location for their restaurant, they wanted to find a neighborhood with a large crowd but not a lot of quality spots to eat. Blank Slate is successfully that hidden gem located in NoMad, one of Manhattan’s up and coming neighborhoods. Blank Slate attracts a crowd full of young, creative professionals who are quickly changing the area. Ashley and Zach established Blank Slate, which opened in November of 2015, in an effort to create the first coffee-shop-restaurant hybrid in New York City. Ashley explains that they were tired of going to places that provided quality coffee but low quality food. She wanted a place that offered superb grab-n-go coffee as well as more formal dining where friends could meet for a long meal. Ashley and Zach’s vision has been realized. Blank Slate serves killer coffee as well as an impressive assortment of salads, sandwiches and even gourmet desserts. Their coffee is proudly served from farm to cup in close to 20 days. They have a sign at the cash register indicating the green date and roast date of the coffee being served that day. My intern, Emily, hesitantly tried their brussels sprout Caesar salad and only had positive things to say about it, even though she usually does not enjoy Brussels sprouts. Blank Slate also has a small but wonderfully curated market located inside the restaurant, which offers primarily locally sourced products such as cookie dough, yoghurts, pickles and a host of beverages. In addition to serving excellent coffee and food, Blank Slate has a fun, creative atmosphere. Ashley and Zach chose Blank Slate’s name because they wanted to convey the idea that people can make or create everything here. While customers wait in line for coffee, for example, there are etch-a-sketches on which to play. They even have Instagram competitions that reward one talented etch-a-sketcher with a free meal. Ashley hopes that Blank Slate can be a space for people to create. She explained that the etch-a-sketch sends a message: the “possibility of everything. "
In the race among Manhattan restaurants to attract customers, simplicity is sometimes lost. But not so in the Mason Jar, a restaurant and bar that keeps it old school with good vibes and great tastes. The southern, barbecue-heavy menu and extensive list of craft beers and bourbons speak for themselves, complete with suggested pairings. Each month, a new craft beer is featured in an effort to support small breweries. If these beers attract a following, they are added to the full-time roster. While visiting with some Sideways members, I had a lively conversation with chef about the different styles of barbecue - our North Carolinian team member swears by vinegar sauce and appreciated Mason Jar’s variety. The food is fresh and not overdone, but at the same time the Chef “puts love into it. ” The high quality meat is treated seriously - specialty ribs are coated with a dry rub, smoked using apple and hickory wood, braised, and mopped with a tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce. Then grilled. The brisket and boneless pork butts are given no less attention. Replete with wood, American Flags, and comfortable seating, Mason Jar also achieves a homey feel to match its Southern style. Many of the University of South Carolina alumni in Manhattan choose this spot as the venue to catch the Cocks football games, and Villanova basketball fans flock here for their games, as well. With the hearty food, good beers, and down-home feel, it is easy to understand why. To put it plainly and simply, Mason Jar was a good find.