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525 West 42nd Street
Massage Envy owner Rita Ewing Massage Hells Kitchen Midtown West

For Rita Ewing, the process of moving into the wellness industry after co-owning a bookstore for ten years was an interesting one. 

“I had done a few creative things,” Rita said. “I’d tried to get a couple of quasi-reality shows produced that never happened.”

When the bookstore’s lease was up, her and her partners decided it was time to transition into something entirely different. Through the process of elimination, and based on her degrees in nursing and law, she chose to foray into the wellness industry with the creation of Massage Envy.

“My health care background was what initially brought me to the area of wellness,” Rita said. “Then, realizing there was a lot of risk and liability in this industry, my legal background made it a little easier for me to understand what I was getting into.”

Rita is also passionate about social justice issues and advocates for people try to see police brutality and systemic racism from the perspective of black people, to try to understand the history of it, and to try to fix these broken systems that create the injustices.

“I think what’s so essential is communication, oftentimes with those closest to you – For white people who have that one or two black friend or friends, and for black people who have that one white friend, to really talk about these issues and to listen."

This story was adapted from the W42ST article, "Rita Ewing doing business while black.” 

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Massage Envy owner Rita Ewing Massage Hells Kitchen Midtown West

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Chez Josephine 1 Brunch French undefined

Chez Josephine

Manuel Uzhca's story reads like a fairytale. He came to New York from Ecuador when he was seventeen with absolutely nothing to his name and spent time as a dishwasher in a number of restaurants. He met Jean-Claude Baker when both were working at Pronto, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. In 2011, Jean-Claude offered Manuel the position of manager at Chez Josephine — little did Manuel know that only four years later, the restaurant would belong to him. Manuel still recalls the day that Jean-Claude asked him to bring in his passport. Confused by his request, Manuel chose not to comply. Jean-Claude teased Manuel by saying, “If you don't bring your passport, that means you don't want my restaurant. ” The next day, still perplexed, Manuel presented his passport. Jean-Claude marched the two of them to the bank and added Manuel's name to his account, giving him permission to sign checks for the restaurant. Shortly after, Jean-Claude announced that he was retiring, but Manuel did not take him seriously. Jean-Claude then told him that he was leaving and insisted, “I won't be back. ” Jean-Claude proceeded to his attorney's office, changed his will, and went off to the Hamptons. He called Manuel to make sure that everything was in order at the restaurant, and then, very sadly, Jean-Claude took his own life. “I did not believe I owned the place, not even when they showed me the will, ” Manuel declared. Jean-Claude was the last of the children adopted into singer-dancer Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe, ” created with a mission of racial harmony. He lived and performed with her for a time before making his way to New York and eventually opening this restaurant. It quickly became a haven for Broadway clientele, known for its charming and colorful ambiance as much as its haute cuisine. Since taking over in 2015, Manuel has continued running this famed French restaurant exactly how Jean-Claude left it — paying homage to Josephine Baker, who captured the Parisian imagination in the 1920s and did not let go for decades.