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LI businesses find healthy growth in wellness spending

Leslie Pearlman, owner of Good Ground Yoga in

Leslie Pearlman, owner of Good Ground Yoga in Hampton Bays, says "business has grown every year" since she opened it in 2012, and that her original clientele of just "college-aged women or much older" has expanded to women of all ages -- and men. Above, Pearlman leads a class at her studio on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The business of wellness — a broad category that includes spending on nonmedical products and services to benefit body and mind — is robust and growing on Long Island, say local businesses that cater to consumers’ focus on healthier living.

Phountain Health, a Lindenhurst-based company that sells alkaline water and nutritional supplements, has expanded from a single storefront in West Islip in 2010 to eight locations.

Grocery giant Stop & Shop has doubled the number of products in its Nature’s Promise organic line in the past three years.

At Blue Water Spa in Oyster Bay, sales in the past year have increased 65 percent, boosted by treatments like facials and “microcurrent” electrical treatments.

“In the last year, our business has exploded,” said Rachel Lozina, the founder and owner of Blue Water Spa. The 1,800-square-foot spa is expanding by adding a meditation lounge and a relaxation area.

The Miami-based Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit that promotes wellness consumption, defines the industry to include spas, businesses that cater to healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, gyms, yoga studios, martial arts schools, and alternative medicine practices, among many others. The nonprofit institute excludes spending on “conventional medicine,” such as physicians and prescriptions.

Specific data on companies catering to wellness on Long Island are hard to come by.

But regional statistics suggest the focus on wellness is a growing source of local employment.

Manufacturing jobs at companies making vitamins, supplements and pharmaceuticals in Suffolk County rose to 8,855 in 2015, up 17 percent from 2010, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Fitness and recreational sports-center jobs on Long Island climbed to 7,168 in 2015, a 16 percent increase from 2010. Beauty jobs rose on Long Island by 7 percent to 6,623.

“Absolutely, you see more people spending on the broad categories of recreation and personal care,” said James Brown, a state labor market analyst.

One factor in the popularity of wellness is an increase in high-net-worth spending, said Karen Grant, a global beauty industry analyst for NPD Group, a Port Washington-based consumer research company.

“There are a lot of people able to acquire quite a lot,” Grant said. “They’re acquiring quite a bit at spas.”

A study published in October by the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, showed that the number of households in Nassau and Suffolk with income more than twice the Long Island median had grown 60 percent in the past 16 years, even as the number of middle-class households shrank.

Business owners say they are seeing wellness spending by people at many different income levels.

A factor driving spending is the inability to disconnect from work, social media and the web, Grant said.

“You used to have office hours, but try to explain to an employer today that you have another life,” Grant said.

Beth McGroarty, research director at the Global Wellness Institute, agreed.

“It’s hard to digest how much more stress there is now that we are connected to a screen 24 hours per day,” McGroarty said. “So people are turning to spas and to healthy living in larger numbers.”

Lozina said that when she founded Blue Water Spa in 2008, “the bottom fell out” of the economy because of the recession.

But the spa survived and is now thriving. In 2008 the spa booked an average of three facials per day compared with 17 per day now. Its most popular facial costs $110. “People have started to focus on taking care of their skin,” Lozina said.

Her other big seller, “microcurrent therapy,” seeks to relax and stimulate muscles in the face. The customer’s face is massaged with silver-lined gloves that carry a tiny current.

“It’s like taking the face to a gym,” Lozina said.

Customers pay $75 for a weekly 45-minute session for the first six weeks.

“Nobody wanted to do this years ago,” Lozina said. “But as attitudes have changed, this has gained in popularity.”

Long Island is also part of the yoga boom.

Leslie Pearlman, who owns Good Ground Yoga on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, said she had no local competition when she opened in 2012. Now another business has opened nearby.

“The business has grown every year since I opened,” Pearlman said. “The extra competition hasn’t hurt.”

During the peak summer months Pearlman has up to 50 customers per day. She charges $22 for a single class, which can run 60 to 90 minutes. A $125 monthly membership allows unlimited classes. There are senior rates and discounts for students.

Pearlman said clients were originally mostly “college-aged women or much older.” Now, women of all ages — and men — are doing yoga.

“I can have anywhere from one to five men in a class of 35,” she said. “In the past, there weren’t any men doing yoga.”

Supermarkets have noticed the focus on wellness, too.

Joseph Brown, a senior vice president at Bethpage-based King Kullen Grocery Co., said customers have been asking for organic fruits and vegetables. “They were finding these items in health food stores but wanted them integrated into the supermarket experience.”

King Kullen’s 34 stores all have natural and organic products. The company also operates the five-store Wild by Nature natural foods chain, which opened its first store in East Setauket in 1995. The chain offers seminars and special events dedicated to healthy living.

ShopRite, a cooperative run by Wakefern Food Corp. of Keasbey, New Jersey, has had registered dietitians in stores since 2006 and now has 130 covering 140 stores in the Northeast. The dietitians are available for “one-on-one consultations, supermarket tours, support groups, weight management classes” and other services, spokeswoman Marla Camins said.

Stop & Shop, the Quincy, Massachusetts-based chain with 49 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, has expanded its Nature’s Promise line beyond organic foods such as meat and soy milk to all-purpose household cleaners, hand soaps and vitamins. “Nature’s Promise products include prepared foods and packaged fresh options because customers want convenience without sacrificing healthy” eating, spokeswoman Cindy Carrasquilla said.

The increased competition has led to changes at Sherry’s Market, a health food store in Babylon Village, said Dave Pryor, who owns the business. Sherry’s was opened by Pryor’s mother, Sherry Braun, in 1972.

“We definitely see how it’s gone mainstream,” Pryor said, as major companies such as Amazon, Target and Walmart sell health foods and other wellness products. “Everyone is thinking about staying healthy and being nutritionally aware. So we are bullish about the business.”

Pryor said the store is adjusting its product lines in response to the competition.

“We are struggling for growth, so it’s a matter of sharpening our tools,” Pryor said. Fresh, prepared foods and drinks are selling well. “It’s the products people would need to make themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, Phountain is growing, in part by selling memberships. Its new package includes services such as a detox foot bath, where the body sweats out toxins through the sweat pores at the bottom of the feet, and an infrared sauna.

Glenn Taylor owns Phountain, which operates five locations and has three franchises, all on Long Island. He sees franchising as a way to push his company nationwide, and hopes to add 15 more next year, including out of state stores.

It costs anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 to open a location, he said.

“That’s soup to nuts, from the franchising fee to having the right amount of money in reserves,” Taylor said. “You also must be into the lifestyle. We award the franchise, and you have to believe in what we are doing.”

Taylor’s company formulates its own line of natural products such as Green pHactor, a natural green powder that includes organic kale, spinach and wheat grass that is sold to be scooped into the company’s alkaline water.

Donald Nohs, 63, a Phountain customer from Copiague, said he got a wake-up call about his health three years ago when blockages were found near his heart.

Nohs now bikes about nine miles per day, exercises, eats some of Phountain’s natural foods, and drinks the chain’s alkaline water, which flows through an ionizer that separates out chemicals. Customers buy reusable glass bottles, which they refill at a Phountain store.

“I’ve been drinking it for a year,” Nohs said while shopping at the Phountain store in Lindenhurst.

Taylor said Nohs is an example of the new way many Long Islanders are living.

“I know that 20 years ago, [all of] this would not be something people would try,” Taylor said. “But times have changed.”

Ronkonkoma-based Nature’s Bounty Co., which had 2015 revenues of $3.2 billion, believes the prospects for natural vitamins, which avoid artificial ingredients, are bright.

The popularity of natural vitamins is going to “explode,” said Derek Bowen, chief marketing officer and general manager at Nature’s Bounty Co.’s North American consumer products group.

“People are looking for vitamins that are cleaner,” Brown said. “They want vitamins that are gluten-free, dairy-free and without artificial flavors.”

Analysts and business owners said wellness consumption by young people bodes well for the long-term health of the business.

Grant at NPD said that younger consumers are going to be lifetime spa users. “Five-year-old girls are getting manis and pedis, so for a whole generation, this is normal,” Grant said.

And 5-year-olds are drinking ionized water. Danielle Cooley, who owns the Phountain franchise in Huntington with her husband, Harold Cooley III, said her son Harold brings his ionized water in an 18-ounce glass bottle to kindergarten every school day.

“He brings home an empty bottle every day,” she said.

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