Editor's Note: This article was updated at 11:40 a.m. Feb. 6 to clarify that co-founder Allison Dey remains on at Madrona as the creative director and that she teaches several classes.
Building a sense of community through wellness, and ensuring it is accessible to all is the common thread that unites the three co-owners of Madrona MindBody Institute.
“It is really a community center and that, for me, has been what has kept me going,” said Aletia Alvarez, who co-founded the institute with Allison Dey in 2007. “Part of Madrona, it’s like we balance a local program in order to keep a facility. It is 5,000 square feet, open to the public. That takes shared ownership to kind of keep this big entity moving and working seven days a week."
Dey still remains active at the institute as the creative director, and teaches several classes. Two new classes taught by her begin soon.
Alvarez became a co-owner with Anneli Molin-Skelton and Renee Klein on Jan. 1.
“I would say that Madrona, from the very beginning, was meant to be held by more than one person,” Alvarez said. “In 2014, I ended up taking over the business, so I have been sole owner for a while. It has been a dream that has been moving into place and wanting to continue forward. Finally, about a year ago, we just took the steps. I introduced these two. They are very qualified and interested in Madrona.”
The women bring unique talents to the triumvirate.
“We each have similar skills in areas, but each of us has our own sort of areas of expertise, so it is not just our functional expertise but things each of us is good at might be a little bit different,” Klein said. “We work together to figure out how we are going to make decisions, what our priorities are to set that big vision for the future. It is shared responsibilities and leadership.”
The three got to know each other well before they agreed to jointly own the business.
“Most people will say partnerships are so hard, but we vetted one another, and we set up our system so that Madrona actually benefits,” Alvarez said. “I think that has really taken a leap as business owners. We have put a lot of time and energy into having the business go in a direction that works for our community, and also for the modalities that come here.”
The co-owners govern in a symbiotic manner, easily able to pass between business matters and what truly motivates them, the spread of health and wellness.
“We were welcomed into the family, and it just feels like such an amazing place to continue to be a part of and help to assist Madrona to continue to flourish and grow and be a place of wellness and health,” Molin-Skelton said.
Klein is no stranger to Madrona, having taught yoga there for the past eight years.
“This is my home studio,” she said. “This is where I want to continue to give people an opportunity to thrive in wellness and health through yoga and all the other modalities as well.”
Molin-Skelton specializes in conscious movement.
“It is meditation through movement,” she said. “Everyone can dance. There are no specific steps. Really, it is how you feel that you want to move right now to this piece of music or to this silence? It doesn’t matter how it looks. It is how you feel. That is what drew me to conscious dance, the feeling inside of myself when I experienced it for the first time. Blissful, ecstatic, happy, joyous things.”
Those positive emotions spill outside of the classes and into the halls, Klein said.
“(Students) take time putting their coats on, and they are chatting and there is this energy that continues, which they carry out of the building,” Klein said. “Their hour on the mat is one thing, but it is what happens afterward, too. It is joy.”
Promoting Fort Worden
The co-owners not only are shoring up the historic building they occupy as a for-profit company, but they say they are working to build up the fort itself.
“We have been working together for a long time with the Fort Worden collaborative — working with the Public Development Authority and other partners,” Klein said. “We are co-stewards of these buildings. We don’t own this building, but it is our responsibility with the fort to steward these buildings for the future, but also to steward this space for our students who come here to heal, to feel joy to express themselves. So, honestly, we are the owners of the business, but I don’t feel like we are the owners of Madrona. I think our students are the owners of Madrona.”
Alvarez said Madrona also works with other entities at the fort for mutual gain.
“It is very important that, in order for us to bloom into our capacity, that we have a solid working partnership with the other partners that are here and what is happening at the PDA,” Alvarez said. “What is the potential that Fort Worden holds for the community and also for its visitors? I think the three of us get to really give leadership to where we are going and how to get there. And we have the capacity to do it.”
After they took over the century-old building in 2007, Alvarez and Dey put in a lot of time and elbow grease to renovate it.
“The work Aletia and others did in our first 11 years represent thousands of hours of labor and roughly $150,000 to improve our building,” Klein said. “I’m grateful for all their efforts because the building is stronger, in better shape, than it has been in decades. And now we’re continuing to invest in the building by renovating a downstairs storage room to transform it into a space for spin classes.”
That will be in addition to the three movement spaces already available for use, with the hope that area residents and visitors will be able to use it, Klein said.
“Because we have three movement spaces, the original business plan and approach was to strategically balance classes that attract the local community while using our space and class times to allow for residential programming,” she said. “That was part of being a Fort Worden partner, so the founders worked strategically to develop collaborative relationships with the different movement modalities — yoga, dance, etc. — for both local and residential programming.”
There are now more than two dozen drop-in classes weekly, Klein said, with average weekly attendance last year at 180 students.
Also in 2018, Madrona hosted more than 50 workshops, trainings and special events, including weekend and week-long retreats, Alvarez said.
“Last year we had students from states all around the U.S., as well as more than 20 countries,” she said. “If you are getting coffee at The Commons and hear different languages spoken, there’s a very high probability those folks are attending one of our residential workshops.”
Last year Madrona provided 1,175 residential night stays and meals, Alvarez said, contributing more than $100,000 to the Fort Worden economy.
But Madrona is geared to single-day visitors as well.
“We are a studio that has offerings the public can engage in,” Alvarez said. “I would say we have a locally loved studio of classes and services.”
That’s because the institute maintains a grounded vibe.
“If this was Seattle, all the furniture would match,” Klein said. “It is very Northwest. It is very Port Townsend. It is very accessible.”
Looking to the future
While much has been done to improve the historic building, there are key upgrades that remain to be made.
“For example, our building is not ADA compliant, and we’ve spoken with (the PDA) about getting help for funding that will create an ADA entrance and ADA bathroom on the south side, facing Makers Square,” Alvarez said. “This is perhaps our highest priority.”
The building also needs electrical improvements, an additional toilet in the downstairs bathroom and a better front door, Alvarez said.
Madrona is located at 310 Fort Worden Way in Port Townsend.
For more information, call 360-344-4475 or visit the Madrona MindBody website.