How The Springs is Building a Wellness Community in L.A.’s Art District
When Kimberly Helms and Jared Stein drove through the Art District of Los Angeles while working on a national tour of Broadway’s American Idiot, they knew it would make for the perfect urban bungalow to launch their all inclusive wellness space, The Springs. Stein, an NYU grad who studied Musical Theatre, was working at the time as a conductor, assembling music, conducting the orchestra, teaching the music to singers, and maintaining the show. His partner Helms, who he met while working on Spring Awakening, ran day-to-day operations and was responsible for casting, as well as travel and logistics for the tour.
The duo’s respective backgrounds, perhaps surprisingly, led them to found an all-inclusive wellness center that offers yoga classes, daily meditation, inventive juices, vegan food, colon hydrotherapy, craniosacral healing, and hot/cold jade stone massage. Impressed by their excellent juices, humungous planter boxes, and curation of all the mindful living aspects we love, GC sat down for an interview with Stein.
GC: The Springs has a lot of live plants on site. Who cares for them and how do they like it here?
JS: There are two or three people that take care for the plants because we don’t want to under or overdue our watering. Early on, we went for an indoor tropical feel with palms, and some of the plants did alright but they were finicky. We’ve since replanted them and 95 percent of them are doing great. The fiddle leaf fig’s do amazing in here because we have just the right amount of light. When we bring in a new addition, we generally known how it’s going to do within the first week. We’re really trying to “greenify” this urban oasis, so having real plants that put off oxygen is important to us.
GC: How did you connect with the community when moving to The Art District?
JS: This industrial, manufacturing space is something I’d always envisioned being in. But when we decided to open The Springs, we moved to the neighborhood, not just to L.A. We wanted to imbed ourselves, to understand the community, to be apart of the community, and to get the pulse of it. As we were developing the business we watched how the neighborhood developed. We were around when Bestia opened, which really put the neighborhood on the map for a dining destination. We also watched One Santa Fe open; I joined a Cross Fit gym up the street and we asked around about what people were interested in, especially on the yoga front.
On the food front, we knew the direction we wanted to go in from the beginning, which was raw and vegan. We relaunched our menu last month, which was a response to the community who said “This raw, vegan stuff is great but limiting”. It’s a small community of people with this lifestyle and you’re relying on other people to want to eat that often enough to support you. We figured out a way to broaden that experience, which was adding hot equipment and things like grains, sweet potatoes, and more salad options. We now have eggs on the menu, which allows people to access the space and maybe the following time they say “I don’t need the egg”. Hopefully it’s also an entry point for people to come do yoga or access our other amenities.
GC: Who is your chef?
JS: Initially, Michael Falso [of venerated NYC foodie haunt, Pure Food and Wine], but during our transition with the menu another opportunity was presented to him. We have a new chef that just moved out from New York and her name is Jasmine Shimoda. She reached out to us and has a really awesome background in fine dining, in New York. She was looking to get back to her roots in California and she’s also a yogi that wanted to be cooking more plant-based cuisine, rather than the New York pork-belly which didn’t speak to her as an individual.
GC: What prompted your lifestyle shift in becoming a vegetarian as a teenager?
JS: I signed up for the vegetarian meals at summer camp because I knew the food was better than the burgers and meat ravioli. I wanted access to veggies and rice, so I told my Mom to sign me up. My parents had a deli with corn beef, pastrami, and all of that when I was growing up. They said it was fine, but that if I signed up for that meal option I had to commit for the entire month. I did and I felt great. I had a lot of stomach issues as a kid, so it seemed like something I should stick with. My parents thought it would last a week and my sister was mad because my Mom stopped doing taco night, but my family inadvertently started eating less meat, as well.
GC: What prompted you becoming a vegan at 25?
JS: I was doing the vegetarian thing mostly for health reasons but realized I wasn’t being very healthy. You can eat bagels and cream cheese everyday, or french fries and ice cream, and still be a vegetarian. A friend who is a vegan said that almost by restricting yourself a little bit more and becoming a vegan, you’re forced to pay attention to the nutrients that you are eating. So I became a vegan and about a year later I started to get into raw food. That simplified [my eating habits] again and gave me a better routine– but it’s an ongoing evolution of being the healthiest I can be.
GC: What is your favorite juice and entree on the menu?
JS: Favorite juice is the forager, which is a green juice with a bunch of herbs. Fennel, basil, cilantro, and dill. It’s really herbaceous, bright, and refreshing. Food is hard because I’m loving everything, but our tomato toast with cashew cheese, jalapeño, and heirloom tomatoes is great. We make our own nut and seed bread— that’s bomb. We frequent the farmer’s market to find specialty seasonal items for our menu, source almonds from Yemetz Family Farms, matcha from AOI Tea Company, specialty teas from August Uncommon Tea, and coffee from Arcade Coffee Roasters.
GC: What was the transition like from the world of theatre to wellness?
JS: We were ready for the change. I’m still attached to a couple of projects— American Idiot, Spring Awakening, Deaf West Theatre, and soon a broadway production in Shanghai— but I’m able to pop in and out. We were working eight shows a week and needed a break from that repetition. What I love most about The Springs is the idea of community. Just like we are sitting here now… You can come here to work, get a juice, eat, do yoga, and we wanted to encourage the idea of hanging out and being in the space as an extension of your living room. You get your coffee and chill, maybe run into someone you did yoga with yesterday, and hopefully put down the devises for a little bit. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to connect, whether that’s over food, wellness, or politics.
GC: What’s your relationship with plants beyond being a vegan?
JS: Our patio is a place for Pax [my daughter] to hangout, so we planted the whole thing and made it green. Also, now that we live in California, we find it easier to get out into nature. Even though those things exist in New York it’s difficult. For the first couple of years [living in L.A.] we went camping up in Angels Crest, which is only 45 minutes away and your cellphone doesn’t work! We like to get to Palm Springs, which is not bountiful in plants but we love its desert aesthetic.
GC: What’s next for The Springs?
JS: Ultimately, we’d like to see if the model will work in other cities—maybe Oakland, Austin, New York, the Pacific Northwest, Cleveland, Detroit— really refine what we are doing here and streamline everything. I don’t want to be a big corporate entity, but a few more spaces with this model that are just as approachable would be great.