Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Wellness Marketplace at the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center

Recently I was interviewed for a magazine article on complementary medicine, and a part of the interview was focused on how can small retail stores survive. Since many people entering the Pyramid ask similar questions, I wanted to publish the transcript of that part of the interview here:

Q: Was it always your dream to own a wellness store?
A: Actually, no. If you had told me ten years ago that I would own a "store," I probably would've laughed at you because I am about as anti-commercialism as you can get. These huge commercial corporations that make a fortune off convincing people to buy stuff that they don't really need, or worse--when they make money off wellness products that people need to get well or even live--really bother me. I purposely shop at the small family-owned businesses whenever possible, because I know that it is hard for them in this economy to surivive with all of these big chains. Knowing how hard it is to run a small store these days, I never even considered it as something I would want to do.

Q: That's interesting. So how did you end up with your own store, and why is it the centerpiece of your wellness center?
A: Honestly, as we were designing the original Pyramid, each new practitioner that came aboard would say things like "can we sell this awesome product at the Center? I'd like to be able to offer it to my clients" and so I would keep saying yes, and before long, we had a huge collection of products that we wanted to be able to bring to the Rutland area. As word spread about what we were doing, we kept getting visited by sales representatives who also wanted us to carry their products. And honestly, it became kind of fun to me to test out the products and try to find other products that would fit nicely with our mission. I realized that I like to be a "buyer."
The other thing that happened was that I started seeing the actual prices that other businesses were paying for the merchandise, and realizing how much they were marking up things, and I became sick. I realized that by having my own store, I could actually only mark things up enough to make a reasonable living...and my theory was that if I kept prices really low, people would actually buy more, and if I only sold products that were good, solid products we believed in, I would feel good about offering great products at great prices.
The placement of the Wellness Marketplace was actually pretty funny. Originally where the store was at the old Pyramid, I had envisioned the Yoga studio. But during the creation of the business, I did a lot of meditating and asking for guidance, and what kept coming through was that the store should actually be the center point. The reason was simple--Americans have been highly socialized to stores--so coming into a holistic wellness center that is cleverly disguised as a store would probably make a lot of people feel more comfortable.
Now, we've greatly expanded our product lines at the new Pyramid. But we've really taken on this "support other local businesses" theme...and so most of our products are locally made. The Rutland area has a ton of very talented jewelry makers, for example...so we have lots of the local artwork whenever possible.

Q: And how does that artwork connect with the wellness theme of the place?
A: Artwork is vitally important to wellness on many levels. The creation of art itself for most people is therapeutic. And so from time to time we do have arts and crafts and jewelry-making workshops at the Pyramid. Next month we are going to be showcasing Mary Ellen Rudolph's egg painting...this is the most amazing thing I have ever seen--she takes tiny eggs and paints them in very complex patterns. It is a long process to make one egg, but it is so beautiful at the end.
Beyond that, having beautiful things in our environment helps us to stay positive and can impact the feng shui of our home or work. Taking into consideration color and placement, these original art pieces can really help us feel good.

Q: What about jewelry? Is that the same thing?
A: Yes. Most of the jewelry in the store is made from natural objects like gems, crystals, and stones. Although we make no medical claims about our jewelry, we do note that throughout history, people have believed that certain stones are good for improving different aspects of our wellness. So to be able to provide people with something original that they can wear that may improve their wellness, and support local artists, all at a low price, is amazing.

Q: I walked through the Marketplace and I was stunned. You have incredible pieces that even mass produced would cost hundreds of dollars elsewhere, and your prices were $10, $20, or $30. That is amazing!
A: It really is amazing. Obviously there are times when you want to have or give someone else some very classic jewelry like gold or diamonds. Downtown has several awesome jewelers that we often refer people to. But because we get our jewelry right from the designer and each piece is made of natural materials, we can offer these one-of-a-kind pieces at unbelievable prices. I always tell people that every piece in our store was made and picked personally to be at the Pyramid. When you buy something from us, you literally have a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

Q: And you don't break the bank so you have enough left over to also get a massage.
A: Exactly!

Q: So why did you create this business in a place like Rutland, Vermont?
A: That is a great question. The simple answer is that I don't know...I just had a feeling. The more complex answer is that I was very cleverly guided to Rutland for other things and it just became clear over time that Rutland NEEDS this stuff. It may not realize that it needs it yet, but it needs the Pyramid. And so even though Rutland is a place where people typically are not as open or may be struggling financially, I am not going anywhere. The Pyramid is not going anywhere. We're doing fine...but I know that there are still tons of people for us to reach.

Q: So what is the secret of your success?
A: The incredible people I work with. I have found people who share this passion for wellness and have a personal mission to do good in the world. These people have a personal investment in seeing the Pyramid succeed--and they are just good, caring, fun people. The Pyramid team works tirelessly--doing anything they need to do to make it work. We have doctors cleaning toilets...practitioners carrying things up the steep staircases...instructors sweeping the floors. We're like a family...or, rather, a functional one. It is amazing.

Q: So tell me--what is your favorite product in the store?
A: Wow...that is a hard question because I love everything there. I guess I really love the essential oil line. I was hesitant at first to have these in the store because I didn't know how a high-end line would do in Rutland--especially when you can walk across the street to the dollar store and get similar scents. But what I have learned is that when it comes to oils that you are going to put on your skin, you do not want to skimp on quality. You only want natural stuff with no chemicals. And since I've seen the difference it has made in my life personally, I love having the oils and being able to share them with the community. I also love having Galen Berry's Marble Art in the store. That is another example of beautiful stuff--and each piece of marbled paper is its own original piece of artwork. The salt products have really been making a different in peoples' lives, so being able to offer them means a lot--because these are not only beautiful, but may improve peoples' lives.
As an almost vegan, it was also important for me to find a protein powder of the highest quality--not only to sell, but to use myself...and our fitness director introduced me to Jarrow Formula's whey protein. Wow, that stuff is incredible.

Q: So do you believe in everything you sell like that?
A: Absolutely! There is no way I could sell something I didn't believe in. I'm not a salesperson, although I'm sure people have sometimes mistaken my passion for wellness as "selling."

Q: What is the best part about owning your own store?
A: I guess just knowing that I am bringing some very unique products to a part of the country that would not normally have some of this stuff. I know that at the end of the day, I've given people the best products I could find that really will be helpful to them at a reasonable price.

Q: I read your last newsletter and I saw the piece you put in about some of your prices being high. Can you explain that?
A: Oh, sure. One of my friends came in one day and told me that she was buying a similar product that we sold at another store for somewhat less. I think she was probably embarrassed telling me, but it was actually very helpful to me. So I started looking into it, and sure enough, she was right--another store did have a similar product and they were selling it for 10% less than we were. I've also seen a situation where a chain store like TJMaxx gets stuff in that is similar to what we could sell, but it is WAY less. And the simple reason for that is that they have the buying power to buy in huge quantities for the whole chain at once, and so they can sell the products for way less than my cost. Basically, it comes down to the integrity of the distributor. I am really old-fashioned in my values, and if a distributor is operating in a way that is similar to my values, I will buy the product from him or her, even if it is slightly more expensive. As long as I know that the product is of the highest quality, I am okay with paying a little more for something so that I know I am supporting people with integrity.

Q: I see. Have you ever had a problem with that?
A: Yes. I have had salespeople tell me whatever they think someone in my position would want to hear. They make promises and then do not follow through. Primarily this has been in the advertising part of the business, but it has also been from sales distributors. As soon as I am lied to, or I feel like the person does not care about the product, or is not giving me the best price for my customers, I will not go through that person again...and I will switch to someone who will. Take the teas in our store, for example. We have the most delicious teas you can find anywhere. They are made in NY by a woman who scours the earth to find the absolute best ingredients to use in her teas. Her teas are actually served in the Natural Museum of History in NYC and lots of other great places like that. Typically her higher end teas are more expensive than Rutlanders are used to...but they are amazing and such high quality, and I like this woman's integrity so much that I continue to buy her teas. The reality is, we still sell the teas for $1.50/cup, which is reasonable for what you get. The difference is that I do not mark up the tea...we want people to be able to have an awesome tea while at the Pyramid. So our customers get a great product, and we are selling something I really believe in. Everyone wins.

Q: What is the hardest part about owning the store?
A: Honestly, it is not hard. If you run the store with compassion and keep the customer's needs at the forefront of everything you do, the store sort of runs itself. But there are some things that I do get concerned about, like advertising. In any given week, we are visited by 5-10 salespeople who want us to purchase advertising. They all have wonderful products, and we would love to be able to advertise with all of them...but financially that is just impossible. We've tried every type of advertising you can imagine, and honestly, the thing that works the best for us is word of mouth. When people come in and see all we have to offer, and they experience the outstanding customer service, they come back and bring their friends. We really hope our customers will help us spread the word, because Rutland needs wellness!

Q: What is the most frustrating thing?
A: I guess the shoplifting. I know I sound naive, but I never in a million years thought that shoplifting would be a problem at a holistic center. I know that our regular clientele would never think of stealing anything, let alone from us...but from time to time people do come in and help themselves. I don't think like that, so it is hard for me to imagine doing that. We've learned the tricks now that people use--and we've installed cameras so that every square inch of the retail area is seen and recorded. I just never thought I would have to do that. I don't like having to have signs up in the store to remind people about shoplifting. It seems tacky to me, honestly, but it's the only way I know to remind people. I'd like to think that karma would take care of anyone who steals, but in the meantime, I've got to find ways to keep the merchandise on the shelf. Maybe I should be flattered that it's a store that people want to steal from? That just seems wrong.

Q: How do you compete with other similar stores in the area?
A: Well, first of all, I don't believe in competition. I truly believe that we all have something unique and special and important to offer the world. And so even though you can get incense at a couple different places in Rutland, I know that our incense is unique. It is hand-dipped--by a real person in the US--without the use of chemicals so the smell doesn't overwhelm people when they walk in. And the best part is that the cost is incredibly reasonable for a hand-made product--just ten cents a stick. I know that the people who want this level of quality are going to come to us. And other people will like the incense offered by other establishments.
We do overlap a bit with the local food co-op in terms of our products, but mostly we have different brands or different selections of items. I feel a very comfortable comradarie with the co-op so I don't feel any competition there. We actually refer people back and forth all the time. I personally shop at the co-op as often as I can.
Otherwise, I do not think there are many places in our area that offer the types of things we offer. In general, I support every other local business. When your mission is truly to see people get and stay well, it doesn't matter to me where people get the products as long as they get them. And of course, as long as we stay afloat financially, it is all good!

Q: You have a really unique take on running a business. I don't usually meet someone who is so not focused on the money. Is that true--are you for real?
A: HA! HA! Of course I am for real. I learned a long time ago that if you focus on doing good work, the universe or God or whatever you want to call it will provide you with everything you need. And so I do try to not worry about money as much as possible and just focus on doing the best I can for our customers. So far that has paid off as despite floods and thefts and all of that stuff, we have survived...thanks to the hard work of our staff and the support of the community. We are all so grateful. The trick is really finding a balance between doing this work and managing the facility to make sure that every need is met and the bills are paid.

Q: You mention gratitude a lot. What role does that play in your business?
A: It is the focus of not only my business, but my life. It is a central tenant to the Yoga belief system I hold...and it goes to the core of my beliefs about the laws of life. We get what we focus on, quite simply. And when you acknowledge and express gratitude, you keep getting more good things, which allow you to do more good work, for which you can be more grateful for, which brings you more good. It's a cycle. And honestly, when I acknowledge gratitude, it feels great. The Pyramid is a huge complex, and there is no way I could run it myself without the help of lots of people. Our staff is the most amazing group of people you could imagine.

Q: I also saw in your newsletter some subtle jabs at pharmacies who claim to be holistic wellness stores. Can you say more about that?
A: Oh, please do not get me started on this because I don't know if I will be able to stop. I am usually a pretty mellow, easy-going person. And I do not believe in competition, and I believe in everyone's right to make a living in a way that works for them. But I find it very upsetting when a pharmacy creates an aisle of holistic wellness products and then calls itself a holistic wellness store. Now don't get me wrong--I really don't have anything against the pharmaceutical companies because a lot of their products do enhance peoples' lives and in some cases save lives. But I do have a problem when businesses make money through the pharmaceutical company but also pretend to be something they are not. Just be honest about what you are and your expertise. Don't try to be an expert in an area you are not. And I guess it wouldn't matter to me too much except that because they have the financial resources to do a ton of advertising, they are truly misleading the public about what holistic wellness really is. They are selling products that they may or may not know anything about...often at outrageous prices...and often they do not know how to instruct their customers on how to use these products. And they make disparaging remarks about us to their customers. For a long time I just bit my tongue about these wellness stores, but now that I realize the amount of money they are spending on advertising to try to convince the public that they are the best option for holistic products, I am extremely bothered. I want people to know that holistic wellness is something different than you can get from a pharmacy that markets itself as a holistic place.

Q: What is your funniest story about the store?
A: Well, at the time it wasn't really very funny, but soon after we opened the second location, a woman came in and talked to us for a long time. Then she explained that everything in our store was stuff that she wanted...and she started pulling tons of things off the shelf, asking us to wrap them up. She had a whole crate full of items by the time she was done, and everyone working that day had to help wrap up her items. She picked out lots of intricate things that had to be carefully wrapped, like gemstone chess sets, hand blown-glass products, and more. So while we were all frantically packing up her things, she said she was going to the parking lot to bring her car closer. Given the bags of items she was purchasing, this made sense...but she never came back! Now, I don't know if this is something she does regularly and it is a thrill to have so many people waiting on her, or if something weird happened and she had to leave...but she has not been back since. And we then had to unwrap every item and put it back on the shelf.

Q: Any advice you have to other store owners out there?
A: Well, I think the biggest thing I have learned is that the more diverse your offerings, the more likely you are to survive these difficult times. So I would suggest offering multiple lines of products. And like I said earlier, just focus on doing a great job for your customers and everything else seems to fall into place!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The quick fix

Hello and welcome to the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center blog. I don't actually know if anyone will ever read these posts, but for me, as someone who is a writer at heart, and someone with a LOT to say about wellness, this is a fantastic outlet. So if you have found it, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my ideas.

This week especially I have been thinking about "the quick fix." It all started with an interesting conversation I was having with Dr. Smiechowski as we were driving around Rutland in her convertible with the top down and bamboo trees sticking out the back. (This might sound normal, except that it was a cold, rainy October day in Vermont...but when you need some bamboo trees and you don't have a truck, you do whatever you have to do...) Anyway, we were talking about our work, and how we have really been lucky to be able to work with some amazing clients. But then the conversation shifted to the notion that despite our efforts, some people just do not understand what holistic wellness is. Some people come in to meet with us and expect us to do something magical or prescribe a holistic pill that is going to "cure" them of what they are struggling with. Unfortunately, that is not holistic wellness.

Clearly we live in a time where people have come to expect everything instantaneously--from drive-through banks and fast food restaurants to the information superhighway--the Internet--where it is possible now to find almost anything you want in seconds. Unfortunately, this same mentality has carried over into the medical field. People go to a doctor where they may sit and wait like cattle in a room full of sick people. The doctor, if you are even lucky enough to see a doctor, may or may not know anything beyond your name. Because the doctors often have large numbers of patients to see, they need to look at you as quickly as possible, and then will usually prescribe a medication or medications for you, or send you off to a "specialist" where this whole process is repeated. Then you go to a pharmacy and wait for them to dispense your medications, which you take and expect to get better. Even our antibiotics have become susceptible to the desire for a quick fix...at one time almost all antibiotics were prescribed for ten days--now, we even have some that can "fix" you in as little as one to three days!

So often when people decide to explore holistic wellness options, they come in with the same philosophy of expecting an expert to look at them quickly and make a quick fix recommendation. Now, don't misunderstand--sometimes the fix is quick and easy. But most of the time, by the time you are aware of a problem with your body, it is beyond the point of an easy fix.

A true holistic practitioner is almost never going to give you a quick fix. Instead, they are going to educate you about what is happening and why, and act more like a coach to help you make the long-term changes required to make lasting benefits to your wellness.

For example, here is a common problem we see at the Pyramid...someone will come in and say he or she is having problems sleeping. After the initial examination by the holistic practitioner, the practitioner will most likely make some lifestyle change recommendations to allow the person to come back to being able to sleep soundly. Unfortunately, many people are not willing or able to make these changes...they just want to be prescribed something "natural" to get to sleep. The irony of this is that the only true natural way to sleep is to allow your body to sleep when it is tired and wake when it is rested. Using any invasive substance to help you sleep is not natural at all, whether it came from a pharmacy or it came from a plant. So lifestyle changes are usually what is required to get your sleep back on track.

Often, sleep troubles are the result of stress...and so the best, most natural course of action is to find ways to relieve stress. Sometimes it has to do with food and beverage intake, and so dietary changes are required. Sometimes it even has to do with the amount and time of physical activity, and so changes in this area may be the best course of action.

Sometimes there are homeopathic remedies, herbs, or acupuncture needles that will help. But these are not usually instantaneous fixes. Often these will help set up the possibility of success, but the client must accept responsibility for his or her own well-being and actually make the lifestyle changes necessary to make sure that the desired result occurs.

Sure, this is different from the way traditional Western medicine works. It is different from what people usually expect and want. But there are lots of benefits to doing things the holistic way. First, if you are having trouble sleeping, there is usually an underlying cause. So just taking a medicine to help you fall asleep does not actually address the cause...and often people are stuck taking sleeping pills for the rest of their lives. No matter what the substance, taking anything long-term puts pressure on your liver and stresses your whole body. Over time, some medications can actually become toxic. So masking the symptom (trouble sleeping) does not relieve the stress of what is causing the problem. Granted, some people do not care as long as they sleep. But by learning the true cause and by making often subtle but powerful lifestyle changes, one can learn how to improve the overall quality of life for the rest of the life. Lifestyle changes often also have no side effects except improved wellness and perhaps even confidence and self-esteem. Most people actually report feeling happier and more energized when using holistic methods, too.

From our perspective at the Pyramid, it is a no brainer. When you need Western medicines, by all means, use them. But for something like problems sleeping, the best long-term solution is to figure out what is causing the lack of sleep, and then do something to fix it.

Another example that I work with a lot is depression. Many times people will come in to counseling because they are feeling depressed. Sometimes the reason is very clear--and it is a situational depression. That is, "event A" occurs which makes the person feel depressed. So the solution is either to eliminate "event A" or change how one feels about it. Taking any sort of medication might help reduce the symptoms of depression, but a person is not really going to feel fully better until "event A" is no longer a threat. And of course, it is only natural for humans to feel sad from time to time. This is a normal part of the human experience.

Other times, however, the cause of the depression is not as obvious. Sometimes people come to a counselor expecting that the counselor is going to tell him or her what to do. Unfortunately, healing from emotional difficulties is no easier than healing from physical ones. Like with the problem of sleep, people with depression may need to make minor or major lifestyle adjustments to achieve the desired result. And of course, there may be homeopathic remedies, herbs, acupuncture needles, or a regimen of self-care that might help, but lasting change is going to come only from the client accepting responsibility for his or her own wellness. Of course, one of the problems with depression is that it usually includes a complete lack of motivation for doing the things we know would help us...but that is where a good holistic wellness practitioner comes in--someone to help coach you through the difficult times.

Of course, there are times where the quick fix is important and even necessary. If you are having a heart attack, for example, you probably do not want to reach for an herbal supplement. You are probably going to want to get to the emergency room as quickly as possible and take everything that they offer you to quickly save your life. But if the problem is not yet life-threatening, holistic wellness may be a good course of action, or at least a supplement to traditional medicine.

But if you find a practitioner claiming to be holistic who offers a quick fix, you should probably be skeptical. There are undoubtedly some exceptions to this rule. Some modalities do work quickly for some problems. For example, Bowen therapy does wonders for helping reduce the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome very quickly. Reiki often helps immediately reduce pain associated with cancer. Simple homeopathic remedies will virtually eliminate the symptoms of ADHD. Quantum biofeedback can help wipe out other ailments. But in general, promises of quick fixes in the holistic field are red flags.

However, there are lots of wonderful practitioners out there who are qualified and ready to help you take over your own wellness care and make lifestyle changes. As the health insurance industry changes rapidly, it is becoming more and more apparent that we as human beings must take charge in managing our own wellness care. Stories of insurance companies not covering necessary treatments abound on the Internet. More and more, people need to accept the responsibility for their own lives.

Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make immediately to help improve the quality of your life:
1. Eliminate high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars from your diet.
2. Reduce white bread and pasta intake and increase whole grain intake.
3. Replace soda and juice with water as often as possible.
4. Increase fruit and vegetable intake, taking care to include a rainbow of foods every day.
5. Eat organic and local whenever possible.
6. Reduce portion sizes.
7. Find a regular routine to reduce your stress.
8. Get your heart up every day for at least 20 minutes.
9. Get plenty of sleep and rest.
10. Minimize substance use and eliminate addictions.
11. Find natural ways to detox your body to keep everything functioning as well as possible.
12. Plan regular fun in your life.

Our commercialized society would like us to believe that it is vitally necessary to buy $6 lattes or drive the sharpest looking car or even use a medication to help us with a problem we didn't even know we had. (The other day I saw an ad for a medication to help people grow thicker eye lashes!) But there is another way...a holistic way...an empowering way. There is nothing more powerful to know that you created your own state of wellness by the choices you make. And that can ultimately be more empowering than turning over your own health for a quick fix.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
Ideas? Thoughts? Comments? E-mail me!

Dr. William Kelley
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center
120 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT 05701


Greetings and welcome to the first posting on our new blog site!
If I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting you, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. William Kelley, and I am the owner and one of the practitioners at the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center in downtown Rutland, Vermont. But this blog is really not about me at all--it's about you. Or, rather, it's about the current state of wellness in the world, and how you can find a "home" in our wellness community. Whether you are brand new to thinking about holistic wellness, or you are a holistic wellness expert in your own right, the Pyramid is a place for everyone to come together and teach and learn with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of EVERYONE's life.

The story of the Pyramid is very interesting, actually. (And you can read more about it at our website, http://www.pyramidvt.com/.) Basically, to sum things up, I was working at a small liberal arts college doing a job I absolutely loved, but feeling the deep yearning to do something more. As a psychologist/mental health counselor, hypnotherapist, musician, fitness instructor, and Reiki Master Teacher, I've had a wide variety of work-related experiences in my past, and I knew that there was somehow going to be a way for me to combine all of my interests into one career. So one day while raking my leaves, I just asked. It's amazing how we sometimes forget that we have the ability to get the answers we need--often just from the simple task of asking. So I asked for some guidance...some direction...I meditated on it, and as I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth, I saw a "vision." It was a row of practitioner spaces, and although I didn't know where it was, I did know that it was a new kind of place for Vermont...a place that combined everything I love to do, but also had tons more practitioners, and we would all come together to create a place of peace, where everyone would be welcome.

From there, I just started talking to my friends about my vision, and piece by piece, things fell into place for the Pyramid to start. There is obviously a lot more to it that I won't drone on and on about...I understand what are exciting details to me are probably not as exciting to everyone else. (I'm happy to talk with you about more of the details if you like, though!) Suffice it to say that to me, it was like magic the way everything came together...and the calling for me to do this became stronger.

Although no job is really, truly, 100% safe these days, I felt like I left a rather safe and comfortable position at the college to do this. I wouldn't say it was my dream...more like my mission. And I recognize it was a huge risk at the time, but I wasn't scared at all. I didn't have any doubts, because I knew on some level that this was all going to work because it was supposed to work. At the risk of sounding insane, I do know that I was being directed and assisted in allowing the Pyramid to develop. It was miraculous. But even more miraculous was the way everything came together to allow this to happen.

At each step of the way, the exact right person has shown up in my life. I needed the confidence to get this started, and then BOOM! There is Pat Murphy who tells me that there is no reason why this cannot happen now. Although it was work, the finances all fell into place and the right location at the time opened up at the exact perfect moment. All of my friends (Mara, Mark, Martha, Brian, Becky, Matt, and so many more!) pitched in to help with the initial building of the Pyramid...it was amazing. And then those who would become the core of the Pyramid staff--Margaret, Josh, and Darya--each ended up crossing paths with me in different and interesting ways, and "coincidentally" we were all in a position to be able to immerse ourself in the development of this very special place. Along the way, other people have come and just at the right time added their energy to push us to the next step...Traci, Darci, Karen, Jane, Alison, Bryn, Kammie, Gianna, Lina, Zach, Scott, Raven, ...and the rest of the gang each came and added their expertise. And as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What has emerged over the last two years has been entirely unbelievable! I cannot tell you how much gratitude I feel for each and every person who has helped...and for all of the clients who have helped us stay afloat through good times and bad.

Certainly our very well-publicized catastrophe (when the downtown Rutland area was flooded on June 14, 2008) is familiar to anyone who lives locally--and this caused us to have to move to our new location. While it was certainly a trying time, like most traumatic events, they do lead to something positive on the other side. Forcing us to move gave us the opportunity to re-build the Pyramid--having had the benefit of being open for almost a year, we knew what worked and did not work in the old location, so we were able to rebuild. And it was our goal to make the new Pyramid (which we call "P-2") bigger, stronger, better, and even more affordable.

You see, center to our philosophy about wellness is that it should be affordable. We are completely turned off by elitism that exists in our industry...especially when it comes to Americans who do not really understand the ancient history of the modalities they practice. For example, take Yoga...many Yoga instructors have a very strong elitist attitude...only taking Yoga from certain instructors who have trained in a certain style of Yoga or with a certain instructor. But Americans have only borrowed Yoga from India...and unfortunately borrowed only the parts of it that fit with American ideas about wellness. So many peoples' experience with Yoga is just doing the physical asanas or breathing--yet they do not even know about the other principles of Yoga. In short--many people are totally missing the point of Yoga because they are so caught up with who taught whom. At the Pyramid we only have instructors who have excellent credentials--but our instructors have down-to-earth attitudes that make the whole system of Yoga achievable to our clients.

Beyond our desire to eliminate elitism, we also work hard to keep costs down while operating a sustainable, environmentally-friendly business. Naturally we are a business when it comes down to it, and we have to pay our expenses and eat, but the philosophy at the Pyramid is that if we have many things going on at once, all of these things can share the operating expenses, and therefore we can afford to offer products and services at lower prices. Our classes, for example, are $6 each...and I have had the situation where in my Yoga class, there is a billionaire sitting next to someone who scraped quarters from the laundrymat floors to be able to pay for class. And for that hour, socioeconomic matters do not matter--we are all just people trying to achieve and maintain wellness. Our services are also incredibly reasonable for a small city downtown...most services are $30 or $60 per hour. And you may be able to find less expensive services if you go to individuals, but when you come to the Pyramid, you get a lot of extras...such as top-notch customer service, a comfortable, peaceful waiting area, and other perks that you would not get elsewhere. At the Pyramid, you are a person--and we look at you that way. We try to get to know you. And our mission is that every single person who enters the Pyramid will leave feeling a little bit better than when they arrived.

In addition to cost, we have created one of the most unique menus of wellness services around, focusing on all areas of total fitness. So whether you are interested in improving your physical fitness by working with a trainer or taking Pilates or Yoga, or you are interested in improving your health by working with our homeopathic doctor, acupuncturist, or one of the ten massage therapists...or you are interested in improving your emotional wellness by working with one of our six highly-trained and experienced counselors or hypnotherapists, the Pyramid is here for you. Since we are open seven days a week and offer daytime, evening, and weekend appointments, we can meet with you at your convenience, not at ours. Please see our website for our complete line-up of services.

One thing we love to do it put together a mini-spa day for individuals or groups. Because we have everything right here and our prices are affordable, for less than what you might expect to pay for one hour at an expensive spa or clinic, you can spend a whole day at the Pyramid. So let us know what you like to do, and allow us to create the perfect mini-vacation for you!

Our salt cave is currently only one of two public caves in North America that use Himalayan salt. (Although as I write this, more caves are being built!) There are other caves in Chicago, Miami, and Toronto that use other forms of salt...but nothing is as pure or healing as Himalayan salt. And with North America's foremost expert on Himalayan salt on our staff (Dr. Margaret Smiechowski), you are in good hands here whether you are just using the cave for relaxation, or you are using it under the supervision of a doctor for a medical condition. Regardless, the salt cave is just one of the many things that makes our Center special.

Or if you are looking for truly unique gifts that will help improve the wellness of your loved ones, the Pyramid Wellness Marketplace is a shopping destination! Filled with 90,000 products, our items are all one-of-a-kinds. You will find things here that are not usually available in rural areas like Vermont. From our hand-dipped incense (which are more subtle for those with sensitivities to chemicals!) to our amazing collection of books published here in Vermont, to the music CD's, Yoga DVD's, and our extensive collection of gems and crystals, you will find something for everyone here. In general, our prices are amazingly affordable...lower than most similar stores. However, we also believe in old fashioned values of taking care of the customer...so with some of our items, we have them in the store even though they are more expensive because they are of the highest quality, or we really support the person or company who sold us the items because of their business values. In other words, I will happily sell you something at a higher price than the store across the street if it came from a company that created it with care and treated us right during the sales process. Regardless, you can come to the Pyramid and shop in the tranquil, bright, open Marketplace...forget the crowds...allow our staff to help you find just what you are looking for.

The other great thing about the Marketplace is that we will not sell any homeopathic or other remedies that could be harmful to you. Other stores claiming to be "holistic" or "homeopathic" place these items on their shelves without fully understanding what they are selling...and without anyone on staff who has a lifetime of knowledge. At the Pyramid, every person behind the counter is also a practitioner...and all of the practitioners here have dedicated their lives to holistic medicine.

Unlike pharmacies who sometimes advertise themselves as being "holistic," we don't make our money off the sales of prescription medications. We actually make our money by providing a really high quality service at reasonable prices--by caring about seeing that our clients actually get matched up with products and services that will be helpful--not harmful.

And it is truly the people at the Pyramid that make the difference...our practitioners and instructors are truly amazing. Every day I cannot wait to get to work to see my coworkers who I feel are my friends and adopted family. We have so much fun together. Don't get me wrong--we work very hard...but in this caring environment that has formed here at the Pyramid, it is hard to feel like we are working.

We are truly blessed to be able to be part of this amazing center.

But our work is hardly done...for now that the Pyramid is built (and rebuilt), the next phase of our existence is really dedicated to education. And that is in part why we have started this blog. Have you ever read a newspaper or magazine and found contradictory information about health? Of course you have--because wellness is in many ways an art, not a strict science. We call it medical "practice" rather than medical "perfect"--the so-called experts in our society are at best caring humans who want to make a difference...but the human body is so complicated that one field of study cannot pretend to answer it all. In many ways, we live in the best of times because we have the knowledge and technology of today--but we also have the ancient wisdom. And the best practitioners I know live in modern times but are able to blend the best of both worlds. We at the Pyramid have a strong respect for Western medicine...but we also have a strong respect for the ancient wisdom of our ancestors. And we believe strongly in the benefits of holistic wellness rather than just treating someone's symptoms.

More importantly, we believe that there is so much misinformation out there about wellness--much of it even potentially harmful. Companies trying to sell you products and services will say just about anything within what is allowed by the FDA to make you give them money. They bank on the idea that humans want the quick fix.

So please check back on our blog site regularly for more information. I will often post information as I get it that is reliable...and I will welcome your comments and questions. From time to time I may also post relevant information from other experts in the area and beyond...regardless, you can count on this blog site as a place for good, solid information.

If you've read this far, you probably have been sitting at the computer for too long...now, go stretch or drink a glass of water.. ; ) Thanks so much for reading, and we are so glad you've joined us on the quest for wellness!

Be well!

Dr. William Kelley
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center
120 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT 05701