It’s been five years since New York bred Colombian-American Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton opened the doors to her first ever Chillhouse location, formerly known as Chillhouse version 1.0, in the Lower East Side. Ramirez-Fulton’s main objective with Chillhouse was and still is for fellow New Yorkers to experience a chilltime amongst the hustle and bustle they live with throughout their day in the big city, by savoring the pleasures of self care via a manicure, a massage, and clean yet delectable lattes and noshes in the café.
“I hated some of the spa names out there because they felt a little bland, cold, and expected and I thought about the place I wanted to build and felt the word ‘house’ was a word I liked in a brand because it’s a place people feel comfortable in,” said Ramirez-Fulton. “As for the word ‘chill’, I felt that I haven’t really seen it used in the context of this particular space, and culturally it’s a word that we all used growing up and a word we still use in our everyday vernacular. Therefore, combining the two made sense for us because it is youthful and speaks to the space you are entering.”
Nowadays, her flagship location on Varick Street in Hudson Square showcases high ceilings along with large windows that allow the sunlight to make its entrance and brighten up the space. Ramirez-Fulton sipped on an Iced Matcha latte while I sipped on a Get me Golden hot latte during our meeting at the Chillhouse flagship location, which is now the only location standing as Chillhouse version 1.0 closed its doors in July of 2020 due to the global pandemic.
“Cyndi pre-Chillhouse was probably mostly lost,” stated Ramirez-Fulton while sipping on her iced matcha. “It took me a long time to find what I was good at and what I was passionate about.”
Ramirez-Fulton’s background comes from the hospitality industry, working as a bartender and waitress in her 20’s at some of the most well known locales in Manhattan prior to becoming an entrepreneur and tastemaker. While working in hospitality, she realized she really enjoyed the aspect of all things food and beverage, as well as providing memorable experiences for people during gatherings.
“In some way, I combined the two and made Chillhouse out of my passions, which were diverted in wellness and beauty, as I always craved this as a woman,” she said. “I also really loved the act of getting people together and community building, so when I fully thought of what Chillhouse could be, I knew it had to have a cafe where people can gather and hang out.”
She also grew up in the spa environment, as her mother has been the owner and operator of Mary’s Cosmetology in Jackson Heights, Queens for over 25 years. When it came to services for Chillhouse, Ramirez-Fulton wanted to incorporate two services that were important to her on the menu when she first opened the doors to version 1.0, and those were: massages and manicures with a focus on nail art. In her past, she had yet to encounter spa spaces that spoke to her; services were always priced too high or too low, leaving her with a sense of guilt on either end of the spectrum from spending an obscene amount of money or very little money for their services and time. Ramirez-Fulton and her husband Adam had an experience like this on a day they were headed to a spa for a massage, leading to a lightbulb moment for the idea of creating Chillhouse.
As for nail services, Ramirez-Fulton has always been a nail art fan and also felt manicures provided the ultimate weekly maintenance self care moment for her, which is why she was very big on adding this specific service to the menu. Nowadays, services all the way from pedicures, facials, sauna experiences, and more are offered at Chillhouse’s flagship.
“Ever since, it’s been all about identifying different ways of self care, ways to experience it, and ways to provide that moment for our community,” she said. “It’s just been really fun.”
Not only has Ramirez-Fulton revolutionized the spa landscape by incorporating all of her heart’s greatest passions into Chillhouse, but she has made a mark as a Latina in both the beauty and hospitality industries. Being the daughter of a Colombian Esthetician, she witnessed her mother catering exclusively to Colombian clientele as a result of her spa’s location and the language barrier throughout her community. Ramirez-Fulton’s community, on the other hand, differs as she was born in the states and has friends of all different backgrounds.
“As a New Yorker, we have more than just our heritage here,” she said. “ We have access to everyone across the world as well as all backgrounds, and whatever it was that I did, I wanted to make sure I was able to do that and have New York be at the forefront,” she said.
Ramirez-Fulton continued, “As a Latina, I felt I was confident in representing that Latina’s can be at New York’s forefront and not necessarily only catering to our community.”
She felt that anytime she’s seen business owners portrayed in the media, phrases such as “it’s a Latina thing” were always mentioned, rather than being portrayed as women who are more than the Latina from a certain community. Ramirez-Fulton ultimately wanted to push the identity of Colombian and overall Hispanic women to a calibur beyond what they are typically portrayed as and make room to create their own identities.
“It’s almost like my background is secondary and my business is number one and what I’ve created is important,” she said. “The product and business should speak for itself and it shouldn’t be because we are minorities or because it is ‘trendy’ nowadays that we should be taken seriously.”
On top of running Chillhouse, assisting her husband with the bars he owns, and uplifting and inspiring women, Ramirez-Fulton is a mother to an almost two year old named Hendrix, also known as Henny.
“We have a lot of people helping us, however, it’s been a challenge at times because we put in extra hours working,” she said in regards to balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. “At the end of the day, squeezing in moments for yourself are very imperative…for instance, little moments such as where my husband and I have a meeting over a cocktail to regroup at one of our bars or at a restaurant we want to try is my way of telling myself that everything I do is because I love it and every part of my life is a passion project that I am constantly working on.”
At the end of the day, Ramirez-Fulton’s main passion project is Henny; she always has and always will make sure he is taken care of. When she was pregnant with him in 2020 during the pandemic, she was able to grasp the reins of motherhood and spend more time with her son, which kept her centered. Having a baby during the pandemic was one of Ramirez-Fulton’s greatest blessings because she received the chance to see Henny grow up until now, since businesses started opening up, which meant that she and her husband had to go back into their work spaces.
“Henny was a huge learning experience for me during the pandemic because I was with him nonstop,” said Ramirez-Fulton. “He was fully immersed in our lives everyday, where as of now, things are opening up and I’m able to come to the office for eight to nine hours at a time and won’t have to stress because he’s in a good place. ”
Overall, Ramirez-Fulton believes it is important for those who strive to become entrepreneurs, mothers, creatives, and more, to hone in on their blessings rather than pushing towards the next big thing.
“It’s really easy to compare your life to someone else’s and happiness may look different for someone else than what it may look like for you,” she said. “Growing up, I definitely identified with a lot of people I looked up to and used them as digital expanders and thought that I could possibly do the same as them.”
She also feels that once you are hyper focused on making sure you are satisfied, along with the scales being in good standing and goals are met within your business, results as a much more important factor than the vanity of what entrepreneurship is defined as. For Ramirez-Fulton, seeking out what makes her happy while running her brand is a balanced act of accomplishing overall goals in her life as this method permits her to seek joy in other ways that don’t necessarily have to get her from one point to another in an orderly fashion.
“This just makes me feel happy and that I’m doing everything in my life for more than just goal seeking…it’s a fulfillment factor too,” said Ramirez-Fulton. “We will always compare ourselves until we realize that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.”
Ramirez-Fulton looks forward to feeling more settled in her life and building a community around her son’s life. Currently, she and her circle of immediate friends are in the early stages of cultivating a community within their families. She also looks forward to working with her mother, her in-laws, and more, as she and her husband have brought them all into the fold of the businesses they’ve created.
“I look forward to all of this because I feel like an adult now and haven’t felt this way till I had Henny and now with all of these shifts happening with our businesses growing,” she said. “There is more responsibility than just taking care of me, Adam, and our child, but at the same time, it brings light into perspective a lot deeper.”
To keep up with Ramirez-Fulton, follow her on Instagram over @cyndiramirez and @chillhouse. Also, find a mini-roundup of her top five Chillhouse picks below.
Chill Tips (no specific style)