mActivity Brings "Mindful Activity" to New Haven Health Community (and Great Coffee too!)
Customer Interview: Burch Valldejuli of mActivity
At One World Roasters we are truly thrilled to work together with customers that are every bit as impassioned about sustainability and a healthy lifestyle as we are. New gym and wellness center in New Haven mActivity is absolutely one such client.
We recently worked together with them to create their own one-of-a-kind breakfast blend, which they regularly serve at their healthy café, and also helped them open their doors with a grand opening coffee cupping.
We caught up with mActivity co-owner Burch Valldejuli to explore what really makes them such a special edition to New Haven’s health community. Valldejuli brings over 30 years of experience in research and research administration to her new business, most recently serving as the Director of Program Development at the Yale School of Public Health. She is also a self-professed “coffee snob.”
How would you define the mission statement of Mactivity in your own words?
Mactivity is a community of health so we’re looking at one’s wellness and physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. We have special partnerships with massage and Pilates professionals, we have a smoothie bar and healthy food, a living room area, a community conference room that’s free to nonprofits, an art gallery, and a take-one/leave-one library, which is all intentional.
As my husband would say — “you hang out at a barbershop long enough, you get a haircut.”
The café and conference room is open to the public.
Mactivity appears to be a play on words — what are you referencing with the ‘m’ and uppercase ‘A’ in “activity: that follows? (Burch cuts off the question with a lively laugh).
That was the name of the article in the New Haven Independent — what does the ‘m’ stand for? It’s really amorphous, but we have decided that it means mindful ‘— mindful in terms of being present and engaged in your activity. If you’re engaged and present, then you’re “in it” — you’re going to have better health.
Really focus on your workout — don’t be thinking about “oh my gosh, I have this really big project at the office.” You deserve the attention — we’ve settled on that over time. But it can mean other things to other people.
“I’m 56 years old” — it could mean "mature." For someone who’s a total jock it could be “MAXIMUM.” So the M really slopes — we’re putting a word cloud up on our wall so people can get an idea of that.
How would you say your training process speaks to the mindful activity approach you mentioned earlier?
First of all, we are very, very selective about our personal trainers. That’s how my business partner Pablo Perez and I met — he owned a small personal training studio and I had seen personal trainers off and on for years all over the place and was just blown away by the high quality, training, and background of his group.
He’s never been a trainer himself — he was an All-American rugby player with a business background — and my background is in public health. We both had these visions — he had a vision of having his own gym and I had this vision of a huge community of health. Our trainers are just extremely experienced, they’re very well-trained. We also have in-house physical therapy.
What also makes us different is that we use a functional movement screen and we do some screening to make sure that every workout client does with the individuals they work with is safe and effective and fun. But safety is really big here.
We also have strategic partnerships with dieticians, cardiologists, and various people so we can really help people improve their health. Everything we do is evidence-based because my background is in academia. I’m not against aroma therapy — we’re just not going to do it here.
One of the most unique things mActivity offers is a virtual training room —
… And virtual indoor cycling, which is fun!
Part of me laughs because I’m 56, so I’m of the Jane Fonda "jazzercise in front of your VCR era" — so I’m like “wow, this is really amazing!” The screen is huge so in our group room you probably have hundreds of different workouts that you can do that range from appropriate foam rolling, to a stretch routine, or yoga, all the way on up to some super intense stuff that is like professional athlete personal training and everything in between. So it’s a great way to try things for two reasons — you have flexibility and time — if there’s not a class offered — you can go in and still get your high-intensity interval training in. The other thing is it’s a great way to try something new without being mortified!
It always matters to me that I do things right and don’t look like a jerk! Like I said it’s a great way to experiment and try some other things. We also have the virtual indoor cycling studio, and I’m a cyclist — I really like this. We certainly have live, instructor-lead indoor cycling classes though — a lot of our instructors are actual cyclists, which matters, so they don’t do any moves that you wouldn’t do on a real bike that could actually harm your knees.
And on the virtual ones, you have instructors sitting on the bicycle telling you what to do and in all of these virtual ones they have high intensity, medium, and modified options for beginners or older people. What I really love is that there are 18 to 30 of these “virtual experiences” when you’re riding through New Zealand, or the Andes, or Northern France. Some of them are guided, in that they have an instructor telling you “Oh! Here are some llamas!” or whatever, and tells you about the park, or wherever you are and also gives you instruction — like, “let’s ramp it up,” “let’s get your wattage output to this,” “let’s get your RMP’s up to that.” You’ve got a combo so you’re not bored out of your mind!
Absolutely — a long stretch of cardio can be so daunting. Killing 30 minutes on an elliptical machine or a bike can be brutal.
Could you tell us a little about the background of your relationship with Eric and One World Roasters? I know you had worked together on a grand opening coffee tasting.
Yes! The café and everything was all very intentional. The café and the front desk is an old bar. The football player Doug Flutie owned a bar in the Seaport area of Manhattan and it was called Flutie’s. We actually have that bar here.
We didn’t open our doors to the public until December 29th, but we knew all along that we wanted to do the “coffee thing,” and wanted to have exceptional coffee really early on. And I’m truly a coffee snob — if it’s not good, I won’t even bother drinking it — ick!
I understand that you have your own signature blend available only at mActivity — how did you come to customize your own coffee?
We were talking with Chris Gallagher who now works with Solar City, but he was a coffee consultant and he is the one that recommended Eric. He was like, “There’s this great local roaster right here in East Haven and I use his coffee, and you’ve got to go — he’ll do a cupping for you.” I knew what a wine-tasting was, but I didn’t know it was called a cupping in the coffee world. That was really fun.
Our general manager Lia Sabin, who also is from East Haven, went over with me and I think we did three cuppings to get the breakfast blend just right. “Just right,” meant that it was the perfect cup of coffee to me! And people love it! It’s sort of a medium roast, it’s got a little bit of acidity — it’s a nice, balanced cup of coffee with fantastic flavor. It’s wonderful. I don’t know all of the fancy-schmancy words — Eric knows all of the fancy-schmancy words — it’s great that’s all I know (laughs).
We also like to do a single origin so the other one we offer is the Ethiopian which is a little bit lighter roast. What I love about the Ethiopian is that when you grind it and brew it, it has this caramel nose that just permeates the whole place. When people in the gym smell it, they’re just like “woooow, what’s that??”
Did the organic aspect factor into your decision in any way?
Yes, absolutely. It plays into a variety of things for us — our colleague for our little café tries to do organic and GMO-free whenever possible — the whole thing. But I also really like the fair trade aspect and that Eric has a direct relationship with a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic (Spirit Mountain). It’s a really good story and that’s what people want.
To learn more about mActivity, visit their website at www.mactivity.com and be sure to say hello to Burch and try a fresh cup of their breakfast blend!
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