Partner businesses embrace health and community

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 31, 2013

 W.D. Ryan prepares a carrot and apple smoothie for a customer at LifeStyle Café.

W.D. Ryan prepares a carrot and apple smoothie for a customer at LifeStyle Café.

Photo by Sara Kandel

EASTPOINTE — There was just something about Eastpointe.

They weren’t sure exactly what it was; perhaps it was the small-town charm or its potential to grow into a happening place, but when Felisia Newby and W.D. Ryan made the decision to open complementary businesses, they just knew Eastpointe was where they wanted them.

“I used to travel through Gratiot from 696 to Eight Mile to commute to work,” Ryan said. “I probably traveled it for five years and I just fell in love with this area.”

“This was always my driven area,” Newby said. “I used to drive through here and I was always drawn and attracted to this area.”

They met about a decade ago when they both happened to stop at the Rite Aid on Nine Mile and Gratiot. They were instantly drawn to each other and quickly became friends, and not long after that, business partners.

Ryan worked in advertising for the auto industry and Newby’s bright demeanor soon became an asset for his company. Auto advertising wasn’t something either of them were fervent about, but over time, they discovered they shared a similar passion — health and wellness — so they went to work for two years, studying the ins and outs, market results and success statistics of fitness studios.

They scoured the city looking for the perfect spot, and finally they found one. The storefront in the 23000 block of Gratiot in downtown Eastpointe was the ideal place to launch the fitness studio they’d dreamed of opening for years.

“This was a shared dream, but it was driven by her,” Ryan said.

Newby was already certified to teach aerobics, Zumba and other fitness classes. The plan was set, Newby would teach and Ryan would run the smoothie bar, but not long after they purchased the building last April, they realized there just wasn’t enough room for Ryan’s juice stand and smoothie bar.

When they opened to the public in June, it was bittersweet. They received a warm welcome from the community and the project they had poured their hearts into was finally a reality, but it just wasn’t complete without the drink bar.

They were still trying to convince themselves there was some way they could make it work when, as if by fate, the shared-wall storefront just south of theirs became vacant.

“It made sense to take the building next door to us, because our initial dream was to have a fitness studio and a raw juice and smoothie bar, but we couldn’t do it over there. This building gave us the opportunity to do that,” Ryan said.

It gave them more than the opportunity for a smoothie bar, though — they connected the two storefronts and were able to create a raw juice and smoothie bar and a café. In December, they opened LifeStyle Café/W.D.’s Gumbo Café.

The café features a variety of smoothies, raw juices, gumbos, vegetarian fare and more in a cozy little café that Ryan and Newby are hoping will be a beacon for health nuts, families, smoothie lovers and the art community.

They are hoping to display local artwork throughout the year and maybe incorporate an open-mic night sometime in the future.

“We got a lot of wall,” Ryan said. “If we could get these local artists to display their art here, this would be a great place to do it.”

They’re reaching out to all aspects of the community. Before opening their businesses here, both Ryan and Newby moved to the city and are now proud Eastpointe homeowners. Newby has worked with Eastside Teen Outreach and other local groups on anti-bullying programs, and she is currently working on a “Biggest Loser”-style teen weight-loss and fitness competition.

“I love teens,” Newby said. “I love all kids. I’m very involved in anti-bullying programs, and from the beginning, this studio has always been family friendly. I have a mom that brings her daughter to yoga with her every week. And we have a children’s boot camp and yoga class for children, as well.”

The studio also offers programs for seniors, and has programs that mix nutrition and fitness, as well as straight fitness classes.

“We’ve embraced this community completely,” Ryan said.

“We are part of the chamber (of commerce). If we have to buy something for the studio, I look in the area to see what other small businesses we can support. We’ve reached out to city officials and local groups. We’ve done everything we can to support this community and embrace it, and we are hoping the community will support and embrace us.”

LifeStyle Fitness Gold and Lifestyle Café/W.D.’s Gumbo Café are located at 23047 Gratiot in Eastpointe. Café hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Fitness studio hours vary by appointment and class schedule. Classes are offered seven days a week. For more information, call (586) 777-7974 or visit