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Updated: May 4, 2022

New wellness co-op builds on Biddeford transformation

2 people smiling Courtesy / ToGather Jodie Howard, left, and Lisa Lewis are building on the transformation of a former Biddeford mill to open a wellness co-op.

Two Biddeford natives have witnessed the city’s transformation from an old mill town to a hip community. Now they’re building on that transformation with the launch of a wellness business downtown.

“We wanted to stay in the community where we grew up,” said Lisa Lewis, who owns the ToGather co-op with Jodie Howard. “We’ve seen the evolution of Biddeford over the years. There are so many great businesses and entrepreneurs who are thriving. We wanted to be part of that growth.”

ToGather is a wellness co-op studio at 24 Pearl St. in the Riverdam mill, which has been undergoing renovations into residential and commercial spaces. 

brick walls and wood floor
Courtesy / ToGather
The open concept is designed to maintain the historic mill’s brick and beam features.

Lewis and Howard recently held a grand opening of the facility, which is designed to host people coming together with an interest in mind and body wellness and community inclusivity.

The plan is to offer classes and workshops such as yoga, breath work, energy healing and Barre sculpt, along with wellness workshops on various topics. 

Growing wellness businesses

Howard and Lewis went to school together but went separate ways after high school. 

Lewis remained in Biddeford and pursued a career as a personal trainer, group exercise class instructor and certified nutritionist. Today she’s a regional sales manager in wholesale for Stonewall Kitchen, a specialty food producer in York.

Howard pursued a career in the natural food industry, most recently in California. She’s now with Tom’s of Maine, a natural personal care products in Kennebunk, as manager of innovation.

The development of ToGather is an additional project on top of their full-time jobs.

When Howard returned to Biddeford to live, she and Lewis put their heads together with the goal of creating a community-focused venue for people interested in growing their own wellness businesses.

The idea, said Howard, was that they would provide the space and vendors would pay a rental fee.

“We provide marketing and promotion and give them the community and the outreach to create their businesses,” she told Mainebiz.

They identified a 1,500-square-foot space at 24 Pearl St. as a likely prospect to lease after a real estate search.

“We saw the space and fell in love with it,” said Lewis.

Lewis’s father is a retired general contractor who helped with build-out, which was financed through Maine Community Bank. 

sign on brick wall
Courtesy / ToGather
Two Biddeford natives witnessed the city’s transformation and decided the time was right to launch a new business.

The open concept is designed to maintain as much of the mill’s historic brick and beam features as possible. Installations included dance-style “barres,” a sound system and a small kitchen.

The partners call the business a “co-op” to evoke a sense of community. However, unlike typical member-owned cooperatives, Lewis and Howard own the business and vendors pay rent to use the space.

So far, they’ve drawn several instructors and have room for more. They’ve attracted queries from people interested in doing pop-up classes. Regular renters are booking a month at a time.

The partners have been marketing the business through social media, primarily Instagram. Riverdam’s management has promoted the business to its tenants.

The focus on wellness and community accommodates artists, artisans and educators, as well as vendors and service providers.

“It’s anything where people can come to gather and feel a sense of wellness, from physical wellness doing yoga to mind wellness doing mediation to being with friends to make a charcuterie board through a workshop,” said Howard.

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