Naj Austin started her business for a very personal reason.
“I wanted a space where I could go and really unburden myself,” she told In The Know. “Where I could go and not have to defend why I was there.”
The result of that desire became Ethel’s Club, a Brooklyn-based gathering space that is the first-ever social and wellness club for people of color (POCs).
Austin’s beautifully decorated, members-only club, which launched in November 2019, has already resonated with countless New Yorkers who feel like they have frustratingly few places where they can feel comfortable. Within days of its grand opening, Ethel’s Club had more than 4,300 people waiting to join, according to Vice.
The club combines all sorts of amenities — including meeting rooms, lounges, a podcast studio and a fitness studio — that make it an accepting, stress-free place to work, hang out or practice self-care. Austin also designed the business with a strong emphasis on wellness, and has even brought in a Black, female therapist to council members in need.
Those factors all combine together to create something beyond a regular hangout spot. Austin sees Ethel’s Club as a community, one that will grow and flourish as its members do.
“We want people who are looking to one, cultivate a community alongside us,” Austin told In The Know. “But also add to the fabric that we’re building.”
That’s why potential members fill out a questionnaire when they apply, so the club can make sure that the community works well together. Importantly, though, the applications do not ask people to identify what community or communities they see themselves as a part of.
“What’s important to us is the value of what people are bringing to the club,” Austin said. “Spaces [like ours] are important because we allow people of color to come in and recharge, and feel heard in a world where, quite frankly, that doesn’t happen all that often.”
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