How One Entrepreneur is Stepping Into the Future With New York City’s First Boutique Bathhouse

How One Entrepreneur is Stepping Into the Future With New York City’s First Boutique Bathhouse

by Victoria Simpson

Liz Tortolani loves to travel- and also, to soak in hot water.

Originally from Vermont and a recent Seattle resident, Tortolani has galloped the globe from Berlin, to Budapest to Sydney. And aside from the usual tourist attractions and general excitement of being abroad, what she loves most on her jaunts is finding places of healing.

Community saunas or common baths attract Tortolani- places where people go to pause and focus on their bodies, where one can relax for a moment and slip away, letting heat and water heal physical and emotional aches and pains.

And in some places, these sites are widely available.


But when Tortolani came to New York City as a massage therapist, she noticed something was missing.

“Places are different all over. When I lived in Seattle I had easy access and could walk to a place called the Hothouse. It has a whirlpool, a spa and sauna and it was a huge asset to my quality of life in the city. When I moved to New York, I noticed there were a lot of older places to soak, like the East Village bathhouses, and ones that have gone in more recently down by Wall Street but some were very big, and geared towards men only and they weren’t always well kept. They served alcohol and food and they didn’t always focus on healing. Some newer spas are around but they’re like a huge Disney World, and this wasn’t what I wanted. At the time, there was nothing to reflect what I was seeking- a beautifully done, intimate, meditative healing spot for both men and women.”

And so, she started to dream.

“I wanted to create something unique- something to fill the void,” she says.

It has taken years but now she has now accomplished just that.


Tortolani, who runs a wellness business and works in the Integrative Medicine Department at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital as a massage therapist for post-op surgery patients, has invented and is building cityWell, the first boutique bathhouse in Brooklyn.

Focused on the ancient healing arts of water and heat, in use all the way back to Hippocrates, cityWell  will incorporate the five elements of water, fire, earth, air and metal and provide an intimate space to rejuvenate and focus on self-healing through preventive therapy.

And it will be affordable.

“I believe in New York we need it (affordable healing) more than ever, because of the pace…it’s very hectic,” Tortolani says. “I didn’t want it (the bathhouse) to be exclusive. The concept is (that) it’s natural and for everybody.”

The interior of the boutique, which has almost completed construction, will consist of a steam room, and rain showers, and offer spaces for private yoga and wellness coaching as well as educational talks on health and nutrition.

citywell_funding_zgdhmw A campaign running through has raised almost half of the $40, 000 needed to install a whirlpool in an additional 1, 500 square foot outdoor oasis that will boast a cedar shower and relaxation area, a fire pit, massage treatment area, and an exterior yoga platform.

Tortolani is proud of her achievement and excited at the possibility of offering many high quality and accessible healing services under one roof.

“It’s a modern revival of an ancient healing art…I’ve done something unique and created a boutique bathhouse…It’s in our blood, and I’m bringing that back for modern day people,” she says.

To speed up developments, donate to the cause and see this business bloom soon.

Or, wait and go in person. Bring your beautiful body, aches, pains, deep thoughts and room for enlightenment.

Doors are set to open in October 2015.




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