The St. James
"Welcome to Your Best"
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Growing up, in addition to school, I was a three-sport athlete. Depending on the time of year, I would sometimes go to three practices in one day. Or, a practice and a game. Or, some combination, thereof. This was before I could drive, so it was up to my parents to get me from one thing to another, and each location was certainly not next door to each other! Looking back, with both my parents being entrepreneurs, each with his/her own business, I do not know how they did it! I sure am glad they did though, because those experiences affected the direction of my life in a highly positive way.
I am not a parent yet, so I have not had the opportunity to experience what magic it takes to balance time, and likely sanity, in such a way. However, this month's cover story subjects certainly have, and they are doing something about it. Their names are Craig Dixon and Kendrick Ashton, and their facility, The St. James, is a dream come true for anyone who has experienced what I have written about in this introduction.
At 450,000 square feet, The St. James is as large as they come, and the facility includes just about anything you could imagine for athletes, exercise enthusiasts or just someone looking to take some time for themselves. Of course, the pandemic has affected the trajectory of The St. James' first flagship location. But, it has also allowed them to hone their craft and incorporate those learnings into ongoing operations and development of future facilities.
So, I welcome you to read on as Craig Dixon and Kendrick Ashton, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of The St. James, take you through their journey and what the future holds.
An Interview With Craig Dixon and Kendrick Ashton, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of The St. James
Club Insider (C.I.) - Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Craig Dixon (CD) - I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but when I was about three years old, we moved to Montgomery County, Virginia. The Washington D.C. area is really home for me. That's where I grew up and where my parents still live. They live about 45 minutes away from me now, and it's been great because they've been able to watch the entire progression and building of The St. James, including seeing it come out of the ground. This is really cool, because my father was a contractor. I grew up working on construction sites, every holiday and every summer as a kid, working with him. He went from being a contractor in construction and seeing owners and developers build things to having his son be the one who's building something. I think it has been a real treat for him.
C.I. - That's wonderful! Well, I look forward to talking more about the building of The St. James here in a little bit. How about you, Kendrick?
Kendrick Ashton (KA) - I was born and raised in Washington D.C. I'm a sixth-generation Washingtonian. My family on both sides came to Washington in the late 1870s, early 1880s, so I'm a through-and-through Washingtonian.
C.I. - Where did you go to school and what did you study? Did you play any sports?
CD - Growing up, I was very active in sports. I started off in soccer and also did track and swimming. Then, by the time I got to high school, I shifted to football, track and wrestling. So, sports have been a big part of my life for the entirety of my life. It's something I've always been passionate about. I went to the College of William & Mary for undergrad, majoring in Finance. Then, I went to Law School at William & Mary as well. I started my career as a lawyer, then later, I went to Harvard Business School to do one of their long-term executive programs as I started to really build out my transition to a more entrepreneurial path. Education has been a really big part of my life, and it is really important to my family. My parents are immigrants from Jamaica and always emphasized the importance of getting an education.
KA - I played sports intensely year-round all the way through college. I played football, basketball, baseball and a little bit of lacrosse growing up. I played football, baseball and ran track in high school. Then, I played football at the College of William & Mary where I was a four-year starter and an all-conference cornerback. I studied International Relations and Economics at William & Mary. Then, I went to the Law School and Business School at the University of Chicago.
A True Friendship and Business Partnership
C.I. - Wow, those are fantastic educational and sports backgrounds! When and how did you both meet?
CD - Kendrick and I met at the cafeteria at William & Mary in late summer of 1994. We've been best friends ever since, so we go all the way back to college together. We are very close. We were fraternity brothers; our wives were sorority sisters; we were in each other's weddings. He is one of my oldest and closest friends, so it's a real treat to be able to build a business with someone with whom you share so much history and trust.
KA - We had a great time together in college. We were and are great friends, and it has been a lot of fun to build this business together.
C.I. - I love it! How did The St. James come to be?
CD - We always talked about different ideas and opportunities that could be worth pursuing. I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. As I said before, my parents are entrepreneurs. Everybody in my family is a small businessperson, so it was in my blood. And, I think Kendrick had a similar vision for his life. As we went through our professional careers and got really great experiences, we continued to keep our eye out for opportunities that might meet both our professional backgrounds but also connected to our passions. The idea for The St. James really checked all the boxes, because it was both something that we thought was a significant opportunity and could be national, potentially international, in its scope.
As well as allowing us to be in a business that connects with our passions for sports, it's really compatible with the way we want to live our lives, both individually and with our families: an active life that continues to engage with and derive lessons and values from sports because they were such a powerful part of our formation as children and young adults. So, the opportunity to build The St. James was really a combination of those two objectives, and we're really, really excited about it.
Once we recognized the idea itself comes from our experiences growing up in this region and being 'irrationally passionate' about sports, we then recognized two high demand problems existed and they have certainly only gotten worse as time has gone on:
- 1. There are not enough courts, turf, ice, pools, etc. to meet the demand of people who want to access them. Then, to the extent that these surfaces do exist, they are often in poor repair and under-programmed.
- 2. There is a high degree of fragmentation among offerings in the marketplace. Families with children in sports have to run from one side of town to take a child to soccer practice and then the other side of town to take a child to a basketball game. And, if the parents themselves are busy, it can be a real challenge to figure out logistics.
C.I. - I lived that multiple-sport practice life, so I know exactly what you're talking about! Practice, practice, practice!
CD - This is the stuff that our parents were doing when we were kids. Now, I have three children, Kendrick has two children, so we were transporting them around to all of these different activities. Along the way, the conversations we would have with other parents were very similar... the experience as a parent waiting there was often lackluster. Can you get a decent cup of coffee? Can you get Wi-Fi? And, if you have one of your other children with you, they're climbing the walls because they're bored and want to leave.
Given those experiences, we thought there was a real opportunity to solve a problem that no one else was really solving. We concluded that we could aggregate the play and training surfaces for multiple sports, 20 sports or so in one venue, with coaches and trainers, then wrap it in a hospitality experience with a premium health club, a full-service restaurant and an active entertainment center geared towards young people. So, if we combined all of these experiences into one package, and because we would control the venue, how it's designed and how it's operated, we could offer a consistently high-quality experience to everyone who walks through our doors, which is not something that has existed in this space, at least not in the way that we would at The St. James.
Planning for Greatness
C.I. - That's fantastic. I'm curious. How did the name come about?
CD - The St. James really comes from the idea of being the 'center of the universe,' so when we say 'The St. James,' that's really what we're thinking about it. To put a finer point on it, as we mentioned, we both went to the College of William & Mary, which was founded by the British monarchy. For a 300+ year period, the Court of St. James was the 'center of the universe' for everything diplomatic and economic in the British Empire.
As we thought about developing a brand, we thought about that. We believed it was going to be critically important to have this destination be the foundation of a premium brand. If you look at sports venues that focus on youth participants, that was not something done particularly often, so we thought there was an opportunity to create a highly differentiated, premium experience. And, in turn, you need to have a really great brand to help communicate the quality of the experience that every guest was going to receive. They go hand-in-hand.
So, we thought it was a name that had an inherent sense of trustworthiness and an enduring quality to it. And, because it also represents the idea of being the 'center of the universe,' which is what we want The St. James to be in every community in which we build one.
C.I. - Let me add: Not knowing too much about The St. James before researching it for this story, when I saw the name 'The St. James,' I expected to see something grand and great. As I began researching, that's exactly what happened. I was blown away! You nailed it.
CD - Thank you.
C.I. - You're very welcome. Well, let's move into the construction phase a little bit. Craig, I know you're going to love talking about this one because of your dad's background, as well as yours, really. Let's start by talking about the facility site selection.
CD - When we set out to identify a site for The St. James, we really came at it from a data-driven perspective. At the outset, we really were not focused on Washington as the place to build this business. Sometimes, people assume that, because Kendrick and I are from this region, that is the reason we started the business in the D.C. region, but we let the data drive our decision. When you look at this region, the high levels of sports participation and the large and growing population and density, Washington became the logical place to start this business.
So, that's the starting point. Then, when you drop a layer down and you think about the size of the footprint of these destinations, you really need a large piece of land, and you want to make sure you have very good proximity to the transportation infrastructure. So, we looked at every large parcel of land in the Washington region that was in any way close to I-495, otherwise known as the Beltway, which is the interstate that circles the entirety of the DC region, as well as I-95 and I-395, in order to identify prospective sites. Then, we went through a process of elimination based on a couple of factors. Obviously, you look at the data around prospective customers and their proximity to that location. You have to look at pricing and the ability to acquire the site. Then, zoning because you will not be able to build what you want by right in every jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have a much more difficult zoning process than others. Therefore, once you go through that combination of screens, you find yourself in a place where you have a handful of sites that are actionable. We spent a lot of time studying, and we found what we felt was the right site. It was once owned by Washington Gas, which is one of the largest natural gas utilities in the region.
The more time we spent on the site, the more we became convinced it was ideal. It's a stone's throw from I-395 and I-495, which are the two main highways that run through the region and through Northern Virginia in particular. The traffic counts of the vehicles that pass through the intersection of those two highways are off the charts. We were also attracted to the opportunity to be in Fairfax County, which is one of the largest and most affluent jurisdictions in the region, and frankly, the country. When you say to yourself that you want to be in the backyards of your core customers, it's hard to find a piece of land this large that has proximity to the transportation infrastructure and is also in the backyard of your core customer, all at once. So, that's how we landed on the site.
C.I. - Please take us through the construction process for such a large facility.
CD - The construction process took about 20 months. There was a building on the site that had been the Operations Center for Washington Gas for years, so we had to demolish that building. It had asbestos insulation, which complicated things, so that took three months. Then, it took about 17 months to build, and we opened in September of 2018.
C.I. - Related to financing, how did you put that together?
CD - First, Kendrick and I invested a substantial portion of our own capital into the business. We then raised some money from friends and family. Then, we went through a process to identify an equity partner and lender that would be able to help us complete the financing. We partnered with Cane International, which is a global real estate and private equity platform that's headquartered in London and New York and is the real estate platform for a firm called Eldridge Industries. Eldridge is a global investment firm and asset management firm that has investment and real estate, sports and entertainment, financial services and several other verticals. We partnered with Cane and Eldridge because they have deep experience in hospitality and real estate, including development, sports and entertainment. We wanted to have partners who not only believe in our thesis but could help add value to what we're doing, and we have certainly found that in Cane and Eldridge. That's how we were able to finance the company and the development. We've been really, really pleased with the quality of the relationship. They've been great partners.
The St. James
C.I. - Well, that takes us through development. Let's talk about The St. James. Let's begin with the Health Club. Please describe the facility (Size and Square Footage, Amenities, Programs/Services, etc).
CD - The Health Club is three stories, 50,000 square feet, with an array of state-of-the-art fitness equipment, treadmills, free weights, benches, a customizable OutRace structure, exercise accessories, plus sauna, steam room and more. In regular times, it's open 24/7 for our members. One of the highlights is our High Performance Center, which is an elite training space that rivals any college or professional setup for strength and conditioning for athletes. Housed in the Health Club are our dance and yoga studios, which host group fitness classes as well as dance programming and a Pilates reformer studio. We offer Personal Training in individual, couple and small group options. Members can enjoy more than 75 group fitness classes complimentary each week, ranging from bootcamps and HIIT to yoga, barre and cycling classes. In addition, members with children can add their kids to their memberships and receive up to three hours of complimentary childcare so they can enjoy our facilities while their children are having fun.
C.I. - The Health Club alone is impressive, but the rest of The St. James is simply incredible. Coming in at 450,000 square feet, it literally has something for everyone across a wide array of sports and fitness disciplines. Please briefly describe each offering.
CD - Absolutely, our offerings include:
- Field House: At 110,000 square feet, the Field House regularly hosts football, lacrosse, soccer and rugby programming. We also offer the space for special events like dance performances, obstacle courses, corporate retreats, concerts, overnight graduation parties and a variety of other mixed-use purposes. In the past, we've hosted professional teams for practices and play, including D.C. United, teams from the Premier Lacrosse League and U.S. Women's Soccer. The St. James is the proud performance training partner of Old Glory D.C., D.C.'s Major League Rugby team.
- Court House: The Court House features four basketball courts (or futsal courts) or nine volleyball courts.
- Pool House: The Pool House features an Olympic-size Myrtha training and competition swimming pool. The pool has a moveable bulkhead to divide the pool for both long course meters and short course yards, as well as setting up a shallow end for aquatic fitness classes, learn-to-swim programs and more. Attached to the Pool House is our Water Park.
- Water Park: 6,000 square-foot indoor water park, including multiple slides, multi-directional sprayers and three buckets that dump water.
- Hitting House: We never worry about a rain delay in our 8,000 square-foot Hitting House. It features six batting cages with HackAttack machines and HitTrax technology for baseball and softball players.
- Performance House: Our gymnastics studio is a 10,000 square-foot, soft-sided playground that includes a competition-sized springboard, in-ground trampolines, deep foam pits and a Tumbl Trak. Our dance programs use the space to practice tumbling, and we've even offered group fitness classes like martial arts and parkour here.
- Squash and Golf House: We feature eight squash courts and six golf simulators, as well as a putting green.
- Ice House: Two NHL-sized ice rinks and a viewing mezzanine.
- Climbing and Bouldering: Three-story climbing wall and a bouldering wall.
C.I. - Wow, that is truly incredible. And, I know the pictures that accompany this story do not do justice to being in person at The St. James. Let's talk about operations. Obviously, we'll start from the pre-COVID perspective. Take us through The St. James' take on the membership model as well as the revenue model for your various offerings.
CD - I think one important thing to know about our revenue model is that it's a hybrid model:
Our membership option is not just a membership to a health club, and that's something that is one point of differentiation, because our membership is a complex membership. The important distinction is that we have a health club that is a part of the experience, but it is not the totality of the experience. We're selling a membership to the complex and access to all the different venues along with a variety of other perks. Membership is about 35% of business revenue.
The next big chunk is our sports business, which accounts for about 45% of the revenue model. If you think about an educational pyramid, at the base, you have a large suite of beginner classes, and that goes all the way up to the apex where your most advanced classes are. In our sports business, we have a similar approach where were we have classes with 'Learn to Play' beginner programming across 20+ sports at the base then increasing levels of skill required to be in additional programs. That goes all the way up to travel teams in multiple sports: soccer, volleyball, hockey, baseball, volleyball, swimming, etc. We offer that entire pyramid of development because our mission is to be a place where we help people maximize their human potential. So, we want to be able to create a pathway for people to go as far in their sport as their ambition and ability will take them. Therefore, it's important for us to have long pathways in as many sports as possible that will unlock that opportunity.
The remaining portion comes from our hospitality businesses, which include:
- Our restaurant called Vim and Victor, in which we partnered with Spike Mendelsohn.
- Our MedSpa called Courted, in which customers can get everything from manicures and pedicures, some massage, to CoolSculpting and Botox. It's a full-service and balanced spa and rejuvenation experience that appeals to both men and women.
- An active entertainment center called Super Awesome & Amazing, and it features a combination of birthday party rooms, climbing structures, ninja war obstacle course, e-sports, theater and VR games, as well as our indoor water park.
- And, we have our retail experience called Strivers, which is a combination of a sneaker boutique as well as branded performance gear, apparel and equipment.
So, we have all of those businesses, which comprise the remainder of our revenue and offer a really diverse array of experiences for everybody in the family to enjoy. Finally, there's some other ancillary revenue from things like sponsorship and events.
C.I. - That's a great breakdown. As I was researching this story, I was trying to wrap my head around everything you offer, and I understand a lot more now, for sure. In terms of a raw number of customers, how many people do you regularly serve? How many are members?
CD - Our ecosystem includes about 45,000 people who are regularly engaging with our business across the different offerings we have. Membership includes around 4,000 people at this point. We've obviously been affected by COVID like everyone else, so we're down a bit. But, we have been really encouraged by the enthusiasm and growing engagement that we have been seeing from members, both existing members as well as new members who are joining The St. James. Then, there's the levels of engagement in the sports business in particular, which really shows how consumer sentiment is starting to change. From there, our hospitality businesses, which in some cases have been the hardest hit by COVID-19, are really starting to come back as more and more people are visiting The St. James every day, therefore creating more traffic and demand.
C.I. - What do you consider the key market differentiators for the company?
KA - We have excellent people, top to bottom, in every dimension of our business. We have really exceptional Sports Directors who lead the various pieces of our sports business, including talented former professionals and coaches. We've got incredibly effective, thoughtful, personable, motivating Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors. And, we've got a world-class culinary genius in Spike Mendelsohn helping us create a really distinctive healthy cuisine that's also delicious. In our C-suite, we've got really talented people as well, so we have a really exceptional team that we built in a very short period of time.
I would also say the aggregation of the different experiences is obviously a significant point of differentiation. To be able to go from being on the ice to being in a virtual reality studio is pretty unique. To be able to go from being in soccer practice to swimming practice in a couple-hundred-yards walk is rare. That's pretty significant.
CD - Absolutely, I'll add:
- We really took a tremendous amount of pride in developing a brand that is premium but still accessible. We think it really represents the idea of people maximizing their human potential and getting the best out of life. We're also a hospitality-driven organization. We provide customers with an experience, whether it be when they're interacting with us digitally or when they walk through our doors, that is consistent with this premium brand. It's designed in every element of what we do, all the way down to the way people smile at you when you walk through the doors and greet you with the level of enthusiasm and positive energy for what we're doing. It's something that all of our members and guests really feel and appreciate. In fact, I just had a conversation with a member this morning who was really expressing his appreciation for that.
- Then, there's the focus on the quality of our physical spaces and the programming. All of our spaces are state-of-the-art, regulation size and competition-ready. If you look at our sports venues, our Health Club and other spaces, you are immediately struck by the high level of quality that was used to design, construct and maintain every space.
- Next is the ability to utilize that space to do virtually whatever it is you want to do, from recreation to training to competition. The scale and breadth of our offerings provide experiences from sports to wellness to hospitality. This enables families to accommodate broad and varied interests. No longer do they have to wonder how they're going to answer their children when they wake up on Saturday morning and ask, 'What are we going to do today?' They can be told, 'We're going to The St. James,' because there will be something to enjoy for everyone in the family. That's something that we're really, really proud of.
- There are numerous opportunities to athletically compete in the region because we host numerous leagues, events, combines, tournaments, etc. We are curating really great competitive experiences.
- We also have great technology. We have invested significantly over the past 12 to 18 months to develop a digital experience that goes along with the physical experience of The St. James. So, you have an app that truly complements the physical experience and helps you take The St. James wherever you go on the planet, on your device of choice.
- Finally, we have really great connectivity in the region, whether it be in the sports community or the business community. That allows us to be really in tune with what is happening in terms of changes and adjustments in consumer sentiment so that we can continually iterate our offering and keep things fresh for people.
C.I. - Of course, we must discuss COVID-19. Please take us through your experience during the pandemic. Let's start with the shutdown.
KA - As COVID-19 was emerging as a potential global issue, we were trying to prepare for it. We were trying to think through what we might need to do, but we were clueless like everybody else. We had no idea how things were going to play out. It really became an intense race to keep up with the changes that the public policy makers were making at the Federal and State levels on a near-daily basis.
We were trying to communicate with our team, implement changes in how we were operating (pre-shutdown), communicate with our members and think through the next steps on a real-time basis. We're generally pretty intense in terms of how we approach the business and our work, but it definitely ratcheted up a few notches as we were virtually around the clock trying to make sure that we were doing the right thing and thinking through every nook and cranny of what the mandates were requiring of us.
As you'll recall, gathering restrictions went from 1,000 to 500 to 250 to 100 to 10, or so. It seemed like a 72-hour window. It was a very tight window, and we were communicating feverishly with our team, with our members and with all the stakeholders in our business. It was very, very intense.
Of course, we all thought this would be a two-week to one-month kind of blip. That first month, we kept our entire team in place, because we were expecting and hopeful that we would be back and operating at some point in that window. As it became increasingly clear this was going to be a long-term shutdown, we started to make adjustments in how we were managing our workforce. After it became clear that there was going to be significant Federal support for workers, we furloughed all of our hourly staff. The next phase was to reduce compensation for the full-time staff. The next phase was to furlough as many full-time staff we could afford to while still operating on bare bones. At the same time, we kept everyone on healthcare, financing everyone's healthcare throughout the entirety of the shutdown.
C.I. - Please take us through the reopening.
KA - During the shutdown, we made significant investments in our digital platforms so that we could both communicate and train our members at home. We did a significant amount of virtual training for our fitness clients, as well as our sports customers. We stayed incredibly engaged with our community when we were shutdown.
We developed a bunch of different plans around how we would reopen. We spent a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out what the most effective tools would be to keep people safe when we reopened. We also made investments to understand who's in our complex, when and where, because we knew that capacity controls were going to be a key piece of keeping people safe and in compliance with restrictions. Of course, we invested significantly in technologies that would allow us to take temperatures as people came in the building on a contactless basis. We set up contactless transaction capabilities. And, we acquired a significant number of electrostatic sprayers to really robustly make sure that we were killing the virus on all surfaces.
We adjusted our hours and created windows of time in which we could deep clean so there weren't any sustained periods of time where people were interacting with our spaces and they weren't disinfected. Finally, we meaningfully upsized our cleaning team and put in place a strategy to clean equipment on a fairly real-time basis throughout the day.
We tried to be as thorough and as thoughtful as we could in setting up operations for our return. The other thing we tried to do was think about the activities that were going to be as safe as possible for people to engage in. We obviously understood that spacing between and amongst people was going to be a critical part of being safe and compliant. But, in what spaces and in what ways could we allow various activities that would even more significantly enhance the level of safety? So, we moved a lot of our group fitness classes (usually held in yoga studios) into our larger venues (like the Field House). That enabled us to keep people even safer.
We worked hard to make sure we were ready to come back, but as you'll recall, the environment was very unpredictable. There were a lot of data markers that were outlined at the Federal and local levels around when we would enter the various phases that had been laid out: Phase One, Two and Three. We tried to organize ourselves around this guidance, but outside commitment to sticking to the guidance was very low. As soon as things started to get better, we were thinking, 'Okay, well, it looks like things are trending on an X weeks rate to get to a place where we're moving to the next phase.' The marks didn't get hit, and the Governor had to move the goals a little bit. So, we decided to be more cautious.
In fact, we waited six weeks after we were technically permitted to fully re-open to re-open at all, and we re-opened on July 15, 2020. When we re-opened, it was constrained to members only. We did not open the rest of our business. Our sports business stayed closed, and we didn't reopen any of our retail businesses to allow customers to just walk in. We had a modest level of engagement, but we certainly had people coming in who were very excited to be there and to use the complex. It's steadily grown since then, and we've been very pleased with the growth so far. Then, we re-opened our sports business on September 1. We also re-opened our restaurant, MedSpa and retail boutique in various capacities. So, for all intents and purposes, we were effectively closed from the middle of March until the beginning of September.
When a global pandemic engulfs you, you really have to make some clear-headed, wide-eyed, practical decisions about how you're going to proceed. That was a silver lining for us, as we tightened the foundation of the business significantly. It's given us a very strong base on which to build as we move into the 'new normal.'
C.I. - What are the challenges of safety now? How are you dealing with mask usage/other safety precautions for staff? Members?
KA - All the work we have done around health and safety protocols to address the risks around this pandemic made a tremendous difference for us. I believe we've built a reputation for really being committed to safety and cleanliness. The combination of the investments we've made, as well as the procedures and protocols we put in place have been recognized by customers and the market, including local public health officials. They certainly spent a fair amount of time focused on us, and we've gotten rave reviews about how we approached things.
Now, we've been so consistent that we really haven't had any issues with compliance at all. Our community understands, but we are still approaching it cautiously. It makes sense for public policy makers to provide real-time updates in their understanding of what keeps people safe. With our customers, we are going to have a transition period where we're going to continue to ask them to wear masks. Then, we're going to essentially have an honor code approach to whether or not they're wearing masks. I think it's important to not just flip on a dime. Everybody needs to kind of understand what the rules are and be clear about that before material changes are made. We're not going to take years to do this, but we are certainly not going to do it overnight. We're working through that.
C.I. - When do you expect to be back to pre-pandemic levels?
KA - We modeled the end of this year, early next year to get back to pre-pandemic levels, and we're on pace to do that. I'm hopeful that we'll be ahead of that coming out of this year so we will be on a pace to exceed what we expected to do in 2020 at the top of 2022.
C.I. - A Chicago location was on the horizon. Given the pandemic, where are you in that process?
CD - The Chicago location has been designed as one of our flagships. It has an offering at a size that is similar in scope and quality as you'll find here in Springfield. We do not have a definitive timeline yet because we're really trying to not only finish the appropriate zoning processes but also take into account how COVID has impacted not only consumer sentiment but also behavior in order to make sure the destination we designed for Chicago has all the things it needs to have in order to make it successful in the post-COVID era.
I'll say that we are focused on growth. We're looking for opportunities to grow The St. James, both in the Washington region and beyond. We think there are 15 to 20 markets in the United States where we should be and where the two high-demand problems I described earlier exist. Because they possess a population size, population density and growth trajectory, they are attractive markets for us. We also think there's significant opportunity to grow in the Washington region, and we're looking at the potential of launching some smaller concepts that can be offered together with our flagships in each region and really allow us to bring The St. James experience to more people.
C.I. - From there, what does the future hold for The St. James?
KA - We continue to believe that the brand and the various concepts we've developed for it are going to be even more in demand as we come out of this period where we've had to be away from each other and not really invest in our passions in the ways we all desire. So, we're excited about what the future holds.
The industry could not have gotten a better endorsement. I don't want to be flippant about it, but I think it's true. We could not have gotten a better public health announcement, commercial or example of the importance of investing in your wellbeing, in your wellness, than we have during this pandemic. And, we're expecting people, both for their emotional and psychological wellbeing, but also, importantly, for their physical wellbeing to be more active coming out of this. We're excited to be able to serve them. Once we have this pandemic behind us, knock on wood, we'll be looking for markets around the country to really bring what we think is a very unique experience to active people across the country.
C.I. - Fantastic. We will look forward to reporting on that! When that future time comes, how are you guys planning to manage facilities at a distance? Will you split up your duties and each be on respective sites, rely on managers, etc.?
KA - We approach leadership as collaboratively as we possibly can while also creating universes of responsibility that allow the two of us to go deep in certain areas. We really approach these things tied at the hip. We talk regularly. We plan together thoroughly. We make the most important decisions together. The benefit of having the two of us is that you can take all the details and all the nuances of this vision and have it fully reside in two different people. And, you can get 99% similar outcomes with either of us approaching a question. That's a real advantage for our business.
CD - We have also built a really great team. Because we knew we wanted to build a large business, we made early investments into an executive team that would allow us to grow and scale our business very, very quickly. Part of that was hiring for some roles that we would not have if we were only going to have one location in Springfield, Virginia. Because we are planning to grow and will need to manage multiple locations across the country, we made those investments. We have a very deep and sophisticated bench, including our COO, Jeff Riney, who's actually from the Chicago region. Because of the quality of our team and our confidence in the execution plan, we feel really good about our ability to operate Springfield, Chicago and beyond.
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My sincere Thanks and Appreciation to Craig Dixon and Kendrick Ashton for their time interviewing for and reviewing this cover story. Thank you also to Annie Johnson for her assistance through our cover story process.