In 2002 when Annbeth Eschbach started exhale, it was an unconventional brand as one of the first boutique studios to combine mind-body, spa and fitness classes in a compact and upscale space. Today, Eschbach's once unique vision has become more common as boutique studios make up a growing part of the health club space. Just one year after the founding of exhale, the management team displayed its flexibility in a 2003 photo shoot for Spa magazine. The team at that time included (left to right): Julia Sutton, Shiva Rea, Eschbach (in air), Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito (both in background) and Stef Gellman.
Eschbach's life started in Seattle as the middle child of three. Her love of physical fitness and movement may have started at a young age as she practiced as a ballerina with her older sister Cheryl (right).
Eschbach (pictured center) grew up in the Pacific Northwest and remained active with her family, including her sister Cheryl (left) and brother Joe (right). She was a cheerleader in high school, and in 1975, she won first place in a national oratory contest.
As a teenager, Eschbach eschewed the typical babysitting jobs that many other girls her age took on to make money. Instead, she got a ventriloquist named Oscar and performed at children's birthday parties.
Eschbach's father, Dr. Joseph Eschbach, influenced Eschbach's desire to help others. He created a synthetic hormone, Epogen, to help kidney disease sufferers regain energy that had dwindled due to anemia, a side effect of kidney disease.
While working for Wellbridge, Eschbach was tasked with creating a new space within The Peninsula Hotel in New York City to create a "top-of-the-market" concept offering an exclusive club with both spa and fitness in 5,000 square feet. Here, she poses on the Peninsula Spa roof deck.
Eschbach enjoys skiing as well as windsurfing with her husband of 29 years, Patrick Parcells.
Eschbach took up hockey in her 40s after falling in love with the game while watching her son's team play. She played with an all-men's group on Saturday and Sunday mornings until an injury sidelined her.
Eschbach met Julia Sutton (right) when they both worked at Wellbridge (at that time called Club Sports International). Sutton said she didn't hesitate when Eschbach asked her to help start exhale even though at the time Sutton was pregnant and employed by Wellbridge. Sutton is COO of exhale.
Eschbach's father and her son Ryan Parcells check out exhale's first headquarters office on East 59th Street in Manhattan in 2002.
Eschbach has presented details about the exhale brand to many groups, including this group at a National Press Club event.
Eschbach not only founded exhale, but she enjoys taking classes at her studios as well as meditating.
Eschbach (far right) teamed with three others to help her start exhale: (left to right) Sutton, Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito.
The philosophy of the brand is reflected in this saying on a window at the headquarters: "The deeper the inner journey, the greater the outer results."
Eschbach attended the opening of exhale's Flatiron location in New York with her son Ryan, who is a freshman this year in college.
Eschbach has built her brand to 29 locations, including two outside the United States.
The Eschbach family remains close despite the loss of the patriarch, Dr. Joseph Eschbach nine years ago. A recent photo of the family includes bottom row from left to right: Joe Eschbach (brother), DeAnne Eschbach (sister-in-law), Adam Eschbach (nephew), MaryAnn Eschbach (mother), Ryan Parcells (son), Annbeth Eschbach, Patrick Parcells (husband). Top row from left to right: Katie Ratliff (Matthew's fiance), Matthew Eschbach (nephew), John Duffield (brother-in-law), Stuart Duffield (nephew), Cheryl Eschbach (sister) and Elizabeth Duffield (niece).
Annbeth Eschbach will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Club Industry at 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 13 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago as part of the Club Industry Show. To view the profile of Eschbach, click here.
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