Leslie Cargill and the “Wellness Way” in Kennebunk

When Leslie Cargill opened Way to Be Wellness and Yoga Collaborative on June 1 in Kennebunk Lower Village, it brought her lengthy career in communications and marketing full circle. It was a path that began in Boston and over the past 30 years has taken root in Maine. Working with clients in professional sports, recreation, tourism and hospitality, health and human services, the arts, small business, and non-profits, Leslie often asks the question “what is wellness to you?” The answers are never the same. Leslie envisioned a venture that would build “community around wellness,” which would call upon her personal commitment to fitness and her years of business experience. 

Now when Leslie makes the five-mile commute to her Way to Be studio, she sees much more than a group of like-minded “wellness businesses” in this seaside resort town. She sees “Wellness Way,” a name she coined for the name for the stretch of road extending from downtown Kennebunk to Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. “I see cycling and surfing and massage and good food, wine, and coffee – all elements of wellness, depending on who you ask. It’s a perfect place to begin building community around wellness.”

Leslie, 65, who lives in Cape Porpoise, wanted to open her new studio in March, but COVID-19 had other plans. She delayed opening, and instead of holding classes with 12 to 18 students and mats, she decided to go with much smaller groups and a different plan. As many experienced, “the pandemic threw two years of planning out the window,” she said. Once the studio could open in June, the small classes were welcoming.

When the barn located behind her 1,400-square foot main studio and open deck became available for use in July, Leslie seized the opportunity. The large, open-air space was perfect to make people feel safer by affording them even more space between their mats. Way to Be classes can consist of just a few people or as many as 12 people. The “yoga barn” has become a sanctuary for community building, yoga classes, and all that yoga brings—fitness for mind and body, including relief from stress and anxiety that is part of the new normal of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has made many people look inward and seek ways to improve their health and well-being. Leslie believes that now, when mental and physical health have never been more important, yoga can be a refuge, a workout, and a place for practicing wellness—and that her studio opened at the right time to help people meet this need. For those who cannot come to the studio in person, Way to Be instructors will go to them and teach classes at their home, workplace, or preferred location as part of the “Way to Go” offerings of her business model.

Leslie sees her life in Cape Porpoise and the launch of a wellness collaborative as the culmination of everything she has experienced throughout her life.  She grew up in Boxford, Massachusetts, and has been coming to Kennebunkport since she was three years old. The reason her family started coming here in the 1950s is also linked to great sadness. Leslie explained that her father was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 39 and his doctors told him he had just six months to live. They advised him to find a beautiful place where he could spend the summer with his family and enjoy his remaining time. Leslie said her mom found Goose Rocks Beach. Six months later, her father passed away, but her family returned to Goose Rocks Beach every year.

Leslie carved out an impressive career after she graduated from college. She worked in the hospitality industry for the Sheraton Corporation and in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming with RockResorts. Her interest in marketing led her to become the director of group sales and marketing for the Boston Red Sox in the 1980s, a time when sports marketing was in its early stages.

She started her own company, Cargill Marketing and Communications, working with clients in the greater Boston area including United Way and Boston Ballet. She worked also with clients in the fields of education and healthcare, and on sporting events in golf, tennis, and running. 

She and her husband Bill Quigley raised their two daughters, Kelsey and Annie, and purchased a home in Cape Porpoise 26 years ago. Leslie has always been a proponent of personal fitness. “I have always had this interest in health and wellness personally and professionally,” Leslie said. “I was a runner who thought you needed to sweat to get a good workout.”

She first discovered yoga 12 years ago and found it to be a refuge from her desk job where she was working long hours. She acknowledges her good fortune in beginning yoga with an outstanding instructor in a beautiful studio space, “both of which made the difference in transforming my life.” She said she felt better all-around after she started practicing yoga. She was sleeping better, had less stress, and achieved balance. After a few years of practice, Leslie travelled to Portugal to train and become certified to teach vinyasa yoga, working for a month with 12 women from around the world. “We ate, slept, and lived yoga. It was like a boot camp, one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

Once she became a certified yoga instructor ready to share her knowledge with others, she started her “yoga to go” concept, teaching in people’s homes, on their boat docks, and at Kennebunkport resorts. “I teach to pure beginners and advanced yogis.  I particularly love introducing yoga’s benefits to people who have never practiced before.”

Leslie believes yoga should be accessible and affordable, as well as in one’s comfort zone, which is how the tagline “Find your way” came about. “Way” is an acronym for wellness and yoga, she explains. “Way to Be continues to roll out new offerings as we listen to our community and clients and try to respond with classes and programs to meet their needs.” 

Now Leslie doesn’t just want to have a successful yoga business. She also wants to take health and wellness in Kennebunk’s Lower Village to another level by promoting the “Wellness Way” concept. Some of the other wellness-related businesses include Aquaholics surf shop, Village Yoga, Maine Revolution cycling, and Surfside Pilates, right downstairs from Leslie’s Yoga studio. She also believes that other businesses like Coffee Roasters, Old Vines that provide a great glass of wine, and Mornings in Paris all provide different components of wellness. These businesses and the beach are located on a three-mile stretch that is very walkable. 

She believes the “Wellness Way” concept is something that Maine could develop statewide to give people one more reason to come to Maine. “Many people come to Maine to retire. We’re now seeing more and more young people coming here—all for the quality of life that our beautiful state affords each of us, all ages and stages of life.”

“Inactivity is the kiss of death. Age is truly a number and is irrelevant. It’s how you live your life,” Leslie observed, adding that she feels better than she ever has felt. She attributes that to yoga. “It affects the mind, the body, and the soul.”

The barn is scheduled for renovations in September and early October. Meanwhile, classes continue on the beautiful outdoor deck and fresh open-air studio. When the barn reopens later this fall, there will be a barn-raising celebration of sorts. “I can’t wait to be here in the wintertime with the snow falling and the candles lit.”

Meanwhile, the marketing plan for this wellness collaborative is thrown out the window. “I just want people to know our doors are open to everyone. We are building something special, something needed, and we’re doing that by listening to Mainers, especially now, as we navigate these times together.”

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