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Inside MUD\WTR's Innovative Space for Healthy Habits and Community Connection

MUD\WTR's :gather, our inaugural café in Santa Monica, California, marks a significant chapter in our story. For over five years, we've dreamt of a space where our mission to foster healthy minds through healthy habits could be actualized. Now, this dream has become a reality. But :gather is more than just a café; it's a hub for community and connection, vital for enhancing our mental health and well-being.



Stepping Into a New Type of Gathering Space

As a remote employee of the MUD\WTR team, my interactions were predominantly online. Visiting :gather was a refreshing change, offering the tangible warmth of in-person connections – from friendly fist bumps to shared laughter.

MUD\WTR started as a direct-to-consumer digital brand, but our vision always encompassed more. We aspired to build a real-life community, bringing our digital efforts into the physical realm. "E-commerce is a great thing, but the depth of the connections that can be formed is limited by screens, comment threads and inboxes,” says MUD\WTR Founder and CEO Shane Heath. “We have always done our best to be as human as possible, but I’ve known since we started in 2018 that to truly connect to our community, we’d have to translate everything we were doing digitally into the physical. MUD\WTR :gather is an open invitation to be present and curious about healthy habits together, in person.”



Upon entering :gather, I was struck by its soothing and grounding energy. The café's design, with its tall ceilings, Baltic birch shelves, and vibrant green plants, creates a serene and inviting atmosphere. “We created MUD\WTR :gather as a manifestation of our mission to create healthy minds through healthy habits, and community and connection are critical to creating a healthy mind,” says Bill Quinn, MUD\WTR :gather’s general manager. “Meditation, breathwork, mindful movement—these are all habits we believe enhance our well-being, so we’re not just here to sell MUD\WTR lattes. We’re here to host these types of events and bring people together around topics we care deeply about, like psychedelic research, health and wellness.”




Cultivating Connection Through a Versatile Space

To truly embody our brand’s purpose, every detail in :gather was meticulously planned. The café's design, from the lighting to the bar top finishes, was crafted to create a welcoming and expressive environment. “I’m a feeler, so I follow my gut,” Quinn says. “When I first got into the space, I tried to envision people flowing through the space, and then I distilled that into a framework that I used to make that vision a reality. And I called in a lot of help from a lot of people.”

Sustainability is also a key focus. We chose biodegradable cups and cork furnishings for their environmental friendliness and aesthetic appeal. “It’s just the right thing to do. It’s benefiting the planet and leaving a smaller footprint,” Quinn adds. “We have so many resources and so much knowledge of what is sustainable and I’m not saying we’re perfect but it’s easier on my conscience knowing I chose these materials.”




A Unique Café Experience

:gather is more than a café; it's a community space hosting classes, events, and workspaces. The lounge area and event space, featuring a large stage and a striking chandelier, cater to various social preferences. “People gather in different ways. Some people want to be able to do their own thing while also being around people. Other people want to be able to sit in a circle and engage in conversations,” says Quinn. “Some of the tables are intentionally small so it just fits a laptop if you want to be by yourself. But there’s also a big coffee pit type of vibe with a bunch of chairs in a circle around a coffee table, if you want to gather in a group.”

The café also houses a podcast studio and meditation room, further emphasizing its multifaceted nature. “We chose this location because Main Street in Santa Monica has had a great revitalization in the past couple of years. A lot of new businesses have come in and have formed a nice community. It’s also nice that it’s just a few blocks from the beach,” Quinn says with a chuckle.



As music fills the space, and the scent of copal incense lingers, :gather stands out as a unique café experience. “This isn’t a churn and burn space, like some of the other cafes you may have been to, where you’re shuffled in and out very quickly,” Quinn says. “We want it to be welcoming. This space provides a container for some of our favourite healthy habits, and our goal is to bring them to our community and to create connection.”

In the future, :gather will expand its offerings, including comedy nights and film premieres. “We’re going to continue to create a unique space that serves the community and blows people away in such a thoughtful and kind way, and that means a major focus on ramping up events,” says Quinn.

MUD\WTR's :gather is more than just a café; it's a testament to our commitment to fostering healthy habits and community connections.

Rae Repanshek is MUD\WTR's talented copy-writer.

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