David (Literally) Battles Goliath

David Conneely owns iFloat. For the past year and a half, the “float therapy” center above Oscar’s has relieved stress, rejuvenated bodies, and earned thousands of grateful followers.

But now David is stressed out. Construction at Madewell — a new women’s store downstairs — has brought noise and disruption. It’s the antithesis of the iFloat experience — and it may drive iFloat out.

On Friday, David sent this email to 2,000 loyal customers:

(Since we opened), we have seen thousands of people eliminate stress, pain, and find solutions to great challenges in their life through floating. We are honored to be partnering with all of you on the path of helping people slow down and enhance their lives and the community.

Floating in Westport.

Floating in Westport.

Unfortunately, we have a new neighbor downstairs. Coach left and Madewell (a J. Crew store) moved in. iFloat had to be closed for countless hours during 10 weeks of construction in May, June, and July. We’ve also had to battle with construction people as they came in during hours they were not supposed to be there. It has been disruptive to the iFloat community. There have been times when people call saying, “Please, I need to get in.” The cost to our community has been staggering.

Madewell opened 2 weeks ago. No one told us they were going to be removing the sheet rock ceiling that separated iFloat from the store below. It is now gone and the sound is coming up into the float chambers….

Andrew Shinn and David  Conneely, owners of iFloat.

Andrew Shinn and David Conneely, owners of iFloat.

…Given the changes taking place in our building, I do not see how this location can be conducive to peaceful floating.

We are more than just a place where people float. We care about this community. During Hurricane Sandy, we opened our home to our clients. We opened iFloat as a place to hang out and take showers. During the Newtown incident, we gave complimentary floats to people affected by the incident. People used our services. We saw the impact iFloat has had on people. We do events and give back to non-profit organizations through financial donations, float donations, and through our time.

We believe in an iFloat that is peaceful and tranquil. We believe in an iFloat where people slow down, look within, and find solutions to the challenges in their lives. We believe in an iFloat that makes a difference in the local community and beyond.

iFloat logoWe at iFloat are not sure how best to proceed, but we are open to lots of suggestions at this point…. iFloat needs your help.

I asked David — a calm, quiet and reasonable man — for some more details. He said that when Coach was underneath iFloat, there was occasional noise — but it was never an issue.

He says that neither his landlord nor J. Crew thought about how the new store would affect the business above it. David Abelow — a Westport resident, iFloat member and architect who builds music production studios in New York — did some adjustments to Madewell’s sound system, taking out the bass.  

That worked — a bit. But iFloat members kept hearing music, people talking, and phones ringing. David closed off 2 of his chambers, and used the 2 that were least noisy.

A glass brain sits in the iFloat conference room -- a soothing place, once upon a time.

A glass brain sits in the iFloat conference room — a soothing place, once upon a time.

Another iFloat customer reached out to an executive he knew at J. Crew. The response from the construction division was (paraphrased) “we know all about iFloat; we tried to help; they’re just not satisfied.” Further communications have given David the impression that this is not a high priority for J. Crew.

Meanwhile, David is exploring solutions, such as raising his floor and putting insulation underneath. That’s costly, though. 

Bottom line: David says he’s a small business, and can’t wait for corporate tape to unravel. He closed for a while, to allow Madewell to do construction. He feels that his own good neighborliness is not being reciprocated.

Interestingly, there’s a page on Madewell’s website that talks about their “green committee.” The company wants to have a minimum impact on surrounding environments.

Westport might be a good place to start.

9 responses to “David (Literally) Battles Goliath

  1. This is what happens when an unsophisticated landlord neglects to properly review the proposed design of a new tenants planned renovation and the design impact it may have on the balance of his tenants. Ifloat is a very special and unique tenant with specific requirements. Madewell’s design has no ceiling to buffer the transmission of sound. Noise travels far more efficiently through water than air. I float’s business is all about floating in a tank of highly salinated water in a absolutely quiet environment which promotes total relaxation and stress reduction. My wife and I float often and Both of us have greatly benefited from the therapeutic aspects associated with floating…the goal of that being stress reduction and relaxation. It really works! Unfortunately though, no one properly review the proposed drawings and realized that Madewell’s design had no ceiling to buffer the noise transmission of their sound system. The previous tenant Coach did not play music.
    Ifloat is just more than a business. It is a place that is dedicated to improving people’s ability to relax, slowdown and promotes stress reduction. David, the owner, is an intelligent, caring and an engaged member of the community who as, Dan has stated above, goes above and beyond to help those in need. I am also fortunate to have David as a fellow neighbor. David reached out to help those who needed help during Sandy and Newtown as well as playing an active role in the Chamber of Commerce. David’s landlord, the owner of Oscar’s, and Madewell (J. Crew) need to step to the plate and do the right thing. For J. Crew…putting in a ceiling with an acoustical barrier is a drop in the bucket for them dollarwise…maybe 1 or 2 good sales days. IFloat is a small business under seige and losing clientele and income daily as a result of poor planning and coordination on both the landlords part and Madewell. David is vested in our community and has helped so many…so now it is time to help him!

    • Thanks, Jamie, for your support. Your message accurately describes the situation. I’m very hopeful J. Crew/Madewell and our landlord will find a resolution to this.

  2. This is a great opportunity for Madewell to live up to its core value of supporting the community. Lets hope they seize the opportunity to achieve harmony in the community so that two great businesses can thrive.

    • I agree, Ken. I’m really excited to have Dan write a blog about a big corporate store and a small business finding harmony together. It would be a win-win situation for all.

  3. Doesn’t the Sheetrock act as a (required) fire barrier between floors?
    I’m sure a lot of folks would love to have this tenant… I read this and–
    Now I Want to Float!!! : )
    Best of luck!

    Betsy pkahn

    • That’s a good question, Betsy. I will investigate that further. Someone told me last night it would have been easy for them to maintain the sheet rock barrier and still have the “industrial look” they seek for their store. However, no one approached us about their plans. Come float. 🙂 You can call us at 203-226-7378 or learn more at http://www.ifloatspa.net. Thanks!

  4. John Worthington

    It would seem that someone at Madewell/J. Crew is trying to impress their bosses in lieu of doing business in Westport. One would have to think that somewhere in the Madewell/J. Crew corporate ladder there would exist someone with enough business acumen to understand that ignoring a community problem is not only really bad form but is also really, really bad business. iFloat represents a community wide and growing awareness. Madewell/J. Crew are the new kids on the block. It can only make sense for them to quickly resolve this issue before they get even more bad press.

    • Thanks, John. I agree. The good news is I emailed the Madewell/J. Crew CEO, Mickey Drexler, yesterday, at the suggestion of some people in the iFloat community. He responded within the hour, even though he is away until Aug. 28. He is working with his staff to resolve the situation. I was really surprised he responded, and that he responded so quickly. I’m impressed and hopeful that this situation will be resolved.

  5. Stephanie Bass

    Dan:
    1. Is it legal to walk in front of a store w/ a sign stating why you are p@#$$%^ed at their practices? Have always wanted to do this to lousy contractors, etc., but never followed thru. But David and Andrew are lovely people, the service they provide is unique and a welcome addition to our town — ie, not another bank/plate store/RE broker.

    2. Can IFLOAT sue for loss of business? Small claim’s court? Other? The landlord or JCrew? Is there a lawyer among your followers who would take it on on a contingency basis? weeks of lost revenue x $loss per week? Refund on rent when premises not functioning due to other tenant? Any town agencies to help ifloat?