The partners operating Haven on the Lake are fighting in court

The Columbia Association (CA) and Still Point Spas partnered to establish Haven on the Lake, a wellness spa in downtown Columbia, in 2014. Now they are battling each other in court and it doesn’t seem a fair fight. Still Point is accusing CA of “pursuing unrelenting legal actions; CA’s strategy seems to be to ‘bully’ the Still Point into leaving, dragging out the legal process so the costs become too great for a small women-owned business to continue.”

The founders of Still Point, Tori Paide and Marla Peoples, are acupuncturists I know from when I worked at Tai Sophia Institute (now MUIH). They are heart-centered people with the utmost integrity. They are also award-winning entrepreneurs and CA wisely partnered with them for their expertise in creating a healing environment and profitable business model.

Tori Paide, left, and Marla Peoples, founders of The Still Point spa at Haven on the Lake in Columbia, one of two locations

Tori and Marla shared their legal struggle with me, and while it’s their side of the story only, many of the elements are indisputable and the overall documentation seems to me compelling. I am sharing their story so that perhaps the court of public opinion might provide some support in their battle against Goliath.

The Still Point Wellness Spas Mission

The Still Point enhances wellness in our communities by providing access to the best integrative mind & body services while enabling wellness practitioners to thrive in a healthy and supportive environment.

Our highly trained practitioners are among the best in the industry and have a genuine passion for their gift of healing. We continuously strive to offer the latest in holistic skincare, massage and complementary medicine. We’re committed to offering personalized services and upholding the highest standards of customer service.

Our expertly-trained practitioners perform their services in beautiful and inviting environments. We seek to maintain an eco-friendly ethos in all aspects of the business, including Toma, a Still Point exclusive brand of personal care products free from animal cruelty, petrochemicals, phthalates, and parabens.

We’ve been voted “Best in DC” by the Washington City Paper year after year. The Still Point nurtures and inspires wellness – changing people’s lives and building healthy communities. We look forward to seeing you at The Still Point!

https://thestillpointspa.com/

Summary of the Still Point at Haven situation

by Tori Paide and Marla Peoples

CA selected The Still Point to implement the spa at Haven on the Lake and CA insisted the relationship be structured as a partnership – with each party supplying 50% of the investment/work and, in return, each party would split the profit 50/50 (or share the losses 50/50).

Haven on the Lake website, January 3, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20150103051139/http://havenonthelake.org:80/index.html

In fact, per the President’s Report to Columbia Association Board of Directors on November 13, 2014, at President Milton Matthews’ request, Vice-President Goldman gave a Haven on the Lake update regarding membership numbers, opening dates, and the grand opening event. https://hocomdcc.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/ca-board-of-directors-_2014-11-13-1-2.pdf

In response to questions, Mr. Goldman said revenue for the facility will come from memberships, class programs, and the wellness spa.

“CA and Stillpoint will share equally in the profits and losses of the wellness spa, and CA expects Haven on the Lake to break even financially during the third or fourth year of operation.”

For the first 2+ years this relationship generally worked as agreed, as reflected in invoices and payments between the parties based on 50% of profits as reported by The Still Point. This was despite dysfunction with CA’s own Haven Management team (having gone through 2 managers and not supporting the spa as agreed), often requiring Still Point management to step in and support some functions of the other parts of the Haven facility.

The spa did unexpectedly well in year one (roughly $70,000 profit). The projection for the first year had been a negative $50,000, so CA gave The Still Point $25,000 – 50% of the anticipated loss – then took it back after profits were made. The Still Point regularly paid 50% of monthly profits and had one month in the red where CA paid them 50% of the loss; there are emails, invoices, and checks reflecting the agreed upon partnership split.

On December 10, 2015, having completed one year of operations, Dan Burns, Director of Sport and Health, reported to the CA Board of Directors that they expected the wellness spa to lose money during its first year of operations, but instead received $37,000 from its operations to date. http://podcast.columbiaassociation.org/e/columbia-association-board-of-directors-meeting-december-10-2015/

Approaching Year 3, CA abruptly shifted their stance from that of a 50/50 partnership and emphatically approached The Still Point with a take-it-or-leave-it landlord-tenant agreement. Surprised by this, the Still Point engaged legal counsel and tried to negotiate a solution in good faith.

For the past 2 years, the two parties have argued in court about the nature of their business relationship, with The Still Point arguing the existence of a legal partnership and CA’s wrongful termination of their partnership, and CA asserting the existence of a landlord-tenant relationship. CA has since engaged its own case to evict the Still Point. CA has also incrementally made managing the spa more difficult taking actions such as:

  • Cutting the spa off from doing laundry in the facility,
  • Cutting access to spa clients to the Healing Environments for spa guests which resulted in the spa lowering prices,
  • Refusing access to KidSpace if spa guests didn’t pay a day pass plus KidSpace fee,
  • Cutting off spa membership with no notice as well as Haven gift cards to be used at the spa (both have which have balances due to the spa).

CA and their counsel have consistently sought to conceal evidence of CA’s internal records reflecting CA’s adherence to the real agreement between the parties and explicitly refused to respond to discovery requests related to their partnership, without any justification. At the deposition of Rob Goldman, who is a former CA officer and has direct knowledge of the real agreement between the parties, CA’s counsel repeatedly instructed Mr. Goldman not to answer questions related to the partnership or the formation of the so-called “lease” without any justification, and Mr. Goldman refused to answer these questions.

Governor’s Citation to Tori Paide and Marla Peoples, “in recognition of your outstanding record of quality service and commitment to excellence,” June 15, 2016

Before the lawsuit, and in an effort to bring about an amicable resolution to its dispute with CA, The Still Point attempted to find a location in downtown Columbia out of which to operate a spa, and had gotten as far as a letter of intent with the putative landlord. Shortly after, the landlord came to The Still Point and informed them that due to its relationship with CA, The Still Point could not rent any of their downtown retail spaces.

At various points, The Still Point has attempted to negotiate an amicable solution to the standoff, with no positive response from CA. This is more than CA adopting a strategy to vigorously assert its legal position. There are emails, invoices, cleared checks, public statements, meeting minutes and more that document the CA and The Still Point partnership. The Still Point honored the partnership in good faith even after the legal standoff began. CA’s strategy seems to be to ‘bully’ The Still Point into leaving, dragging out the legal process so the costs become too great for a small women-owned business to continue.

Affidavit of Tori Paide with exhibits, April 6, 2017

Second Motion of Reconsideration, April 30, 2018

The women behind The Still Point spas are primed to conquer the wellness market [Excerpts]

by Janene Holzberg (Howard Magazine), January 6, 2016

Five years ago, Marla Peoples made a casual remark to her husband, Dan, that turned out to be a life-changing declaration.

It was an ambitious plan to open a wellness spa with fellow acupuncturist Tori Paide that tumbled out as an “oh, by the way” remark — one that would culminate in the opening of two locations of The Still Point and the launch of a skin care line.

Tori Paide & Marla Peoples were given the Entrepreneurial Success Award by the Small Business Administration – Maryland, June 15, 2016. They are pictured at the award ceremony with Columbia Association management representatives Dan Burns, Director of Sport and Fitness; Dennis Mattey, Director of Open Space & Facility Services; and Milton Matthews, President.

Paide, who is 43 and lives in Ellicott City, boils it down this way: “Our common denominator isn’t acupuncture or making jewelry,” which they sold together for a while. “It’s having the guts to take entrepreneurial risks. A lot of people have creative ideas, but that fearless step has to happen in order for an idea to become a reality.”

“We both gravitate toward people who think big and out-of-the-box,” says Peoples, a 46-year-old Elkridge resident, of the partners’ affinity for boldness in personal and business relationships.

The Still Point currently employs 75 practitioners who work as massage therapists, acupuncturists, nutrition coaches and Reiki masters.

Rob Goldman, the now-retired Columbia Association vice president who was in charge of opening Haven on the Lake, chose the co-owners to provide spa and integrative health services in the luxury waterfront wellness retreat.

“Tori and Marla stood out because they are not only creative and innovative experts in their fields, but solid business professionals,” Goldman says. “I was impressed by their energy and enthusiasm.”

Aside from the spas, . . . . Toma, their line of natural skin care and wellness products, has become one of their most promising business ventures.

Tori Paide and Marla Peoples launched their own line of all-natural skin care and wellness products, called Toma, in 2013

Since the partners view Toma as a freestanding line, not just a Still Point spa product, it’s also sold at the Columbia Whole Foods, Cloud 9 Salon in Clarksville and Potomac Massage Training Institute in Silver Spring. They also hope to add more products this year and to place the line in competitors’ spas.

In preparation for such an expansion, they are searching for new corporate offices and warehouse space in a mixed-use facility after outgrowing their Sterrett Place location in Columbia in two years.

“Being two women business owners isn’t easy,” Peoples says. “The Howard County Economic Development Authority not only gave us a loan, they have been very supportive.”

Larry Twele, CEO of the development authority, says he’s glad the partners decided to become part of the redevelopment of downtown Columbia:

“Their passion and drive are a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in Howard County.”

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/howard-magazine/ph-mg-ho-the-still-point-spas-tori-paide-marla-peoples-20160106-story.html

Resident Speakout, Columbia Association Board of Directors, April 26, 2018

Ingrid Pyne, a former Still Point at Haven on the Lake employee , shared her concerns at this Resident Speakout. (Click on image for Columbia Association video, then choose Item 5; Pyne is the first speaker)

Statement by the Columbia Association

“The original lawsuit was initiated by The Still Point, and its allegations were already heard and dismissed by a Howard County judge last year as having no merit,” said David Greisman, a Columbia Association spokesman. “The Still Point has chosen to continue the litigation, repeatedly appealing decisions that were in favor of Columbia Association. CA believes that The Still Point’s current appeal will similarly be denied. Columbia Association will not comment further at this time due to the pending appeal.”

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John Swinglish, a member of the Camden 28, has died

John Swinglish was a great man. I met him in 1973 when we were both involved with the Catholic Peace Fellowship near Catholic University in DC. During this time, he put his life on the line to oppose the Vietnam War. 

I lost track of him about 10 years ago until I learned he died suddenly in early April. His friends will miss him for the quality of his friendship, his easy rapport, and unmistakable laugh. The world is a better place for his witness. It is a story that must not be forgotten.

Obituary

[Posted 5/12/17; Updated 8/26/17, 9/19/17]

John Swinglish was found dead at his home in Odenton, MD from “hypertensive cardiovascular disease” on April 12, 2017.  He was 73.  John was born March 25, 1944. He was adopted by Aloysius and Jean Swinglish and grew up in Lakewood, OH near Cleveland where he attended St. Edward High School. In the early 1960s he enlisted in the Navy and served with Attack Squadron VA-42 at the Naval Air Station in Oceana, Virginia Beach, VA.

Following his military service, John came to Washington DC to work for a defense contractor doing research on nuclear guided-missile destroyers. But he became more and more disillusioned with the country’s war effort and became active with the Catholic Peace Fellowship at DC’s Emmaus House around 1968, attempting to influence the Catholic Church to re-establish its priorities.

In 1971, John was indicted, along with 27 other antiwar activists, for conspiracy to break into a Selective Service office in Camden, NJ and destruction of government property.  The group came to be known as the Camden 28. Following a landmark trial that lasted 63 days, the 28 were found not guilty on all charges. The acquittals represented the first legal victory for the antiwar movement in five years of such draft board actions and prosecutions. The jury’s verdict moved Supreme Court Justice William Brennan to call the proceeding “one of the great trials of the 20th century.”

Following the trial, John returned to DC and transformed Emmaus House into a neighborhood social service center which he directed until 1982. On September 11, 1976, John married Mimi Darragh of McDonald, Pennsylvania. They divorced about seven years later and there were no children.

John later worked for the American Red Cross, providing emergency and disaster services, and founded his own photography business specializing in weddings and family events. He said, “I’ve finally figured out a way to get people to pay me to go to wild parties every week. It’s really not a bad life.” John was a featured narrator in the film, The Camden 28, which was released in 2007. He promoted the film widely and was proud of his contribution. He also contributed to the documentary Hit and Stay, released in 2014, about the efforts of the Catholic Left.

John was active in the Center of Light Church in Bowie and assisted with the youth groups there. He was a life-long reader and frequent writer and enjoyed road trips and Bowie Baysox games. After retiring, he devoted his life to befriending dogs of all kind as a dog sitter. John had a stroke in 2010 and was challenged by various ailments through the remaining years of his life.

John was predeceased by his parents and a sister, Jan Weiskittel of Columbia Station, Ohio. He is survived by Jan’s children Laura McDermott, Larry Weiskittel, Bob Weiskittel, Kati Emrick, and Joe Weiskittel, all of Ohio; Sharyn Carrasco of Texas; and Patti Leonard of Illinois.  John is also survived by his goddaughter, Carrie Noel-Nosbaum of Silver Spring, MD.  A memorial service was held on August 26, 2017 at the home of Ray and Ruth Noel-Nosbaum, Silver Spring, MD.

by Harry Schwarz, gleaned from a number of sources

The Shrine 6, arrested for nonviolent resistance

On Monday night, November 10, 1969 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the U.S. bishops [attending a meeting in Washington DC of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops] were attending a Mass in honor of the military. Billed as a “Peace Mass,” it featured military men carrying guns and swords around the Shrine as if it were one of their armories.

Outside, members of the Center for Christian Renewal and the Catholic Peace Fellowship were distributing leaflets and displaying large photographs depicting Viet Nam war atrocities. The leaflets protested “the prelates of the church which claims to have been founded by Jesus Christ walking hand in hand with the ‘Masters of War’ through the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.” The Christian Peace Message being distributed further protested the contemporary U.S. bishops acting as “the voice of Christ today,” yet choosing to “lie low, safely refraining from any strong statement condemning the hate, killing, and total dehumanization of our war-programmed society.”

The peace messengers had been displaying the photographs and distributing the leaflets for about· a half an hour when they were told by a Shrine usher that he was authorized by the administrator of the Shrine to halt any demonstrating or leafleting on Shrine property. A police officer then read the D.C. Code stating that they were subject to arrest if they did not stop at the usher’s request. “Our argument was that we, as Catholics, have a right to speak out on moral issues on Catholic Church property,” stated John Swinglish; “however, at his request, we did cease distributing literature, and we removed the photographs.”

Approximately fifteen minutes later, Joseph Coleman and John Swinglish, of the Catholic Peace Fellowship were arrested while standing in front of the shrine talking to two other members. The Shrine usher and police officer approached them and told them to leave since they were in possession of the peace literature. They refused to leave, stating that they “are Catholics and have a right to be on church property.” The usher stated that he had the right to tell anyone whom he did not want on Shrine property to leave. The officer read the D.C. Code and asked Coleman and Swinglish if they were going to leave. When they refused, they were arrested.

from The Catholic Peace Fellowship Bulletin, June 1970

The Camden 28

From a pamphlet that the defendants published about themselves

“We are twenty-eight men and women who, together with other resisters across the country, are trying with our lives to say no to the madness we see perpetrated by our government in the name of the American people the madness of our Vietnam policy, of the arms race, of our neglected cities and inhuman prisons. We do not believe that it is criminal to destroy pieces of paper which are used to bind men to involuntary servitude, which train these men to kill, and which send them to possibility die in an unjust, immoral, and illegal war. We stand for life and freedom and the building of communities of true friendship. We will continue to speak out and act for peace and justice, knowing that our spirit of resistance cannot be jailed or broken.”

www.camden28.org (via wayback machine)

The Camden 28 (documentary film – 2007)

Written, directed, and produced by Anthony Giacchino

The Camden 28 recalls a 1971 raid on a Camden, N.J., draft board office by “Catholic Left” activists protesting the Vietnam War and its effects on urban America. Arrested on site in a clearly planned sting, The Camden 28 reveals the story behind the arrests — a provocative tale of government intrigue and personal betrayal — and the ensuing legal battle, which Supreme Court Justice William Brennan called “one of the great trials of the 20th century.” Thirty-five years later, the participants take stock of the motives, fears, and costs of their activism — and its relevance to America today.

http://www.pbs.org/pov/camden28/

Interview with The Camden 28 director Anthony Giacchino and defendant John Swinglish.

Movie Geeks United Podcast, April 22, 2007.  Podcast is 18 minutes long; The interview with John begins at 7:50.

Please add your own comments below if you knew John or are moved by his story.