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‘I love retail,’ WeWork exec Julie Rice tells RECon

May 21, 2019

Though WeWork partner and SoulCycle cofounder Julie Rice has a non-retail background, she had plenty to say about retail during a keynote address at this week’s RECon conference.

Retail centers proved to be ideal locations for SoulCycle studios, and continue to be, with retail landlords’ growing appetite for health and wellness tenants. And while Rice sold her shares in SoulCycle in 2016, she finds herself once again moving into the retail orbit with the continued growth and evolution of the shared-workspace company WeWork.

WeWork is looking to lease ground-floor space to retailers and food-and-beverage tenants, having realized their utility to clients renting its office space, Rice said. WeWork is even setting up stores to sell its own branded merchandise and food.

“I was very excited to be here today because I love retail,” Rice said, in a discussion with John R. Morrison, CRX, CDP, a veteran retail real estate executive and ICSC’s newly named 2019-2020 vice chairman. “I’m really interested in the future of retail. I think we are entering a very exciting time.”

Just as retail landlords have sought to make their centers community gathering places, Rice too has made community a central pillar of her businesses. 

“We are living in a time of digital isolation,” she said, describing “an epidemic of loneliness” in the world today. “The solution to that is ‘we,’” she said, explaining that SoulCycle and WeWork offer communities where people can interact in person. “It’s all about creating places where people can be strong together.”

Established in New York City in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, by January of this year WeWork was overseeing more than 10 million square feet of office space in 280 locations across 86 cities in 32 countries. It offers its more than 100,000 members space to work, recreational activities and even access to health insurance.

“For us,” said Rice, “it’s really about being a three-dimensional billboard for community.”

By Edmund Mander

Director, Editor-In-Chief/SCT

Commerce + Communities Today

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