At first glance, Wise Wellness Center is an empty, square room without furniture, said owner Kelsy Wise, of Cape May.

The room is an open space with baby blue walls, containing only a few metal folding chairs pushed against a wall, a floor-to-ceiling mirror and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling.

"This is exactly how I wanted it," said Kelsy, who co-owns the business with her husband, Charles Wise, a Cape May native. "People are always thinking in terms of what's lacking. Our mindset shouldn't be that way."

The Wises opened Wise Wellness Center last April in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township. Their goal is to help people achieve full, integrated wellness - a holistic approach to a healthy mind, body and spirit that is finding expression in a growing number of businesses in the region.

"A person can be physically fit and eat a healthy diet, yet still be really unhealthy," said Kelsy Wise, who has a master's degree in holistic health education from John F. Kennedy University in California. She is a yoga instructor certified by the American Aerobic Association International, and in Pilates and Zumba by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Charles Wise is a carpenter by trade and has a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which he teaches at the wellness center. He said he trained at Cesar Gracie Jui-Jitsu in California.

Kelsy Wise became inspired to open a wellness center about a decade ago, when she discovered holistic health, she said. Kelsy said she was in her early 20s, physically fit and ate well, but she felt lost.

"I had no direction in life, no passion, no real appreciation," she said. "Holistic health changed my life, and it was so powerful, I want to help other people to change their lives."

Soon after her discovery, she and Charles moved to California, where they both received certifications and she got her master's degree. Then, they returned to Cape May County to open their business.

"There's a community of people out here, (in Cape May County,) interested in integrated wellness," she said.

The exercise classes are just one component of the Wises' business model. On Saturdays, the center hosts holistic health workshops, on topics such as goal-setting, stress reduction and healthy homes, and programs on nutrition and meal planning.

Other holistic wellness centers in Cape May County include Dragonfly Wellness Studio in Cape May Court House, Shape Wellness Studios in Stone Harbor, Sunstone Massage Wellness in Avalon, and Exodus Integrated Wellness in Ocean City. The centers provide programs to meet the needs of a person's mind, body and soul - such as seasonal cooking and nutrition, massage, exercise classes, and workshops on goal setting and stress reduction.

"We're not really competing," Kelsy Wise said. "We're working together toward the same goal."

Vicki Clark, president of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has several new members in holistic health and wellness, including Max Fisch and David Reed, representatives of Melaleuca, the Wellness Co., who joined last year, and Andrew and Gloria Schultz, of Cape May Court House, holistic health coaches and representatives of AGS Associates/Take Shape for Life.

Fisch, of Cape May, said the mission of Melaleuca is to provide people with natural, chemical-free home and beauty products.

"Growing up near that ocean really draws home the importance of usuaing eco-friendly products, living a healthy life," Fisch said.

Amy Godfrey, owner of Exodus Integrated Wellness in Ocean City, said when new clients visit Exodus, they are asked to evaluate their health in a wide range of areas, including physical, spiritual, community outreach, social, professional and more.

Her business motto is, "We are greater than the sum of our parts," she said - so if any piece of that puzzle is missing, you are sacrificing yourself.

"We're a healthy community in Cape May County," Godfrey said. "When you live in a place of nature like this, by the beach, you tend to be conducive to good health. That's why most chose to live here."

Contact Elisa Lala:

609-463-6713

•Back to Nature Health Foods, 4 Railroad Ave., Rio Grande, 609-886-4027.

•Green Street Market, 3167 Route 9 S., Rio Grande, 609-463-0606, greenstreetmarket.com.

•Cape May Organic Market, 120 Park Blvd., West Cape May, 609-602-8061.

•Wise Wellness Center, 1127 Route 47 S, No. 8, Rio Grande, 609-770-3549, wise-wellnesscenter.com.

•Dragonfly Wellness Studio, 106 N. Main St., Cape May Court House, 609-465-4200, dragonflywelnestudio.com.

•Shape Wellness Studios, 9407 2nd Ave., second floor, Stone Harbor, 609-368-6900, shapeholistic.com.

•Sunstone Massage Wellness, 2819 Dune Dr., Avalon, 609-368-0222, sunstone.massagetherapy.com.

•AGS Associates/Take Shape for Life, 609-536-2607, betrim.tsfl.com.

•Max Fisch for Melaleuca, 609-780-1272, saferforyourhome.com. ]]>