Interviews

“Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal,” and More Smack-Dab Sayings Entrepreneur Pam Wolf Lives By

Pam Wolf Entrepreneur

When entrepreneur Pam Wolf was nearing the end of her first pregnancy in 1991, she told the team at the recruitment firm she co-launched in New York City she’d be back to work in a couple of weeks. But as soon as she caught a glimpse of her newborn daughter, Jessica, she decided she wouldn’t be going back at all. Just over a year later, she had her son, Jared, then two years after that, there was Jenna, and two years after that, there was Joshua. “Within six years, there were four Js in the house,” Wolf says with a warm chuckle. “And, as my husband jokes, I started running the house like a business.” 

Time management was a key component of this new role: Wolf soon found herself schlepping across New York City with four kids in tow, escorting them to ballet, music classes, playdates, and all the other activities parents presume will pave the way to Harvard®. “I was on the east side for my daughter’s ballet class, then downtown for my son’s martial arts, then the west side for my other daughter’s art class,” she recalls. But, while they were in all these extracurricular spaces, Wolf was struck by just how dirty and inhospitable they were. She thought, “Why not create a place that’s actually pleasant for families to wait in while the class is in session?” It was there — sitting cross-legged on the grimy floors of a temple basement — that the concept for New York Kids Club℠ was born. “The idea was that we would house all the classes within one great facility that operates like a hospitality company, with a concierge that greets you,” Wolf explains. “We serve wine to parents on Friday afternoons, and it feels like a lovely place to sit while your daughter takes ballet class.” 

Following months of planning and calling upon her skills as a recruiter to get the best possible teachers on board, Wolf opened the first New York Kids Club on September 12, 2001. Challenges brought on by the tragic events of the day prior largely prepared the CEO for any other future bumps in the road. During the next 15 years, Wolf took the New York Kids Club from one Upper West Side location to 16 around the city, and in 2016, she sold the majority of the company to a private equity firm, stepping back from her role as CEO two years later. “When that ended and my successor was found, I remember just waking up in the morning thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m free!’” she recalls. “When you have 60,000 students in your program, 16 brick-and-mortar locations, and 600 employees that I cared way too deeply about — it was like having children — there’s a constant concern and worry.”

Despite her newfound freedom, though, Wolf soon fell into a slight funk. “About two months into it — though my kids tell me it was two days — I settled into a bit of a depression because I felt like I’d focused the past 16 years on my business and my children (and my husband, of course!), but the business was now sold and the kids were grown,” she says. That’s when Wolf started to think. “Once you have an entrepreneurial spirit, it really never dies, and the break in between is just an uncomfortable period of brainstorming the next move,” Wolf notes. Soon, her next big idea arrived — and much like New York Kids Club, The Parlor℠ was borne from personal need. 

As many New Yorkers do, Wolf has always devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to her beauty, wellness, and aesthetic routines, which have entailed a smattering of appointments. “I would find myself thinking, ‘Well, gee, if I’m going to get [aesthetic treatments], I have to go all the way to the Upper East Side, but I love my nail lady in the West Village, and when I get my hair done, I have to go to the Upper West Side.’ I always thought it would be so nice if everyone was just in the same place.” Beyond that, the entrepreneur had a longstanding opposition to traditional offices, so she’d made a habit of working wherever she went — be it answering emails in the front of a hair salon or strategic planning at the derm. Naturally, this wasn’t conducive to productivity. “So, I thought: What if, when you came to have whatever [beauty or aesthetic] service, [you could simultaneously] work, charge your phone, print something, have a meeting, get something to eat, or just relax — all in a beautiful space?” she recalls. This idea sparked her latest project, The Parlor.

Over the course of the following year, she continued to develop the concept, building a breezy space on Madison Avenue and recruiting 30 beauty and wellness professionals to take on suites. The Parlor is slated to open in March 2020, and Wolf has big plans. Read on for more insight into her vision — plus, her skincare regimen, medical aesthetics preferences, her approach to aging, and more.

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