Molly Goodson, an entrepreneur at heart, was missing a place where she could go in the morning, get a good sweat in, stay to get some work done, and connect with like-minded ladies. So, following her own needs, she set out with co-founder Carnet Williams to create The Assembly—one part boutique fitness studio, one part casual workplace, and one part gathering space.
“The vision is to create the ultimate clubhouse for women to prioritize self-care,” says Goodson. “The Assembly is meant to be the place that women come to be productive when they need to, do something little to take care of themselves, challenge themselves through strength training, and find a supportive community. It’s a tall order, and we’re up for it.”
Built for women to practice self-care in a beautiful environment, the Assembly is also already building a community. Women from all walks of life—like doctors, lawyers, personal trainers, sex coaches, VCs, and women in the tech sector—are meeting up for strength training or after work chitchat. The members range in age from 20s to 60s, so on any given day, you can meet a fellow member who founded a tech company, or one who founded the gardening program of the Santa Cruz public schools 20 years ago.
“One of our mottos here is ‘Permission Granted’—in fact, we give each member a letter-pressed piece of art when they join that says just that (designed by the two women of Western Editions, in Oakland)—because The Assembly is a place where our women have permission to do what they need to do to take care of themselves,” explains Goodson.
Having a vision of a tranquil, light-filled, California cool refuge in the middle of a bustling city that is San Francisco is a tall order, so Goodson and Williams teamed up with Sara and Rich Combs —the husband and wife duo behind the uber stylish Airbnb The Joshua Tree House—to design the space.
The Combses are well-known for their desert-influenced style, paired with modern accents, organic textures, and neutral tones. So, it’s only natural that The Assembly is already becoming San Francisco’s new Instagram darling.
The old church building (built in 1905 and re-built in 1913) is raising up to new glory with a mix of vintage and modern elements. Upstairs and outside are creative spaces for work, meetings, and to connect with other women. Downstairs is the studio, kitchen, and backyard.
Upon entering the building, members are greeted by energetic neon work by local artist Meryl Pataky, just above the original doors. The door opens into the spacious workout studio, where hanging planters and resistance bands co-exist.
“Put your hair up, let your hair down, do whatever you want with your hair,” reads the hand-lettered sign by Brooklyn-based artist Jen Mussari.
“I love seeing members challenge themselves to try our strength classes they might not have otherwise felt safe or confident in trying. We’re focused on creating space, programming, and community that gives permission and a physical space for our members to be themselves and simply feel good,” says Goodson.
The Assembly is almost like a shared dream home. Particularly in the upstairs club room, the Combses added a raised platform for the dining area, a divider wall and custom bookshelf at the back of the room, and built out a kombucha and tea bar. There are corners and spaces for every activity.
“I love standing on the side of the coffee bar and greeting people as they come in. I feel like I’m at Central Perk from Friends, only it’s all very cool women coming through,” says Goodson. The Oakland-based woodworking maven, Aleksandra Zee, crafted the front of the coffee bar, while Fire on the Mesa created the cabinetry and menu.
Another Bay Area artist who contributed her amazing design and handcraft skills was Katie Gong.
“Katie Gong was a really awesome artist to work with. We started with two projects. and the more time she spent at The Assembly, it snowballed into many more. She ended up creating the round tables upstairs, the wood counter in the dining area, the large bookcase at the back of the club room, and the built-in tables in the kitchen,” says Rich Combs about their collaboration with Gong.
A home nowadays is not complete without a wall hanging, and who better than famous weaving artist Meghan Shimek to create one for The Assembly’s living room? Shimek’s pieces have already reached cult status, and are highly coveted. The weaving’s warm tones and texture add an extra sense of coziness.
As it’s located in an old church, there were some challenging moments when designing the space, recalls Sara Combs: “We replaced the upstairs window panes from a blue tie dye fiberglass to varying colors of stained glass; another feature the church would have originally had. It was so exciting to see the upstairs space fill with light again after the new glass went in!”
The design was inspired by the warm and sunny neighborhood of the Mission, as well as the history and charm of the historical church itself. To honor the history and age of the space, the Combses brought in a lot of vintage items, and focused on details like replacing outlet covers with ones that would have been more appropriate to the time period of the building.
“Our goal was to keep the space open and bright, while defining particular spaces to encourage creativity, rest, or motion,” says Sara Combs.
The Assembly already has over 100 members, and is still accepting applications. But Goodson is already proud of what they have built so far—and not only in a physical sense. “Something I hear from our community all the time is that they came in for the fitness, and ended up really falling in love with the community we are building within the space.”
See more women-focused spaces we love:
Get all the news you never knew you needed when you sign up here.