Changing The Narrative on Wellness 

By B.C. Robinson 

Mary Keel wants to change lives one stretch at a time. Her Soul Stretch & Wellness Center, 2108 W. 95th St., had its grand opening in May. It is the first business of its kind owed by a Black woman. 

“I chose the Beverly area because I wanted a more diverse community,” Keel said. “I wanted to bring my expertise to those who might not get the opportunity to have this.” Keel, who is a fitness professional, says she believes this is what The Creator wanted her to do.  “I was working in medical billing for UIC and Northwestern Hospitals. I was paid an exceptionally good salary, but something was missing.  I was working there but I keep thinking about fitness.”  

Early in life Keel had health issues.  She started working out and tweaking her diet — the first steps on the path to becoming a physical trainer.  “What I was doing felt good and I thought if it was good for me, it would be good for others as well.”   

Keel started out offering group fitness but wanted a more one-on-one relationship with her clients.  She became certified through NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) and became a personal trainer. This is when she came upon the idea of having a stretch lab.   

Keel her clients to become more flexible by training them physically while making sure they were doing it right, efficiently, and correctly so not to cause injuries.  Keel said 95% of each Soul Stretch & Wellness Center session is focused on stretching of the muscles and boosting flexibility as well as using weights.  The other five per cent is education.  

Keel’s clients range from age 40 to 83 years, and 75% of them are men.   

One of her clients is Gospel Legend Mavis Staples, who says she met Keel when her body was like a shipwreck.  “It was a disaster,” Staples said. Keel’s clients believe that it is not just her hands but her spirit that keeps them coming back.  “She has a passion for what she does and always meets us on our own level,”  Staples added. 

Keels wants people to feel like they are family.  “Like the theme song from the sitcom Cheers, I want this stretch lab to be, “Where everybody knows your name and they are always glad you came.”   

The Soul & Wellness Center is open Mon. and Tues., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wed., 9 a.m. to noon; and Fri., 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Info: 


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