This husband-and-wife team have created a sanctuary in Cross River


Jen Pignone and Mario Loor outside O2 Living Sanctuary in Cross River, New York. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Cross River, New York is roughly 3,000 miles from Northern California, but one could be forgiven for thinking they had somehow landed there when on the grounds of O2 Living Sanctuary. The holistic wellness center is housed in a serene complex of charmingly weathered wood buildings trimmed in lime green window and door frames; a space known to locals as the Yellow Monkey Village.

For co-owners Jen Pignone and Mario Loor, O2 Living is truly their home away from home. The pair met and fell in love while working at O2, drawn to each other by their shared entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to living healthy. Pignone has a B.A. in health promotion studies and is certified as a holistic health coach. Loor has been working at O2 since he was in high school and helped founder Rosemary Devlin build the sanctuary’s popular cold-pressed juice business from the ground up. Together, Pignone and Loor are making it their life’s work to make living a healthy lifestyle desirable, accessible and achievable for as many people as possible.

“Their work ethic is outstanding,” said Rosemary Devlin, the founder of O2 Living. “Jen would work weekends when no one else wanted to. She always wanted to improve things. Mario fell in love with her because she had the same work ethic as him.”

Jen Pignone and Mario Loor sit outside the cafe at O2 Living Sanctuary in Cross River. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Devlin first opened the doors to O2 Living Sanctuary in 2009. Her own holistic wellness journey began after her eldest son had a near-death experience on a transatlantic flight due to a mislabeled snack. “Food became very important to me,” Devlin said, and she adopted a ‘if you can’t spell it, don’t eat it’ mentality. The traumatic incident sparked in Devlin a focus and passion for clean, fresh, healthy eating and living. O2 opened with a yoga studio, spa and vegan café serving juices.

“Juicing at that point was starting to become popular,” Devlin recalled. She hired a chef and a local doctor to create some ingredients that would work for medicinal purposes. Their almond milk, ginger and carrot juices quickly became so popular that Devlin needed to find space to expand.

O2's popular 'Living' juices inside the cafe in Cross River. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Today, O2’s ‘Living’ juice is manufactured at a plant in Cheshire, Connecticut which ships to a wide range of merchants including Amazon and Baldor Specialty Foods. The juice even received a glowing endorsement from Gayle King.

Loor continues to be deeply involved with O2’s juicing business, and frequently travels between the factory in Connecticut and the Sanctuary in Cross River, where he can often be found behind the counter in the cafe.

Mario Loor inside the cafe at O2 Living Sanctuary in Cross River. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

“With the pandemic, people are starting to realize the importance of treating their bodies well,” said Pignone. “Food and drink is our first line of defense in treating our bodies well and keeping our immune systems well.”

Foot traffic to the café has increased significantly in recent months, as patrons drop by for O2 Café’s juices, smoothies, salads, sandwiches, or coffee. Increased traffic to the café has in turn driven traffic to the boutique, which sells wellness-inspired clothing and accessories. Recent Instagram posts from O2 enticed would-be shoppers with images of Alo yoga clothing, handmade mala prayer beads and crystal-infused sprays.

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“Everyone who works here has their own things to offer to help people take that first step to health,” said Pignone. “They have a yogi spiritual mindset and are in tune with spiritual tools and the power that that can have in general, paired with meditation or yoga practice.”

The yoga studio at O2 Living Sanctuary in Cross River. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

In April 2020, when the world was shut down due to COVID-19, Pignone and Loor got an offer they couldn’t refuse. Devlin was stretched thin trying to manage the mass distribution juice business alongside a yoga and wellness studio. She saw in Jen and Mario the perfect pair to take the reins as the first franchisees of O2 Living . “Jen and Mario are pretty much like family,” Devlin said. “Mario has been working with me since the get-go. And Jen just had everything that a young entrepreneur needs to succeed. I needed to know [O2] was falling into the right hands.”

It was an ideal opportunity for the couple, and especially for Pignone, who had dreamed of one day running a wellness center. “Mario has been around here for over 11 years; he knows how this place operates," Pignone said. "We’ve always talked over the years about possibilities and ideas. We thought, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But if we don’t try, how will we know?”

Co-owner Jen Pignone at the boutique inside O2 Living Sanctuary. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

In September of 2020, the couple took over as the first franchisees of O2 Living Sanctuary.  Pignone admitted it was a scary time to begin running a business. “We were trying to navigate how to operate a business during a pandemic,” she said, characterizing the time as an experimental phase and citing the complications of holding yoga classes and questions over what to offer in the café. 

Now, Pignone said, they have found their flow. O2 offers a full schedule of yoga and pilates classes, along with unique events such as sound bath meditations, networking breakfasts, and Reiki sessions. The spa, cafe and boutique are also humming along, serving more and more visitors each day.

“The idea is to draw people in, even if they’re not living that healthy lifestyle yet,” said Pignone. “We’re here to help people take that first step to health.”

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