Jewel of the Isle

courtesy Koru Eco Spa

Organic Obstacles

Being eco-conscious isn’t without its hurdles. Block Island is only accessible by ferryboat, so getting materials to and from the spa is an expensive endeavor involving some forethought. “If you run out of something, you can’t just have an employee run over to the beauty supply store like you would on the mainland,” explains von Bernuth. “You have to order ahead and make sure someone can pick up the shipment at the dock.” Plus, the natural product lines Koru uses tend to carry higher price tags than do some conventional products. All of this translates to a higher ticket for customers.

“It is a challenge with the pricing,” admits von Bernuth. “And some people are never going to be happy, no matter what.” Fortunately, because BI is such a haven for nature lovers, many of those who happen upon the spa (mostly from New York City, Connecticut and Rhode Island) already place a premium on organic products and don’t mind shelling out a little more. For others, a little information goes a long way.

“We’re not preachy about it, but we love to educate our customers about our mission and why we use the products we do,” says von Bernuth. “Usually, once we explain, clients are excited about having the natural experience. Oftentimes they had no idea about what kinds of chemicals are in some of the stuff they had been regularly using.”

Koru’s team does try to accommodate the somewhat less eco-inclined client whenever it can. For instance, if a patron brings in a favorite polish, the manicurist will good-naturedly substitute it. However, they do draw the line when it comes to gels and acrylics, and their accompanying chemicals and fumes.“Whenever you see people in salons getting acrylics, the technician is wearing a mask,” says spa manager Jill Seppa.
“That’s not something we offer.”

And some treatments simply aren’t right for an organic spa. A few years ago, Koru tried offering brush-on natural tanning, but quickly found it didn’t jive with the spa’s relaxed feel. “The product was difficult to apply and the service very hard to train,” says von Bernuth. “It became stressful for our staff, and the results were mixed, so we just dropped it.”

What Koru may lose in beauty customers, however, it might make up for in male clients, who are attracted to the spa’s emphasis on all things natural and the absence of a “girly” or “perfumey” atmosphere. “With the ocean right here and all the green, we have a pretty friendly, open feel that’s not particularly feminine,” Seppa acknowledges. She reports that fathers and sons come in regularly for facials and massages, and there’s a thriving couples’ demand for side-by-side massages and wraps. One couple with a summer home on the island even enjoys a weekly pedicure date.