Keith and Andre West-Harrison rank as some of the Southwest's most creative and passionate spa pros, and ever since setting up shop in 1999, they have served as shining examples of green superstars, too. The West-Harrisons, both of whom are estheticians, were among the first in the industry to embrace paperless billing, craft organic products on site, and offer guest incentives to bike to the spa, all of which helped earn them a top-tier rating from the CoolBiz program of the Sierra Club.
But here’s the thing about our Top Green Spa winners—just when it seems that they’ve redefined the cutting edge of eco-savvy, they’ll go and take things another gigantic step forward. Case in point: Last October, the couple moved Great Face & Body from a 1,600-square-foot esthetics loft into a historic Victorian mansion, all in an effort to more fully position their unique spa as a true center of community wellness, sustainability and enlightenment, and give clients more reasons to frequent the facility. After all, “The more people we can get in our doors and signed up for our newsletter, the greener we can trick them into being,” says Keith West-Harrison.
A focus on community has always driven the Great Face & Body business model—their previous location long served as a drop-off spot for a local organic farm, allowing guests to pick up fresh produce after their facials, for instance—but in the course of totally refurbishing their new building, which was built in 1941 and most recently served as a music school, the West-Harrisons have equipped themselves to more fully serve, educate and even feed their clients. For the first time in their careers, the West-Harrisons have room—nearly 10,000 square feet of it—to host yoga and Pilates classes and wellness lectures, grow fresh produce and, eventually, even open an organic café. The space also gives them further opportunities to partner with like-minded wellness pros, bring in a more fully rounded staff including alternative healers and body therapists, and expand their manufacturing operations, too.
"The more people we can get in our doors and signed up for our newsletter, the greener we can trick them into being."
The West-Harrisons are already well into the process of creating an urban farm at the new facility, which boasts a rooftop garden as well as an entirely edible backyard landscape—think forests of fruit trees and zucchini plants. “We want to show people that even when you live in our desert, where water’s an issue, there’s plenty you can grow and compost,” says Keith. “We plan to host a lot of gardening demonstrations, and workshops highlighting ways to get back in touch with the food chain.”
But just how did the West-Harrisons manage to fund and realize such a far-reaching business dream? By doing what they do best, of course—rallying their community of clients around their green initiatives and beliefs. Keith and Andre cleverly avoided having to go to the bank by raising private investments—a cool $375,000 worth of them—entirely through their clients. “We’d been telling them about our mission for months, about how it would help fuel wellness, sustainability and the economy in Albuquerque,” says Keith. “Many guests got excited about it, and told their business partners about our plans.”
Not only did anyone who contributed $5,000 or more to the new spa receive a promissory note stipulating that the West-Harrisons would pay them back, plus two percent interest, within five years, but their accounts were all credited with 60 free facials (any of which are transferable—another wise way to drum up referrals) to keep their skin in top shape throughout that time. Plus, investors now serve as a de facto Great Face & Body advisory board. Considering the fact that these generous clients include sustainability consultants, alternative healers, massage professionals and a yoga instructor, these “board members” are naturally invested in the West-Harrisons’ project, and more than well equipped to provide counsel. Their meetings consist of monthly dinners at the spa—healthy, organic affairs that Andre and Keith prepare themselves.
“We get so much out of these relationships—for instance, our investors put us in touch with the structural engineers who helped create our green roof system,” says Keith. “Building these relationships is absolutely the most important thing we’ve done as business owners. Because when you borrow money from a bank, the bank isn’t out there telling people how great you are.”
Although the West-Harrisons and their investors can’t change the outside of the historically sanctioned building, they’ve done a number on its interior and grounds. The new Great Face & Body laundry system captures grey water, which irrigates the herbs and vegetables that grow upon the roof. That produce is then donated to the food pantry across the street—Albuquerque’s largest—and much of it will eventually be used to feed hungry spa-goers at Great Face & Body’s planned sustainable, New Orleans-themed café. Hungry chickens roam the grounds, ensuring that the West-Harrisons throw away very little waste. And, whatever doesn’t get gobbled gets composted. “Our goal is to contribute zero landfill waste,” shares Keith.
"When you borrow money from a bank, the bank isn't out there telling people how great you are."
Keith and Andre West-Harrison are already supremely well versed in sustainability measures, but it is their insatiable hunger for more community-minded ways to further boost their mission that fuels their reputation as green pioneers. The two regularly attend Sierra Club networking breakfasts—“We just met this green engineer who suggested evaporated coolers for frigid air, solar power, and putting weather-stripping around our doors for energy-efficient insulation,” Keith reports—and recently won a grant from ABQ Sprout, a local organization that funds micro-grants to creative projects that contribute to the local community. “It will pay for 13 raised wooded beds outside to help grow more fruits, veggies and herbs,” Keith says.
There’s even talk of adding a sustainable coffee house and a gym, private dining room and wine cellar in a future phase. But one thing is sure: no matter how big Great Face & Body becomes, Andre and Keith will continue to perform a large portion of the spa services themselves.
“We don’t want to lose touch with our clients,” Keith says. “They’re where we get our best feedback and green ideas. It’s crucial to spend time with our most valuable sources!” —Katie O’Reilly