It’s awards seasons at DAYSPA! Here, we honor outstanding achievements in the spa industry.
We’d like to declare 2013 the year of the pioneering spa. Because when the DAYSPA editors set out to discover the nine winning spas that comprise this slideshow, what we discovered were far-reaching initiatives, can-do attitudes reminiscent of pre-recession days and a marked willingness to go out on a limb to realize lofty business and wellness goals. From one spa’s relocation into a mansion that its owners are fashioning into an enlightening community hub, to an oasis whose founder has become active in national wellness legislation; and from an entrepreneur who successfully manages to transport clients to a specific place and era via thoughtful service and design flourishes, and another who began building her business before she could even speak fluent English—we salute these standout pros for exemplifying the best our industry has to offer.

The Top Honors Categories…

1. DAYSPA DIAMOND honors a single-location spa that has mastered every aspect of the business.
2. TOP WELLNESS SPA honors a spa that exemplifies an outstanding hybrid of total health and beauty services.
3. TOP GREEN SPA celebrates a facility that has gone above and beyond to incorporate green practices.
4. TOP DESIGN honors a facility with outstanding functionality, and originality of design, beauty and comfort.
5. TOP MARKETING CAMPAIGN OR PROMOTION honors an exceptional strategy that brings in new clients, generates word-of-mouth buzz and draws media attention.
6. TOP ENTREPRENEUR honors a spa owner who has made exceptional business strides under competitive and challenging circumstances.
7. TOP EMPLOYEE recognizes a VIP staff member who goes above and beyond to enhance clients’ experiences and devotion to the spa.
8. TOP BOUTIQUE honors the spa that has done an exceptional job of buying and merchandising products to maximize retail income.
9. TOP WEBSITE highlights a spa with an online web presence that not only provides information about treatments and services, but also helps to improve the overall guest experience.

And the winners are…

Courtesy Spa Habitat

Top Boutique—Spa Habitat, with multiple locations in Texas and Oklahoma

Spa Habitat Organic Spa and Apothecary isn’t shy about flying its organic banner. Amy and Greg Bohn, the small chain’s owners, plant a tree for every service that one of their three spas performs (more than 50,000 trees have been planted to date). They use 100% wind energy to power Spa Habitat facilities, and are dedicated to using only premium organic and natural products throughout the spas. The Bohns believe that such eco-friendly and wellness-conscious business practices help make Spa Habitat a standout among day spas.

That, and their extraordinary retail boutiques.

With their facilities consistently rated among the best spas in Dallas—and the United States—the Bohns work hard to make sure that that high bar doesn’t apply solely to spa services. “The spas’ retail areas follow the same strict ingredient guidelines as the spas,” says Amy. “We only retail products from companies that have strong mission statements, give back to the community and have a true ‘green’ statement,” she says.

With 20% of total sales at Spa Habitat derived from retail, the couple is clearly onto something. There are four Spa Habitat locations, three in Texas and one in Oklahoma, and though the spas range in size from 1,700 to 2,400 square feet, each of their so-called “retail apothecaries” occupies approximately 20% of its spa’s total square footage. They are also similar in look and feel, exuding a vintage apothecary vibe, and utilizing found, reclaimed and handmade materials and pieces in their floors, fixtures and displays—further reinforcing the spas’ organic mission.

Some of the best-selling merchandise comes from Spa Habitat’s own Clovertree line. According to Amy, the line’s Muscle Relief Balm and Deep Cleansing Scrub are particularly popular, as are the Sonoma Lavender neck pillows. Other carefully selected brands offered include Woodsprite, John Masters, Erbaviva, Afterglow and Aromafloria.

Although Spa Habitat’s beautiful retail apothecary displays definitely help to attract client attention, Amy stresses that sales teamwork is of utmost importance. Retail items are used and showcased by practitioners before, during and after organic massage, facial, body and waxing treatments. Naturally, the Bohns’ own Clovertree Apothecary line is used extensively throughout treatments, making it easier for staff to transition clients to a post-treatment purchase.

“Our team believes in our brand and our standards,” says Amy. “We train staff to educate each and every customer about why we are different and what makes our products special and worth buying. It helps our clientele see the whole picture, and it’s the best strategy for sales.” —Liz Barrett

Courtesy Sveta’s Skin and Body Therapy

Top Entrepreneur—Sveta’s Skin and Body Therapy, Wichita, Kansas

When Svetlana Yakubovich immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in 1993 with her husband and infant son, she had no job and spoke no English. The family had about $500 in their pockets.

Back home, Yakubovich had been a competitive swimmer and physical education teacher, a vocation that required intensive training but paid very little. “I wanted a better life for my family here,” she says. But the setbacks to succeeding as a teacher in her new country were formidable. First and foremost, to teach in the U.S., Yakubovich would need to be fluent in English, so she went back to school. In the meantime, to help make ends meet, she drew on her physical vigor to work as a massage therapist. “I’d learned medical massage in Russia [core curriculum for physical therapy], and loved doing that,” she says. “I’d always had an interest in massage therapy. I was planning to work as a swimming coach or physical education teacher and do some massages on the side.”

Yakubovich kept at her studies, earning credits toward a pre-med major at Wichita State University, but ultimately chose to study acupuncture instead. “It was a three-hour drive to the nearest medical school and my son was only six at the time,” she explains. “I chose to study closer to home and focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

In 1999 Yakubovich enrolled in a Master’s program and, while still in school, opened Sveta’s Skin and Body Therapy in a 1,000-square-foot studio. “I knew I would rather work for myself, but I didn’t realize this was the right career path for me until I had my own company and my own employees,” she says.

Today, Yakubovich manages a staff of 23, to whom she is as dedicated to nurturing as she is to her clients. “I am still a teacher. Instead of students, now I have employees. I spend my days working with each of them to improve their career and personal skills,” she says. “My greatest reward is seeing how people grow while they are here, and giving employees the opportunity to support their families while doing something that they love.”

That people-first focus has paid off financially. In 2010, Yakubovich expanded her facility to encompass 2,200 square feet. She is a celebrated entrepreneur in her community, and was recently named one of the top women in business by the Wichita Business Journal.

Despite being busy running the business end of Sveta’s, Yakubovich continues to work as a therapist in her own spas, and values her customers not only for their patronage, but for their wisdom, too. “My clients are smart, educated people who run their own businesses,” she says. “I’ve received some of the best advice from my clients, and they continue to be my greatest supporters.” —Heather Wood Rudúlph

Courtesy Veronica Skin and Body Center

DAYSPA Diamond—Veronica Skin and Body Center, Malibu, California

In many ways, it begins like any other spa business story: A young woman, afflicted for years with stubborn cystic acne, develops an interest in skin care. She attends beauty school, travels the world to learn about her craft, and eventually opens a business with not much more than some products, a bit of equipment, her own hands and a small space in which to use them.

As everyone knows, many such journeys stall out shortly after they begin. Others eventually fall victim to harsh economic downturns. But Veronica Barton-Schwartz, owner of Veronica Skin and Body Center in Southern California’s beach community of Malibu, has managed to beat the odds. Since her modest launch in 1981, Barton-Schwartz has transformed her business into a Malibu fixture, occupying 2,000 square feet of beachfront property, enlisting a staff of 14, and attracting some of the most discerning spa clients her side of the Mississippi. Barton-Schwartz’s day spa was even recently featured on TV’s syndicated entertainment news program Extra.

Her secret? There are several:

1) A laser-like and personal focus on skin health.

As a teen coming of age in the sun-worshipping 1960s, Barton-Schwartz was initially naïve as to the cause and effect of her acne. “We would just pile on the cocoa butter and mineral oil before we went out to get the best tan… who knew?!” she exclaims. Although the natural healing properties of sunlight and seawater helped reduce the breakouts, Barton-Schwartz experienced a relapse when her lifestyle changed. “Once I started having children, I didn’t spend that much time surfing and out in the sun, and my skin got worse,” she says “After several dermatologist visits—and acne medication prescriptions—I knew this was not the answer.”

Barton-Schwartz found an alternative solution thanks to a French esthetician, who ultimately helped clear her skin via proper care and nutritional guidance. And as soon as her children were in school full-time, Barton-Schwartz went back to school herself, to get an esthetician’s license. “I took cosmetic chemistry and learned about how ingredients play a large part in skin health. I started helping friends and family with their skin problems, and finally opened a one-room skincare salon in Malibu. My children were still young, so I was open from nine to three so I could take them to school and pick them up.”

Barton-Schwartz didn’t advertise, and she didn’t have to. The residents of Malibu, still a small town in 1981, spread the word for her. After just one year in business, she couldn’t keep up with the demand for facials, and had to hire fellow estheticians and provide additional treatment rooms. She knew at that point that her passion had turned into a business—but the word “spa” still hadn’t entered the picture.

“For me, ‘spa’ always meant where you go for therapeutic water treatments,” she explains. “I’d visited Terme di Montecatini in Italy and other spas in Europe that have thermal therapies, so the term meant something different from what it means today. At first I considered my business a skincare salon. Now after several years of being in business and adding body care services, yoga and tai chi, it has become Veronica Skin & Body Care Center.”

2) Proactive decision-making coupled with a nose for trends.

In 1987, Barton-Schwartz made a bold move. “I heard about a new building with a beautiful ocean view that was being constructed in Malibu,” she relates. “I knew who the architect was and, after seeing the plans, I knew the wellness center I had envisioned was about to happen.” Her timing came into the fore again when she added a medical spa area to meet the burgeoning demand for drastic results that surged in the mid-2000s.

“Staying on top of on new treatments, products and education has been important to keeping our business successful,” Barton-Schwartz acknowledges. Yet she never strays far from her core beliefs about total mind-body care. When yoga and tai chi became an important part of her life, she incorporated these disciplines into her business. “Adding yoga, tai chi and meditation completed the Veronica Malibu philosophy that to have healthy, glowing skin you have to treat the mind, body and spirit,” she says.

Like many business owners, Barton-Schwartz has found the economic conditions of the past several years to be the biggest challenge she has faced thus far. Here, yet again, a proactive approach has been key. “We’ve incorporated shorter treatment options and additional spa programs to help stimulate our spa business and counter the economic challenge,” she says.

3) An innate understanding of, and responsiveness to, clients’ needs.

Barton-Schwartz understands through personal experience that her clients’ desires to look and feel good needs to co-exist with their needs to be practical and responsible. “Our clientele has changed because people are taking better care of themselves. They are looking for ways to age gracefully and live a healthy lifestyle. With the economy as a catalyst, clients have become very aware of their priorities, and many of those who want to invest in beauty and wellness know that it requires a whole spectrum of healthy living, including skin care and exercise. They are beginning to understand that skin care isn’t just a once-in-awhile pampering experience—it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s about overall wellness,” she explains. “So, we have increased the number of treatments to stay relevant to what our clients need, and that includes cosmeceuticals and shorter treatment options to accommodate their busy schedules.”

4) Indefatigable joy and passion for her mission.

Staff and clients of Veronica’s Skin and Body Center seem to have found a sustainable power source in Barton-Schwartz. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and the effects clearly start at the source—some of her employees have been with her for 25 years. “Building a successful team is the key to a spa’s success,” she says. Her leadership strategy is simple: “Inspire and motivate teamwork while supporting individual thinking.” The result is a highly functional, professional staff that thinks of itself as a family. Among their shared values is the business’s involvement with Operation Smile, an organization that sends plastic surgeons to third-world countries to treat children who suffer from facial deformities.

The truth is, Barton-Schwartz’s zeal for her work has only increased over the years. “My greatest reward is still helping people feel better about their skin issues,” says this DAYSPA Diamond Award winner. “Having had acne, I know how crippling it can be. Now I’m in my mid-sixties and I don’t even want to do a facelift. With all the new technology, you can age gracefully without having to go under the knife. We’re living in a wonderful time–skin care and the spa industry have never been so exciting!” —Linda Kossoff

Veronica Skin and Body Care

Size: 2,000 indoor square feet, plus outdoor areas for tea and beverages
Facility: 8 treatment rooms, yoga/tai chi studio, retail boutique
Staff: 4 estheticians, 1 acupuncturist, 2 endermologists, 4 yoga instructors, 1 tai chi master, receptionist, 1 medical associate
Products used/retailed: Clarisonic, Epicensial, Epicuren, Guinot, Jane Iredale, Revision Skincare, SkinCeuticals, Veronica Malibu SkinCare
Average service ticket: $120
Biggest revenue generators: Facials, LED treatments, Endermologie, acupuncture
Signature services: European Facial (60 min./$95), Red Carpet Facial (75 min./$300), Gold Stem Cell Facial (60 min./$300), Power Peel (40 min./$175), Endermologie (45 min./$100), Acupuncture Facelift (60 min./$95), Oxygen Facial (60 min./$200), LED Treatment (20 min./$125), Yoga/Tai Chi/Ballet Barre (60 min./prices vary)
Mission statement: “Skin care is a lifestyle choice and at Veronica’s, we believe everyone can have healthy, glowing skin if you treat the mind, body and spirit. From the ocean view to our highly trained staff, we use the most advanced treatments and only the highest quality products to make every visit a luxurious experience. We are committed to guiding our clients to recharge their inner spirits and overall well-being.”

Courtesy Great Face & Body Eco-Urban Lifestyle Market

Top Green Spa—Great Face & Body Eco-Urban Lifestyle Market, Albuquerque, New Mexico

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

Courtesy The Raven

Top Design—The Raven Spa, Los Angeles

There’s an indefinable moment when you walk into Barry and Shauna Walker’s Thai-inspired oasis in the offbeat Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, and realize you have checked out of American life—or at least your spirit has. Turning off a frenetic boulevard into the spa, guests walk through a tiled outdoor corridor lined with fat wicker chaises, rusted lanterns, pots exploding with banana plants, and bamboo umbrellas, take a seat, and likely forget all about car pools, shopping lists and mortgages. Once changed into brown cotton t-shirts and Thai culottes, massage guests are escorted into a dark communal treatment room that’s painted chartreuse and lit softly by antique chandeliers.

This space is filled with flashes of fallen grandeur—second-hand wrought-iron ceiling grates, a gigantic stone fountain clearly made by hand, and oddly formed rattan chairs that you won’t be able to find at the Cost Plus World Market. Wood-beamed ceilings evoke a rural Asian countryside. Filmy curtains separate each massage space—individual rectangles of wooden platform—so that every patron is connected to the other in space and sound; throughout treatment, guests can hear one other, as well as the spa’s remarkable soundtrack of Armenian folk singers, aboriginal drummers from Australia and Chinese harps. Through this surround-sound sensual confrontation, guests share in a very human experience.

“We wanted to create a spa that wasn’t all dry-walled and sterile and predictable,” says Barry Walker, who, along with Shauna, created the stunning space without help from any design professionals. That he is a music video director and former antiques dealer, and Shauna a choreographer, is revealed in myriad ways. “We wanted it to be rugged, and engage all five of guest’s senses,” Barry says. “We tried to create a spa that was raw and surprising; a spa that would not only transport you to a different place, but a different era.”

Featuring native Thai massage therapists who the Walkers met at a local Thai temple—many are former monks who learned the healing art in their native land—The Raven transports guests to Wat Pho, the famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok that houses one of the country’s oldest Thai massage schools. But the era one enters in stepping into the Raven isn’t 2013; it’s Wat Pho of the 1950’s. Natural light streams in from skylights and the double-doored entryway, and at night, lanterns, candles and moonlight illuminate the scene.

This unique design inspiration came from a months-long journey that the Walkers took across Thailand and Cambodia. “My back was busted from decades of football, punk rock shows and a car accident or two,” he says. “So I went into an ornate temple for a massage every day—every day! It was a life-changing trip, and that’s what I wanted to recreate here.”

Barry Walker, his younger brother and a small crew of construction workers did the heavy lifting themselves to create the spa in 2004. Walker, who has designed and renovated many homes, has a knack for entering a space and creating a dimensional vision for it. “I walk in, put on my gloves and do over the whole thing,” he says. “I have no formal training, but I am very visual, and not afraid to knock down a wall and change my environment.” He and his brother built the main fountain by hand—without using any plans to guide them. “It weighs about 800 pounds, so it’s never moving from that spot,” Walker says.

To furnish the spa with its exotic, unexpected look, the former antiquarian frequented the big Los Angeles-area flea markets, picking up wooden tables, lighting fixtures and the like at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena City College and Long Beach. He also worked with his antique sources throughout Southeast Asia, Guatemala and Morocco. “We avoided just importing chairs from Indonesia, and instead chose pieces that were a little beat-up and homemade.”

The Walkers have channeled their diverse artistic backgrounds to great effect. “I was used to designing windows, and we were both used to creating complex experiences for people, and I think we did that here,” Barry says. “We went on a journey and we wanted to share it. So now, people come in and they keep coming back. If they leave The Raven feeling like they were just somewhere else, then we’ve done our job.” —Alison Singh Gee

Courtesty Grotto Spa

Top Employee—Grotto Spa at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort, Parksville, British Columbia, Canada

How to optimally utilize an employee who’s proven he can do it all? Sometimes, it’s best to let him decide for you.

This hands-off approach has worked well for Grotto Spa, anyway—especially when it comes to star employee Adam Shore, the lead massage and body therapist. In fact, the popular wellness facility owes much of its success to Shore, whose work ethic extends far beyond the treatment room.

Throughout his nine years at Grotto, Shore has had amassed an impressive resume. In addition to his regular massage duties, he early on seized initiative to research and upgrade facility equipment; implement effective sanitation and sterilization standards; and interview, hire, train and review fellow team members. But Shore’ trajectory—attaining a management position only to step back down to focus on service—is unique in this industry.

Desiring a career where he could work with his hands, Shore obtained a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) certification at 19. The Vancouver Island native landed a position at Grotto in 2003, after years spent performing massage all over Canada. Just six months later, the talented Shore was promoted to lead massage & body therapist. When the position of spa operations supervisor opened up in 2008, Shore immediately offered to fill it. But his motive wasn’t to ascend the corporate latter. Says Shore, “We had experienced a lot of upper-management turnover at the time, and I didn’t want everyone to go through it again—I felt like I could keep things a little more continuous for the team.”

Spa director Paulina Alexander eagerly offered Shore the promotion—“Adam is such a caring and easy person work with, it felt like a match made in heaven!”—and was more than pleased with his performance. “He knew the business so well, he easily moved into the operations role and flourished.”

For Shore, the title meant accepting responsibilities he was already performing—but it took him almost entirely away from massage therapy itself. While he still made time for a few special clients each week, he found himself increasingly missing regular interaction with clients.

In 2010, a qualified professional became interested in the supervisor position, so Shore volunteered to step down. “It seemed natural to go back to what I had been passionate about from the beginning,” he says. “I can’t say I ever really had much ambition to get into management.”

Alexander instantly reinstated Shore as lead massage and body therapist. “We were sad for him to leave that position, but we could tell he missed his guests,” she says. “We could do nothing but support him, because his client service is top notch.”

Shore’s guests had missed him, too. His employee file is filled with hundreds of glowing guest comment cards, including:

• “Adam’s knowledge of body mechanics during my treatment was very evident; he helped me so much.”
• “Adam is very friendly and reassuring. Best massage I have ever had, and I go for a massage weekly.”
• “Adam is a 12 out of 10—you are lucky to have him on your spa team.”

It’s no wonder that Shore enjoys a remarkably high client return rate—especially for a destination resort. And although the spa caters predominately to resort guests from out-of-town, Shore boasts a remarkable number of local clients, thanks to his reputation. “My passion is trying to create an experience for the client that exceeds any expectations they might have,” he says.

For now, Shore plans to keep focusing his energies via service. “I can still use my hands quite well,” he reasons. “I’m not really that old yet; I have lots of years left in me, knock on wood.”

But should that day come when his body no longer cooperates—as is the case with most RMTs—Shore says he’ll perhaps put his other skill set back into use, and give management another shot. One thing is for sure—when that time comes, Shore will let his employers know. And, given his loyalty and track record, we’re willing to bet that Grotto will listen. —Kevin Mathews

Golden Door Spa & Resort

Top Wellness Spa: Golden Door Spa, Escondido, California

Nestled in a sunny valley outside San Diego, the sprawling oasis of Golden Door has served as a peaceful, Zen-inspired sanctuary for spa-goers and relaxation-seekers since 1958. When founder Deborah Szekely first opened Golden Door, she was already a seasoned retreat professional. She and her husband had managed the famed Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, Mexico, which was at the time a bit more rustic than than what Szekely envisioned in an ideal spa retreat—rejuvenating and renewing activities paired with luxury amenities. In opening Golden Door, whose lush grounds—complete with stone walkways, picturesque waterfalls and Japanese gardens—and astounding range of wellness programs, Szekely realized her brain child. And it has topped the short list of world-class spa destinations since day one.

Typical guest visits are booked in weeklong increments (although in 2009, the retreat began offering three- and four-night options), which are completely customized to the client’s individual needs and concerns—may they involve skin problems, weight control, pain conditions, behavioral troubles or issues with smoking cessation. “While some people certainly come just to relax, many guests visit during a time of transition,” explains Judy Bird, executive director. “Maybe their children have gone away to college, or they are recently divorced, or they are caring for their ailing parents.”

The seven-day time frame allows Golden Door staff members to get to know each guest personally and, in turn, better serve him/her. “We know who has a back issue or who really needs TLC; who isn’t sleeping well or who needs to eat better,” Bird says. Skin care, bodywork, special therapies, fitness and nutritional programs, and evening education programs are also targeted to the individual guest. Bird believes that depth and scope of staffing is the key to Golden Door’s enduring success, noting, “We are able to offer cutting-edge treatments and new developments in fitness education, and we are continually adding services and classes that keep us one step ahead of the curve.” Some of Golden Door’s newest programs include Active Aging—designed for those who may struggle with orthopedic or balance problems—and Hanakasumi—a Japanese body ritual combining exfoliation, massage, reflexology and cherry blossom aromatherapy for a multisensory wellness treatment.

Aligning with the spa’s wellness focus is Golden Door’s organic and nutritionally balanced cuisine; the menu items served are constantly updated on both a weekly and seasonal basis. Guest preferences are determined in advance and individual servings are portioned according to clients’ health goals. Much of the cuisine originates from the spa’s own garden, and the executive chef regularly meets with the property’s gardeners to discuss planting needs for the future.

Promoting a healthy diet is especially important to founder Szekely, who recently launched the Wellness Warrior program, a grassroots project designed to lobby lawmakers to focus on wellness, be it in the form of nutritious food, clean air or protection of the planet’s resources. The Golden Door owner often promotes this initiative at her weekly visits to the spa, during which she often treats guests to evening wellness lectures.

The spa’s star treatment doesn’t end in the facility. A take-home program is one of the most important components of a Golden Door experience. “So much of what we do is educate,” says Bird. Printed materials from the lectures, fitness DVDs, personalized beauty information and menus are just a sampling of the goodies with which guests leave. For those who want to maintain results achieved in treatment, private-label products used in spa services are available for purchase. “After guests go home, we follow up with emails to check in and see how they are doing,” Bird says.

Guests are also invited to return for designated women’s or men’s weeks, or for specific focus programs. This year’s focus programs will include Inner Door Week, which concentrates on mindfulness and inner wisdom, an in-depth study of Pilates, and expressive arts. “We love it when guests plan return visits with friends made at the spa,” says Bird.

Golden Door aficionados can also relive their experience at any one of the brand’s four other locations in Arizona, Utah, Florida and Puerto Rico. Although these facilities—located in resort hotels—focus more on individual treatments rather than entire integrative programs, guests can still expect the same “variety, personalization and expertise the Golden Door brand represents,” says Bird. “We’re heading into our sixth decade and still setting the industry standard.” —Andrea Renskoff

Top Website—The Woodhouse Day Spas, with multiple locations

Ever since The Woodhouse Day Spa brand opened its first location in 2001, the website has served as a crucial component of its business model. Similar to the spa chain, which now operates some 27 franchised spas nationwide, the site has grown and evolved considerably. “We always want to make sure our guests are able to experience The Woodhouse at home or online,” says founder Jeni Garrett. “Ten years ago, a company’s website wasn’t necessarily the consumer’s first impression, but these days it is. The online experience is almost as important as the spa itself.”

The site’s most recent transition (which rolled out last October) included a feng shui-inspired makeover, which aims to appeal to the modern and tech-savvy consumer. “That system was used for the site’s design as we wanted to utilize the most effective formats to catch the guest’s eye,” explains Garrett. “All of the colors, images, tones and textures needed to be cohesive and carefully chosen.”

The end result is a one-stop shop that offers users everything from online booking, a wellness blog and gift card options, to a spa locator, links to each Woodhouse Spa location, spa slideshows and information for potential franchisees. The latest development to the Woodhouse site is the new online boutique that retails some 300 items that range from high-end home and office goods and apparel, to skincare and bath products. “We found that guests fell in love with the products they saw in our spas, so we wanted to offer them online,” says Garrett. “So far, the response has been great, and we plan on adding even more products and categories in the coming year.”

Franchisees have easy access to their respective sites so they can update specials and send email blasts to clients on a weekly basis. They are also regular contributors to the Woodhouse wellness blog, in which they sound off on skincare solutions and tips, industry issues or simply share inspirational stories. To keep the content fresh, Woodhouse staff and franchisees are all responsible for keeping the site current. “Websites are a living breathing thing, and must be updated daily—hourly even,” explains Garrett. “Nothing is more unattractive than a stagnant site made up of old content.”

Although the site’s new format is still in its beginning stages, clients are already taking notice. “The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive,” concludes Garrett. “Cyber-guests truly feel like they are in a Woodhouse spa.” —Angela Melero


Top Promotion-Charles Penzone Salon and Spa, with multiple locations in Ohio

Spa owners are well aware of the booming “gift card” seasons: Mother’s Day, the year-end holidays and, of course, Valentine’s Day. The latter is particularly popular among spouses and significant others looking to spoil their lady loves with something other than chocolate or diamonds. Capitalizing on this notion in a big way, the Charles Penzone Salon brand’s unique approach to V-Day Gift Cards (first launched in 2011) has resulted in big-time success. The salon chain partnered with a local high-end restaurant group, the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, for a special promotion male consumers couldn’t refuse.

In purchasing a $100 Charles Penzone gift card, guests received a complimentary $20 gift card to Cameron Mitchell. The restaurant chain provided the gift cards free-of-charge, says Jena Skowronski, marketing team leader for Charles Penzone. “They offered their gifts, and we managed the campaign and the leg work,” explains Skowronski. “By co-branding, we were able to utilize their dollars to help our bottom line.”

Charles Penzone worked with an external ad agency that helped the brand come up with a V-Day campaign that strategically targeted male audiences. It included radio segments on a local sports talk station and exposure in men’s publications. Skowronski says the brand found it could “move the needle by being specific about who received the campaign message, as opposed to marketing to the masses.” The humorous radio ads reached out to “every man who’s stood in a card aisle on February 13 and chosen from the rejects and leftovers; every man who’s made Valentine’s Day plans that included trips to the drive-thru window; every man who has heard the words, ‘Valentine’s Day is not that important to me’ and believed them…”

The results spoke for themselves and far exceeded the company’s original goal to increase gift card sales by 5%. For the three-week period the campaign ran—January 30 to February 19—the mode gift card purchase amount increased to $100, and overall sales for that time frame increased 26%. “This increase was achieved without any sort of discount or financial implication to the salons,” says Skowronski. “Website analytics indicated that visits to the web increased 20% and page views increased 12% from the previous year.”

The V-Day gift card promotion proved so successful that Charles Penzone and Cameron Mitchell opted to partner once again on the same campaign in 2012.

“We will continue to partner with them on other promotions in 2013, but not necessarily for V-Day,” says Skoronski. “We are going to change it up a bit for this year’s ‘Love Month.’ We’ll co-brand again, but we haven’t decided with whom.” —By Angela Melero

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