SPA REVIEWS: Spokane's La Rive

Courtesy La Rive Spa

Earthy Business

Under Smith’s direction, the spa took a bold step and underwent a total re-branding in March of this year. First up was a name change, from the former moniker of “Currents.” Smith felt this name hedged a disconnect from the spa’s intention of tranquil design and hospitality. “It was meant to represent the idea of currents in a river, but could be misinterpreted for ‘trendy’ or a reference to electricity,” she says. “It just didn’t capture the feeling of comfort and wellness of the spa.”

With a new name and fresh logo and marketing materials, La Rive relaunched with a huge open house called “Love. Life. Spa!” The event drew 400 local guests to wine and dine, sample product from five vendors, enjoy mini-services and book discounted treatments. “We shook a lot of hands and sold a lot of product,” Smith reports.

Free valet parking is just one of the perks that both local and resort guests enjoy, all of whom are also granted full-day use of the hotel pool and fitness facilities. La Rive’s clientele averages 60% resort guests, 40% locals. While the spa does advertise, its most effective marketing stems from word of mouth. “Our spa sets itself apart because of how it feels. When you come here, you want to come back,” Smith opines. It also helps that the resort carries name recognition. “The Kalispel Tribe is prominent in the area,” Smith explains. “Members participate widely in community outreach, support social groups and make charitable donations, particularly to organizations involving health care and those benefiting children.”

A Human Touch

Industry veteran Smith is quick to note that in our world of high-tech social media, people “really respond to human connection. The touch of even a little complimentary hand treatment makes a huge impression.” E-blasts, Facebook and Twitter have done their part to foster connection, but La Rive’s staff still sends handwritten thank-you notes to all guests. And that desire for human touch also translates to more guests gathering at the spa to celebrate special occasions, or simply to seek respite from everyday concerns. “We see so many couples, friends and families coming to reconnect,” Smith reports.

Even more alluring than the beauty of the space may be the warmth and care exhibited by La Rive’s staff. Because the Kalispel Tribe is seen as a desirable employer, offering great working conditions and benefits, an opening at the spa will typically garner 100 applications. In addition to professional experience, Smith seeks people who are involved in community outreach. And the application process is rigorous. Prospects undergo a series of interviews and then a practical evaluation of everything from initial greeting to treatment finish. “We want to see how comfortable therapists will make guests feel,” Smith explains. “In hiring, there’s a large subjective component; we want to know that they’re going to fit in.”

Smith credits much of the spa’s success to its relationship with product vendors. “They really train on product knowledge,” she says. “When the staff is enthusiastic, it’s easy to sell.” Smith, who is constantly on the lookout for new and different products, considers retail of utmost importance, and not just to the spa’s bottom line. “It allows the guest to continue the wellness experience at home,” she explains.

La Rive’s most recent retail hit? Plush bathrobes. Because the resort has an on-site embroidery service, personalized robes can be pre-ordered and made ready for guests on arrival. The spa is also developing a private-label product line that will make use of healing indigenous plants. And the spa’s nail station is being completely revamped. While its former design featured luxe, European-style banquette seating, Smith says that was the wrong ergonomic choice, for both technicians and guests. “Our new design allows for chair movement, and there are foot rests for the technicians.”

All of La Rive’s therapists are extensively cross-trained and encouraged to receive treatments. Training is never complete, and the Kalispel Tribe is very generous in reimbursement for continuing education. “We are extremely grateful to the tribe for their investment in the spa,” says Smith.

By moving forward while preserving the heritage of the past, La Rive has experienced growth rather than downturn in these tough economic times. “We are interdependent with the tribe, our vendors, our employees and our guests,” Smith offers. “We work beautifully together.”