I'll confess, there was a tiny stab of guilt as I lounged in a white robe and slippers in the middle of the day at The Met Day Spa & Salon on St. Armands Circle. Awash in sunlight, the waiting area smelled intoxicatingly of lavender and vanilla, and I could hear the delicate sounds of trickling water and that soft, nondescript music of flutes and chimes that seems to blend all the mysterious cultures of Asia. Other customers, like white-robed monks, padded about silently on their way to the treatment rooms.
"This is just way too indulgent," I thought, as I headed off for a body polish after an hour facial that left my skin pink and glowing-and an hour massage before that. Fortunately, my pedicurist quieted any self-doubts a bit later when she pointed out, "This is not pampering. This is maintenance. You take care of your car, don't you? This is taking care of yourself." Guilt be damned. Day spas are marvelous!
And apparently I'm not the only one to throw off the cloak of shame and fold myself into a fluffy robe. The spa industry is thriving. Once considered the province of the rich and famous, "spas have gone mainstream," declares Lynne Walker McNees, the executive director of the Lexington, Kentucky-based International Spa Association (ISPA). There are 9,632 spas in the United States, a number that's been doubling every four years since about 1995. A 2002 study by PriceWaterHouseCooper (commissioned by ISPA) says that the spa industry generates more money than theme parks-$10.7 billion at spas as opposed to $9.6 at parks. By far, the largest category in the industry is day spas.
You don't have to ponder too deeply to figure out why day spas have become so popular. People feel harried these days, juggling stressful professions while racing kids to activities and taking care of the home. Who has time to fly off to a resort spa in Utah or Thailand? And in these days of belt-tightening, who has the money? Some speculate that while Sept. 11 may have dampened our enthusiasm for lavish vacations in exotic locales, it's increased our need for safe escapes. But now, instead of going to happy hour after work, we're meeting friends and heading to a spa for a manicure, a massage or a facial. Many places will even serve you that chilled chardonnay or glass of champagne while you wait.
Five years ago, only a handful of spas existed in Sarasota. But when we combed through the Sarasota Yellow Pages recently, we found at least 20 that claimed to offer spa services. Some, like The Met, are clearly spas-beautiful, hushed, spacious retreats that transport you to another world where a $90 facial is worth every penny. Others are simpler, often hair or nail salons that are transforming into salon/spas, fulfilling their customers' desire for a one-stop shopping destination for hair stylists, manicurists, aestheticians and massage therapists. Are these less-than-luxurious settings where you walk through the chatter and smells of a hair salon to get to your treatment, truly spas? The more our editors debated that issue, the more we liked McNees' definition: If you walk away feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, then you're at the right spa for you.
Using printed guides to local services and our own savvy experts on personal care, we canvased the city for day spas. Here's the low-down on the places we uncovered, but the way spas are proliferating, more are probably out there, so we suggest you supplement our research with your own. Happy hunting! - Susan Burns
A Dodge Concept Salon and Spa
5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Longboat ladies-and men-love walking into this salon/spa at The Centre Shops on Longboat Key. Just about every spa service you could want is here: skin care, body treatments, massage as well as hair and nail services. Stay one hour or an entire day. They even have an Aryuvedic practitioner who performs Aryuvedic body treatments, using hot soothing herbal oils chosen just for you.
Ana Molinari Salon * Spa * Gallery
201 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Hip, chic and vivacious, Ana Molinari, the founder and owner of three eponymous salons, stays on the leading edge of beauty. Only her Longboat Key location (at the Charthouse) offers spa services. Clients walk past hair stylists to the spa treatment areas in back. As usual Molinari brings her demanding clients the latest in skin and body care (like pulse light skin care and microdermabrasion), massage (hot stone therapy) and most recently, an air-brush tan called sunless tan.
Allure Salon Aesthetics
2131 Siesta Drive
Stunning Pamela McCann, the owner of Allure, loves skin, and clients will find an array of skin treatments from a petite facial to microdermabrasion, a unique mud bacial (a back facial) and endermologie at her elegantly feminine salon across from Southgate Mall. No massage here, but plenty to keep you busy if you want to stay a full day.
Body & Spirit
8590 Potter Park Drive
A spa in the truest sense of the word, Body & Spirit blends contemporary and alternative healing practices while meeting all quality and safety guidelines established by the International Spa Association. Sensual aromas drift throughout this immaculate facility that is spacious and beautiful, with cozy sitting areas to relax after treatments and sip fresh, fruit-infused water. Services include everything from massage, wraps and facials to full hair and nail care.
5252 S. Tamiami Trail
Capriccio proves size can be deceiving. From its compact location in Kanes Too Plaza, Capriccio offers dozens of European treatments, from "Bella Donna" and hot stone facials to exotic wraps, massage, and complete hair and nail care. They've even got a wall of wigs for those who want to completely re-do their do's.
John Carl Spa & Salon
1345 Second St.
Discreetly tucked into a narrow street across from the Selby Library, John Carl Spa offers client a wealth of services in a luxurious environment. There's a plethora of skin treatments, including the brand-new intense pulse light therapy that increases collagen production; hair and nail procedures; and a number of body masks, wraps and massages. Staff promise to "create your own ocean" in their hydrotherapy tub.
Melody's Skin and Body Therapy
555 S. Osprey Ave.
With its Victorian architecture, comfy floral sofas and wicker furniture, an afternoon at Melody's feels like a soothing visit to a Southern home. Melody Murray, a former model and 20-year beauty professional, and her nine-person staff offer a sweeping array of services in spacious rooms, from her signature facial (includes massaging upper arm, shoulder, feet, hands, neck and head), to all sorts of massages, wraps, bronzing, reflexology. nail care and cosmaceutical procedures.
Nadia's Aesthetic Salon
1532 Stickney Point Road
This salon at the Boatyard on Stickney Point Road is busy, so make an appointment. Clients can choose from skin treatments, peels, body scrubs and massages. The gift packages are popular: Try the Fireworks-a spa manicure/pedicure, Ayurvedic facial and a one-hour Swedish massage. Heavenly!
Natalie's Salon & Day Spa
8620 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite H
Located in the Oaks Center, close to the Italian Grill, Natalie's offers clients a choice of many hair, nail, makeup, skin and body treatments. The Repechage peppermint sea twist full body treatment promises to improve circulation and reduce cellulite and water retention; and the pregnancy massage to give expectant mothers relief from headaches and lower back pain.
Monday-Saturday o Appointments highly recommended o Visa, MasterCard
1991 Hyde Park St., Suite 2
One look at the flawless skin of Neoderm's staff and you'll be sold on the skin and body treatments of Neoderm at Southside Village. The clinic, which is under the supervision of a doctor, is as classy and professional as its staff, and clients will find a wide array of facial treatments using the latest scientific techniques and products, body treatments, endermologie therapeutic massage, Botox injections and micropigmentation.
Nuovo Salon & Spa
4952 S. Tamiami Trail
Nuovo, in The Landings, is one of Sarasota's most popular hair salons, but it also provides therapeutic massage, body wraps and complete facials. A recently opened second location in Southgate Plaza offers mini-facials and chair massage. The salon boasts that all water touching your skin has been filtered to remove chlorine and other impurities.
Pineapple Day Spa
556 Pineapple Ave.
If you're antiquing at Heritage Square and lunching at Citrus Café, do yourself a favor and stop off at the Pineapple Day Spa. If its sleek European sophistication doesn't tell you this is a true, first-class day spa, its unrushed facials, massages and tantalizing array of body treatments-like the body contouring peppermint sea twist-will. Ear coning, nail care and waxing, too. This spa does what a real spa should-relaxes and rejuvenates.
Quinn's Salon & Full Service Spa
8313 Market St. (Lakewood Ranch)
2855 University Parkway
Big, gorgeous homes are rising in communities along University Parkway, so it's no surprise day spas would thrive in the nearby upscale strip centers. Quinn's spas, conveniently located at Market Square in Lakewood Ranch and at University Walk at the corner of Tuttle and University Parkway, provide hair services up front and a separate world of pampering in back with a self-contained and soundproof spa for facials, massage and wet-room body treatments.
5780 Swift Road
Although it sits on a busy corner, once you're tucked away into the back rooms of Spa Hollywood you feel miles from the madding crowd. The spa offers a variety of facials, massages, pedicures, aromatherapy treatments and scrubs for both men and women in its facility, which also is home to a salon. (Some packages come with a champagne lunch!)
The Colony Spa
1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive
9941) 383-6464 ext. 2752
Yes, this spa is at the famous tennis resort, The Colony Beach Resort on Longboat Key, but the public is welcome to step in for treatments, too. As usual at this fine resort, everything is first class: treatments include artic algae body treatment, cranialsacral therapy to a special stone therapy called Scent of the Earth Aroma done with "healing" Sedona volcanic rock. A nice touch is the separate areas for men and women-no lounging in robes in front of the opposite sex.
The Little Day Spa
200 S. Washington Blvd., Suite 6
Attorneys and courthouse folks, rejoice and de-stress! This cozy downtown spa, owned by Wayne Wolff, a massage therapist, and his wife Maureen, a skin care therapist, is located near Towles Court just across U.S. 301 from the Terrace Building and the Sarasota County Judicial Center. The spa provides a lot in its tiny space, including several kinds of massage, facials, manicures and pedicures, using Dermalogica products.
The Met Day Spa & Salon
35 South Blvd. of the Presidents
There is no doubt you're in for a day or even just an hour of absolute bliss when you take the elevator to this upscale spa above The Met Fashion House on St. Armands Circle. Everything in this beautiful spa is designed with absolute luxury, privacy and well-being in mind. Popular with vacationers and locals, it's the crème de la creme of Sarasota day spas.
The Parlor Salon & Day Spa
8383 S. Tamiami Trail
From its Square South location adjacent to Sarasota Square Mall, the Parlor offers clients several nail, hair, skin and massage treatments (everything from Swedish and Thai to Shiatsu and pregnancy massages). Staff members here are independent, so to book an appointment, call the spa for a list of names and numbers.
The Wild Orchid Artistic Salon and Day Spa
935 N. Beneva Road
There are nail stations up front and hair stylists off to the side, but friendly owner Linda Tran says her customers have asked for spa services so she's providing them. Located at Sarasota Commons by Manhattan Bagel, Wild Orchid includes two facial rooms and private pedicure room, and will soon be adding a massage room as well. It's not luxurious, but Tran's smile makes everyone feel like a million bucks.
217 Avenida Madera
ZèSe has made a name for itself by offering services well into the nights of every full moon. Once a month, its sophisticated and spiritual clientele gather by candlelight for refreshments and bodily indulgences. During the day, this small-ish spa, directly across from The Broken Egg restaurant on Siesta Key, offers all manner of massage, wraps, Botox and hair, nail and skin care. Book early for the "Full Moon Experience."
A body polish at the Met.
By Kay Kipling
If someone had described "body polish" to me beforehand, I might have backed out. The thought of lying naked (but for a few discreetly placed towels) on a massage table as someone scrubbed my entire body with salt from the Dead Sea sounds a bit, well, intimidating. But some people inspire confidence, and massage therapist Sasa Armor at The Met is one of them.
My polish took place in the Met's wet room-basically a huge walk-in shower that contains a "wet" massage table, a Vichy shower, which is a line of ceiling shower nozzles that moves sideways and up and down, and a king-sized hose that looks appropriate for a fire hall.
As I lay face down, Armor sprayed me with warm water and then, using a salt-and-citrus concoction, began rubbing my feet with short, strong, invigorating strokes, working her way up to my neck. Even if any inhibitions had remained, I'd lost the will power to sustain them. I was in a blissful, purely sensory state. At some point, I remember being blasted by the "fire" hose and then, way in the distance, hearing Armor telling me she was going to leave the room while the Vichy shower, placed strategically over my backbone, worked its magic. If you've ever wanted to lie down in your shower at home while hot water beat down on your body you'll get the picture.
Eventually Armor came back again-miraculously she remained dry throughout the entire treatment-and handed me my robe. By this time, there were no inhibitions left-and now that my skin was polished and as smooth as I can ever remember, I really didn't care who saw it, anyway.-Susan Burns
Body Polish, $55
35 South Boulevard of the Presidents
A Sothy's facial at John Carl Spa & Salon
By Anu Varma
When it comes to beauty, where better to look for guidance than La Belle France? So I was eager to volunteer for an institute treatment developed by Sothys of Paris. Paulette Gjundjek, skin specialist at John Carl Spa & Salon, explained that it's not just multiple layers of nourishing products that make a Sothys facial special; it's the method of delivery that creates a unique, relaxing effect.
An hour-and-a-half later, so mellow I stumbled on my way out, I was convinced.
As I lay on a pleasantly heated bed in a dimly lit room, Paulette began by exfoliating and extracting with a steamer and special creams, including an application of one trusted family product: apple cider vinegar. Exfoliation over, the indulgence began in earnest. With gentle, expert strokes, Paulette massaged layers of creamy lotions onto my face, neck and shoulders, pressing down firmly on pressure points. My skin greedily drank in layers of special lipids to increase cell cohesion; cream of avocado oil and Shea butter; a hydrating serum rich in honey and flower nectars. As I basked under a mask of sea algae extract and soft clay, Paulette's hands worked magic on my arms, massaging them all the way down to my palms. She left me alone in a state of pleasant delirium for seven minutes for the mask to take effect, then peeled it off and applied a day cream. She also sent me away with a little kit of enough Sothys products to last me a week.
Back in my car, I peered at my face in the mirror. Something was certainly odd, I mused, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Back at the office, my colleagues exclaimed: "You're glowing!"
Sothys facial and institute treatment ($90)
John Carl Spa & Salon, 1345 Second St.
ROCK YOUR WORLD
The hot stone massage at Body & Spirit.
By Pat Haire
Hot stone therapy is relatively new to massage. The process of using hot basalt stones-volcanic rock smoothed by years of erosion-in Swedish massage has only been offered at Body & Spirit for about a year.
As licensed massage therapist Elaine Hurd explains, the palm-sized stones require only mild pressure to release muscle tension, so they're ideal for quieting acute spasms and arthritis.
Hurd spent six years with a chiropractor before joining the spa, and her affinity for treating sports-related injury shows. First, she bathed the warm stones in aromatic oils; then she slid them across my skin and the soles of my feet in slow, deliberate strokes. Even though the stones are heated to 120 degrees, my skin didn't always register that sensation. At times, they felt almost cold and tingly.
Cupping the stones in her palms, Hurd kneaded my muscles and applied gentle pressure to various joints, my neck and shoulders. At one point, I was lying face down with steaming rocks straddling my palms, feet and spinal cord. Try staying awake during that.
As I slipped into semi-consciousness, my pain and tension literally melted away. After 90 minutes, my legs wouldn't move. My voice had dropped two octaves. It took two glasses of cool water before I felt confident enough to drive.
JoAnne Blumetti, co-owner of Body & Spirit, says people are still not familiar with the technique. "But 95 percent of those who had it love it and return for more," she says.
I can't imagine what's wrong with the other five percent.- By Pat Haire
The Hot Stone Massage ($120)
Body & Spirit, 8590 Potter Park Drive
A SEA CHANGE
The warm sea foam mud wrap at Spa Hollywood.
There are many reasons to wrap. Some wraps are designed to tone and firm your skin, some to detoxify, some to help contour your body. The purpose of the sea foam mud wrap at Spa Hollywood is just to relax you.
And that it does. Once you're stretched out comfortably on a warm table, the hot mud (a product from French company Phytomer that contains a top-secret mix of sea algae, sea water and other magic ingredients) is applied all over your body, and you're cocooned in an inner layer of something wax paperish and an outer layer of heated, heavy blanket for that back-to-the-womb feeling. (Warning: not for the claustrophic.) Suddenly, a bubble breaks out here, then there, and soon you're percolating all over with that snap-crackle-pop that releases tension and relaxes sore muscles. You get a face and scalp massage as part of the 90-minute package, too.
After the wrap has worked its wonders it's into the shower to rinse it all off before staggering into your comfy robe to head down the hall for your next treatment. In my case, I finished off the spa experience with an exfoliating salt scrub and a few minutes under the Vichy shower, that overhead contraption that gently pounds you with just the right amount of liquid pressure to finish the job of making your body completely limp. Then my attendant, Laura, soothed my skin with an application of satiny spray and moisturizing cream before sending me back out into the cold, cruel world.
Warm Sea Foam Mud Wrap ($90)
Spa Hollywood, 5780 Swift Road