Bristol is widely known as America’s Most Patriotic Town, so it comes as no surprise that a local fixture like Alayne White has settled on the decidedly patriotic Constitution Street. The savvy owner of the pair of spas that bear her name recently marked a dozen years in Bristol and seven years in Providence, but those milestones didn’t come without a few bumps along the way.
Most notably, Alayne’s Bristol location faced serious damage after winter storm Nemo, which hit Rhode Island in February 2013. “Nemo wrecked 50% of my business,” concedes Alayne, who was then faced with the costs and challenges of repairs to a commercial space she didn’t even own. It was a conundrum that solved itself when a three-bedroom, five-bathroom, single family home of nearly 3,900 square feet came on the real estate market that inspired a radical new vision for the spa. She moved into the home in November of 2013 and opened the doors to her spa there in March of this year.
“It was a perfect marriage,” of her business and personal needs, says Alayne, who was renting at the time and looking to buy a home in Bristol. She calls the serendipitous merging of these two separate worlds “divine intervention.” Having built out her businesses three times over the years, the idea of transforming a first floor living space into a luxury spa didn’t intimidate Alayne in the least. In fact, the evolution helped her to move closer toward her longtime goal of growing the spa into more of a comprehensive experience. “I’d been trying to offer more of a lifestyle experience for people,” she explains. “I have the gardens in the back and a self-guided meditation room. We have a nice podcast that takes you on a journey,” she says, adding that the podcast allows clients to stay as long as they would like.
The two upper floors are strictly residential with Alayne living on the spacious second floor and the third floor set aside for her son. Settling in was nothing short of seamless. “I didn’t even have to paint,” she laughs. “I cleaned and moved in. I put some shelves up, nothing out of the ordinary... It’s like my furniture was supposed to be here all along.”
While the home’s past has not been recognized or verified by the Bristol Historic District Commission, Alayne knows a bit about its past. According to Historic and Architectural Resources of Bristol, Rhode Island, published by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, the circa 1866 home was once best known for an “unusually elaborate façade.” Perhaps most interestingly, “The porch came from a house in Warren that was demolished about 1876.” The book also states that in 1889 the house was sold to Albert S. Almy, general foreman of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, which was one of the nation’s most prolific yacht manufacturers.
Today the home is named the Lemuel A. Bishop House. As with many homes more than a century old, it is rich with unique details but also in need of near-constant updating. Fortunately for Alayne, the previous owners completed a thorough interior modern renovation. “It was completely rebuilt top to bottom about ten years ago, so it’s a new house with old charm and great open space,” she says. Few original features remain, but for a mixed-use commercial and residential space, the compromise was well worth the sacrifice.
One can assume the many benefits of living and working in the same space, a short “commute” being among them, and the transition has seen many added benefits. “I go up and down the stairs 100 times a day,” laughs Alayne, citing her new, albeit unintended, fitness regimen. Always eager to show clients around the home, Alayne is constantly playing host. “I give a lot of tours,” she laughs. “I show everyone the house!” While some might suspect that living and working in the same space might blur some personal/professional lines, Alayne says just the opposite is true. “My staff has been really conscious of boundaries and I have a private drive and entry in the back,” she explains.
This time of year, Alayne and spa clients alike bask in the blossoming gardens and tranquil outdoor space the home/spa affords. “The patio overlooks the backyard so I can look at birds and I can read. There’s just one beautiful space after another,” she says. Alayne credits the former homeowner with planning and planting such beautiful grounds, which today are maintained both by herself and Bristol-based Cordeiro Landscaping. “I seriously couldn’t live without them,” she says.
As with any real estate, location is everything. For Alayne, this down-town home celebrates small town pleasures. And though she’s called Bristol home for years, she’s always learning something new. “Dottie Arsenault, who has lived next door for 70 years, is in my opinion the rock star advisor of all things. She is by far one of my favorite new friends as well as all the neighbors on Constitution Street. [They are] so welcoming and kind,” she says.
Around the neighborhood, Alayne counts Le Central, Roberto’s, Aidan’s, Quito’s and the under-new-ownership Judge Roy Bean among some of her favorites. “My boyfriend and I walk everywhere, as do my son and I. I am three blocks from the Bike Path and three blocks from Herreshoff – where I took some great beginner sailing lessons and will be taking the couples sailing pro- gram on Thursday nights in August. I can walk my kayak or paddleboard to the bottom of the street by the Coast Guard Station and have a nice time on the water. And of course, at any time go downstairs and get a spa service.”