John and Grace Fitzgerald are the owners of SpaVana, a day spa featuring massage, facial and skin treatments. Trained in massage and aesthetics, the couple who formerly worked in resort spa services married in 2002 and have continued to work together since opening the business in 2006. Last March they relocated SpaVana (the name is a combination of spa and nirvana) from Portsmouth to the extensively renovated former William Redwood Country Estate in Middletown where they also live. We spoke about pre-massage nerves, Imperial Jade stones and how to survive the holiday madness.
What was your intention when you created SpaVana in this historic building?
John: The vibe is a bit like a bed & breakfast inn feel, with each treatment room being a warm inviting living space unlike the cookie cutter white sterile look which is common on the East Coast.
Grace: Our goal was to make you feel comfortable right away. We wanted to make it homey. This is our home. Cozy and warm I think are the words that describe us.
How does SpaVana differentiate itself from other day spas?
John: Massage is a huge foundation for all of our treatments. If you are getting a facial treatment we integrate massage of the shoulder, neck and scalp. We build on more massage of the body depending on the type of service.
Grace: I think it is important to the benefit of our clients that the massage therapists have a half hour between appointments. We each do not have more than six appointments a day so the first treatment is going to be as great as the last one we do.
What is a big misconception about massage?
Grace: Some people who receive a gift certificate for a massage will come in and say, “I got this gift certificate for a massage which I don’t usually do because it is so fufu.” So they are talking about massage as a luxury when it is not. It is a physical therapy for the well being of the body and soul.
What do you say to someone who has never had a massage and is unsure about it?
Grace: Guys in particular are hesitant to try a massage. I tell them it is like after you have gone for a good run and the next day you are sore and you start rubbing your quadriceps to get oxygen to that area of the body. A massage is like that, only we do it all over your body to help you. It is a vulnerable situation for someone who has never had a massage before. John and I have been in the business for so long but do not take it for granted that someone might be nervous. The person who has never had a massage is thinking, “I’m going to be naked under a couple of sheets and this stranger is going to rub me.” It can be scary. It is our job to make them feel at home, our job to listen to what has been going on in their lives and our job to know where they are carrying their stress, and I think these things we are very good at. When a person comes to us, whether it is a nurse who has been on her feet for 18 hours a day, a waitress who has been holding ten pounds of food on that same arm for seven hours a night or a grief counselor, we need to focus on taking care of that person and making sure that they feel absolutely fabulous when they leave us.
What are some of the differences in your cliental from resort services to SpaVana?
John: I think the stress level is still the same but the majority of SpaVana clients are not resort vacationers so it is a different attitude. They are either working class, doing something physical for work, they own their own business or they travel a lot. So our clients are coming in here because they want to maintain their healthy living. If they are not taking care of themselves they are not going to be able to work. They use our services as a way to be healthy.
What is your most popular treatment?
John: I would say there are three: The Imperial Jade Hot Stone Massage, Island Angels Diva with Crystal Microdermabrasion and Couples Massage.
Grace: We have a lot of mothers and daughters do the couples massage and love it.
What are Imperial Jade stones?
John: We use authentic Imperial Jade stones, which are very smooth and feel more like a rolling pin going over the skin. The stones are so smooth they do not miss anything under the surface of the skin.
Grace: And the stones hold the heat longer.
How does being married and working together impact your relationship? Grace: We do not have children so Spa-Vana is our child. We are on the same page nurturing this like a little flower to see it grow so we are bonded to this. I think it makes our bond stronger that we work together. At night we sometimes talk about work but more in passing. We have defined roles. John is very much the business. I don’t like dealing with that part. My passion is massage.
You spend so much of your lives providing relaxation to others, how do you relax?
Grace: We have one date night a month and we take vacations not as much since moving to the new location but it might just be a night or two in Boston, Connecticut or New York City. Because of the physical work we do it is important that we get away.
John: Another reason we like to travel is to check out other spa services and build upon our menu and get inspired. We have an extensive menu of treatments but there is always a chance to get inspired. We didn’t invent the wheel.
In the crazy pre-holiday madness what is the one treatment you would recommend to survive the holidays?
John: Expanded Consciousness treatment, which is a full body massage and has the fun of a mini facial without the aggression of extractions and has the third eye opening shirodhara oil stream.
Grace: The Imperial Jade Hot Stone Massage, it is all about warmth and is tailor made to having you feeling super for an hour and a half.
SpaVana 299 W. Main Road, Middletown, 401-293-0000.