Seaside Salvation


Although the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina (Cambridge, MD) has long had a spa, it wasn’t until recently that it underwent a massive renovation to tap into its full potential. Previously known as Stillwater Spa, it has since been renamed Sago Spa & Salon after a deep-rooted underwater grass that has thrived for centuries in the Chesapeake Bay. “As a brand, Hyatt strives to develop spas that are unique and authentic in nature to the locales where they operate,” says Krista Carucci, director of spa operations, North America operations, Hyatt Hotel Corporation. “For each specific project, we research the surrounding area for distinctions that can inspire our design and offerings.” For the 10 years the resort has been in operation, its objective has been to offer guests a complete leisure experience. The spa is essential to achieving that goal as is the resort’s top-ranked golf course, award-winning marina, and more. “Through rebranding and reopening our new spa, our goal was to update the amenity with modern touches and by infusing a more genuine representation of the Chesapeake Bay region,” says Carucci.

Not surprisingly, Sago’s new concept is inspired by the resort’s idyllic setting on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. As a result, it was important that the 13-treatment-room spa rely on eco-friendly materials whenever possible. Examples include the reception desk, which is made of limestone, and the salon, which incorporates recycled glass tile. With a calming color palette of blues, greens, golds, and neutrals, the spa features a new co-ed relaxation room, refurbished steam and sauna facilities, an expanded salon, and a full retail area. The redesign was led by RD Jones + Associates, who offered their own interpretation of the bay setting. With nautical-inspired wall sconces and natural textured wallpapers, the spa was designed to serve as a soothing sanctuary. 

The spa’s design isn’t the only element attributed to the resort’s locale. “The Chesapeake Bay, historically known as the ‘Mother of Waters,’ teems with marine life and wildlife, a dramatic symbol of life, vitality, and nourishment,” says spa director Rose Hiro. “These three elements serve as the foundation for everything Sago Spa & Salon offers.” They are especially evident in the treatment menu, which incorporates a variety of botanical and sea-based products, such as FarmHouse Fresh, Naturopathica, Spa Comforts, Thalgo, and Whish. “Naturopathica is a natural skincare line that bases its ingredients on the botanical components and organic nature of the Chesapeake area,” says assistant spa director Allison Gilliard. Thalgo was a natural fit because it is a true marine line offering a comprehensive selection of treatments. According to Gilliard, the other lines were chosen as an extension of the spa’s seasonal and retail offerings. The overall directive was to ensure that the service offerings equally represent the land and sea component of the Chesapeake Bay.

In keeping the three elements of life, vitality, and nourishment front and center, many of the treatments incorporate them in name and delivery. “For example, our Tidewater Custom Facials are available in three varieties—the Life Facial purifies and energizes, the Vitality Facial works to reverse sun damage and premature aging, and the Nourishment Facial restores moisture to thirsty skin,” says Hiro. To help spa-goers grasp the concept, they are given a daily affirmation card after each treatment. The inspiration printed on each card connects the nature of sago grass to the three elements. Offering a multi-sensory experience, the spa also integrates Spa Bites from executive chef Tony Breeze. Designed to complement the various treatments, the Bites, such as Lemongrass-Orange Mimosa, Taro Chip with Lime Salsa, Fresh Orange Segments, and Sea Salt Chocolate Bark, represent life, vitality, or nourishment. “Our goal is to tell a story through service and delivery,” says Carucci.

After 14 months of renovation, the spa reopened in February, just 10 days after it was originally scheduled to debut. With an initial budget of $1 million, the project managed to stay on target despite some fluctuating costs. “The budget for individual components of the project shifted throughout the renovation, because every part of the spa redesign was custom-designed,” says executive assistant manager Kristi Cotten-Morris. Fortunately, the final result has been well worth the wait and cost. Says Carucci, “Our vision for Sago Spa & Salon is to offer and execute an authentically indigenous experience and remain the leading spa on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.”



Staff Selection

With 25 employees, the spa’s staff is made up of dual-licensed estheticians and massage therapists, independent estheticians and massage therapists, a spa concierge, attendants, and the salon team. Three nail technicians and two cosmetologists are still slated to be hired for the salon. According to executive assistant manager Kristi Cotten-Morris, support employees typically account for 20 percent of the staff while technicians make up the other 80 percent. Fortunately, many of the employees have been on staff since the original spa opened 10 years earlier. Assistant spa director Allison Gilliard, who also worked at the previous spa, played a key role in the renovation. Spa director Rose Hiro, who started her career at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, was hired later in the renovation process. “We hired Serena Rogers from Nika Consulting on a temporary basis as an intermediate spa director to help us transition to our new spa director and to guide the post-opening experience,” says Cotten-Morris. “This was vital to our ability to drive the business and continue the momentum.”



Design Details

Tasked with designing the new spa, RD Jones + Associates, a boutique interior design and architecture firm that specializes in hotels, restaurants, and spas, was selected as an extension of the existing hotel design work. “We don’t always choose designers based upon historical spa design,” says Cotten-Morris, who also managed the project at the hotel level. “We actually like to work with designers who have restaurant experience, as they bring a fresh approach to design and finishes that might otherwise be overlooked in the spa industry.” According to her, the firm was able to offer a modern design perspective to the Chesapeake Bay lifestyle.

It was also important that the new spa maximize the space available. “Because we were renovating existing space, the number of treatment rooms was already determined,” says Cotten-Morris. “However, we consciously decided to transform them from rooms intended for specific types of treatments to multifunctional treatment rooms.” In addition to the 13 multipurpose treatment rooms, the spa has a new relaxation room and refurbished steam and sauna rooms. “We also completely redesigned the salon by adding additional pedicure and nail stations, makeup stations, as well as hair stations to maximize the overall layout of the salon and our growing bridal market,” says Cotten-Morris.



January 2011

Conceptualization of spa renovation begins.


February 2011

Architecture and design firm RD Jones + Associates is chosen.


March 2011

Firm begins drafting renovation design plans.


May 2011

Renovation design draft is reviewed and revised, as needed.


June 2011

Custom textiles, flooring, and accents are ordered.


July 2011

Renovation planning continues.


October 2011

Meetings take place to review potential new product lines. Alternate spa location at Cambridge House is set up.


November 2011

Demolition of existing space begins. New spa treatments are developed.

Equipment lists are finalized.


December 2011

Major structural renovations are completed in salon, treatment rooms, and lounge areas.


January 2012

New flooring and wall coverings are put in place. New welcome area is constructed. Property signage is created. New spa menu is finalized. Therapists begin learning new treatments.


February 2012

New spa director Rose Hiro is hired. Interim spa director Serena
Rogers is brought on to help with the transition. Additional spa therapists are interviewed and hired. Executive chef Tony Breeze finalizes Spa Bites menu. Spa officially opens on February 24.