Meet Debra Townes, spa director of Shou Sugi Ban House (Water Mill, NY), who once lived in Japan and Saudi Arabia.
American Spa: How many years have you been involved in the spa and hospitality industry?
Debra Townes: My journey into the industry began back in 1997 when I decided to do two life-changing things: get a little Jack Russell terrier puppy for my son and open a holistic day spa in Cobble Hill (Brooklyn, NY).
AS: What was the path that led you into the spa industry?
DT: At the time, there were very few actual day spas. Most spas were “away” spas and seemed exotic or out of reach. I found myself at the beginning of a booming business that seems to be growing even more as wellness becomes a point of focus in people’s lives.
AS: What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of working in the spa industry?
DT: As with any business, the most challenging and rewarding parts are the people.
AS: What has surprised you most about the spa world?
DT: The rapid and continued growth of the spa and wellness industry has happily surprised me. I believe that it will actually continue to grow as more awareness around how stress, toxins, environmental concerns, electromagnetic radiation, and of course, our food create the need for establishing and maintaining balance in our lives.
AS: Where do you think the industry is heading?
AS: What is the strangest client request you’ve fielded?
DT: A little girl came into my spa once asking for a massage for her teddy bear who had been recently mauled by the family dog but somehow survived. The therapist performed Shiatsu, so as not to get any oil on the bear’s fur.
AS: What is the most bizarre treatment you’ve experienced?
DT: A flotation tank in a spa in Costa Rica. It was completely mind-blowing.
AS: What new spa treatment would you like to try?
DT: Vibroacoustic therapy, which we offer at Shou Sugi Ban House.
AS: What’s your go-to treatment?
DT: Definitely a massage.
AS: What two things about you don’t we know?
DT: Okinawa (Japan) and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) are two very different places I once called home.
AS: If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would it be?
DT: I would write children’s books.
AS: How would you sum up your personal philosophy?
DT: Life is a spiritual practice.
AS: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
DT: When everybody zigs, zag.