Q & A with Angela Avellino, Spa Director at The Spa at Fearrington (Pittsboro, NC)

Angela AvellinoHow many years have you been involved in the spa/hospitality industry?

I’ve been in the spa business since 2005. I worked at Miller Motte College as a teacher’s assistant to the massage and esthetic program. I helped to open The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary and went from massage therapist to assistant spa director. I became the spa director at The Spa at Fearrington (Pittsboro, NC) in 2013.

What was the path that led you into the spa industry?

I remember getting my first massage for my birthday years ago. I couldn't believe how wonderful I felt afterwards. I decided then that I wanted to have the ability to share this wonderful kind of energy with others, so I changed careers.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of working in the spa industry?
One of the most challenging parts of the job is balancing the needs of our clients with those of our staff to make sure that everyone’s happy. We try to get a sense of a client’s needs in advance so that we can then match them up with a specialist who we feel would be a good fit. The most rewarding part of the job is when that happens and everyone’s happy—clients and staff. That’s what I strive for.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I don’t know that I can pinpoint one single accomplishment. For me, it’s more about the journey I’ve taken to be spa director at Fearrington. Every job I’ve taken and what I’ve learned along the way has helped to shape me into the professional I am today. And I’m also proud of the team that I’ve nurtured at every spa I’ve worked in.

What has surprised you most about working in the spa industry?

It’s a harder business than I imagined. I think many people would be surprised by how challenging it is to meet and exceed people’s expectations on a daily basis. But when you’re in a service industry, and particularly when you’re a five-star Relais & Châteaux resort, there’s a standard of excellence that needs to be maintained.

What qualities do you look for in your spa staff?

We look for individuals who want to create memories, who are genuinely nurturing, service-minded, and dedicated to this profession. Candidates also need to fit into our larger Fearrington Village community, which includes the spa, inn, restaurants, bookstore, and retail shops. Working here is a bit different. We’re not a stand-alone spa but are part of something bigger, and it’s our job to ensure that our guests leave here feeling happy and well cared for.

Where do you think the industry is heading?

Many people are becoming more mindful about what they’re using on their faces and bodies. I think we’re moving towards a more holistic approach, and organic products, without chemicals, are going to become better options.

What is the strangest client request you’ve fielded?

At another spa I worked at, a guest asked the spa to keep his affair quiet when he brought his mistress to the spa, while his wife was in the hotel! I don't like to be put in a position to compromise our ethics. When secret rendezvous occur, the other person usually always finds out in the end somehow.

What new spa treatment would you like to try?

I would love to try Watsu. I have never experienced it before.

What’s your go-to spa treatment?

It’s always something massage related—hot stone, Swedish, deep tissue. I just don't seem to get on the table on a consistent basis.

What’s your favorite skincare ingredient?

Products that are derived from nature—organic extractions. Chlorella (a type of algae) helps to fight against aging. Padina pavonica is another type of algae that helps to strengthen the epidermis and support the cell structure of the skin.

Which brands are your go-to favorites?

I love Elemis skincare products, especially the Pro-Collagen Marine Cream. It certainly has improved my skin in just two weeks. We are the only spa in the region to carry this skincare line, and our clients also love it.

Tell us two things about yourself we don’t know.

I served in the Army for eight years from 1985 to 1993, and I was a cryptologist and weapons specialist in the Gulf War. I held the highest security clearance, as I would code and decode messages for top officials. There was quite a bit of friendly fire in the Gulf War. This was due to some of our soldiers not being able to recognize some of the weapons. I became a weapons specialist in order to help alleviate this issue and to protect the top officials. I certainly made a big leap from that to the spa industry. I’ve also been a vegetarian for the last 10 years.

What positions have you worked in that you feel have been most influential to your career?

The military taught me patience and endurance. I also was an infant photographer in the neo-natal ward for a while, which taught me empathy and compassion. Both jobs have helped to mold me into the person I am in both my career and personal life.

If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would it be?

I would love to be a travel writer and be able to experience other destinations. I traveled quite a bit in the military, and I miss that aspect.

How would you sum up your personal philosophy?

When I put my head on the pillow at night, I reflect on the day. Am I proud of the decisions I made? Am I proud of the way I handled myself with each person I came in contact with? Did I do my best with the purest intentions? I teach this to my children as well. I have to be content with myself and live this too.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to have more balance when it comes to my personal time. I’m great at helping others relax, but I don’t do it as often for myself.

How do you like to spend your time away from work?

I spend time with my family as much as possible. I just bought a house, so this is taking up a lot of my time, but I’m enjoying creating a home for my family.

What are your three greatest priorities in life?

That’s easy—my three children. I say children, but they are all three grown adults in their early 20s. Just helping them on their journey is still a mother's job. On the career side, being able to provide a memorable experience for our guests is a top priority. Keeping the staff knowledgeable so they may provide the best possible service is something we strive for daily. Helping The Spa at Fearrington become a luxurious, serene, and thriving business is not only a priority but a passion as well.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

To just breathe—no matter what is going on—take a breath before you answer a difficult question or have to deal with a difficult task.

R.B. Fitch, owner of Fearrington Village, checks in almost daily to ensure we have the tools we need to be successful. He always tells us that we’re in this together. With support as wonderful as this, we strive to do our best for our guests, our staff, and for the Fearrington community.