Bucolic Bliss

In Henry David Thoreau's nonfiction 1854 masterpiece Walden, he championed the beauty of simplicity, a philosophy he espoused after living for two years, two months, and two days in an isolated cabin near Walden Pond in Concord, MA. This credo inspired the creation of Walden, a secluded luxury retreat in Aurora, OH, set amid the pastures, lakes, streams, and meadows of the Western Reserve natural sanctuary. The 1,000-acre property is a nature-lover's dream and is home to Inn Walden, the only inn in the Midwest to hold the AAA Five-Diamond rating, a residential community, a golf club, and Spa Walden. A relatively new addition to the Walden collection, the 10,000-square-foot, 12-treatment-room spa opened its doors in May 2007 to cater to the needs of guests who had been enjoying in-room services at the Inn since it debuted in 1998 but were looking for an enhanced spa experience. "We believe we have developed a spa that is non-pretentious, yet aesthetically pleasing, to every guest," says spa director Jenessee Roy. "Spa Walden fits flawlessly into the Walden property."

Along with visiting the spa, Walden guests can ride horses housed in an original barn and silo found on the property.
Along with visiting the spa, Walden guests can ride horses housed in an original barn and silo found on the property.

Visitors to Walden are encouraged to enjoy the scenic beauty of the property and emulate Thoreau's spirit of personal contemplation. Therefore, creating a secluded relaxation experience was of the utmost importance when planning the spa. In fact, Spa Walden was designed to afford guests their privacy. "During the research phase of the project, we realized that most spa experiences had a major flaw—a lack of privacy just prior to and following the treatment experience," says Roy. "When developing our private spa suites, it was our goal to rectify this flaw and make privacy a key component to Spa Walden's success."

Guests are encouraged to enjoy such amenities as a fireplace, Jacuzzi, and more for 45 minutes before and after services in each of the three Couples' Suites.
Guests are encouraged to enjoy such amenities as a fireplace, Jacuzzi, and more for 45 minutes before and after services in each of the three Couples' Suites.

After much research and planning, that goal was realized. The spa was purposefully created without locker rooms so that guests could enjoy their experience, from start to finish, in a personal suite. Each suite includes a Kohler Bubble Massage tub, a private steam room, and a Swiss shower, as well as a personal powder room with a well-stocked beauty bar, a mini-fridge with chilled water, and a tea station. Additionally, 30 complimentary minutes of relaxation time before and after each treatment are built into every spa experience to allow guests to enjoy the amenities of the suite. "We realize that time can be considered an indulgence," says Roy.

Walden visitors are welcome to traverse the property and enjoy the natural beauty of the local flora and fauna.
Walden visitors are welcome to traverse the property and enjoy the natural beauty of the local flora and fauna.

Spa Walden guests are also indulged with simplicity and personalization when it comes to their services. As such, the spa menu is completely customizable. Clients purchase a set time and select their treatments of choice, choosing 60-minute ($125), 90-minute ($185), or 120-minute ($245) increments from such easily understandable menu options as scrubs, wraps, massages, facials, back facials, manicures, pedicures, reflexology, and more. "Our inspiration is our client, and our goal was not to scare away the non-spa-goer," says Roy. "We customize every treatment to our clients' needs and desires. We do not pre-set the treatment—we allow our clients the freedom and flexibility to choose once they arrive, and each treatment fits the individual's emotional state on the day he or she walks through our doors."

Guests can read, sip on tea, or soak in the in-suite Jacuzzi during their pre-and post-relaxation time.
Guests can read, sip on tea, or soak in the in-suite Jacuzzi during their pre-and post-relaxation time.

Roy believes this personalized approach is part of the reason the spa is able to achieve a high number of male guests—it boasts an impressive split between male and female clients of 48 and 52 percent, respectively. This privacy is also enticing to groups. Corporate clients from nearby Cleveland and Akron, OH, flock to the spa during weekdays, taking particular advantage of the spa's in-suite Wi-Fi connections, while smaller groups, including birthday, bridal, and bachelorette parties, keep the spa busy on weekends. "Our Small Group package [$675 for six people, includes one 60-minute spa service per person] is booked at least a few times a week during peak months," says Roy.

The Vichy Suite is the spa's most requested suite.
The Vichy Suite is the spa's most requested suite.

Still, the spa's bread-and-butter is its couples' services, and many duos take advantage of the three Couples' Suites, which include all the amenities of the regular spa suites, as well as a bistro table for enjoying spa cuisine, a fireplace, and a large Jacuzzi tub that can accommodate several people. Additionally, relaxation time is extended to 45 minutes both pre-and post-treatment, and there is never an extra charge for the luxe suites, as long as there is availability, which savvy spa-goers know is achieved by booking early. "Couples are our business," says Roy. "Our Couples' Suites are usually booked two weeks prior to the scheduled treatment date."

The 10,000-square-foot Spa Walden, which is easily accessible for guests of the nearby Inn Walden, is home to 12 luxurious spa suites.
The 10,000-square-foot Spa Walden, which is easily accessible for guests of the nearby Inn Walden, is home to 12 luxurious spa suites.

Like many spas, Spa Walden's most popular service is massage, which makes up approximately 58 percent of its business. This is followed by facials, nail services, body treatments, and hair services in popularity. "Hair services are the hardest to promote, so we run offers for a complimentary blow-out and style for those who purchase a 60-minute spa service," says Roy. "Also, when we bring on a new stylist, we send invitations to our guests, inviting them to try out our new stylist free of charge with their next purchase of a spa service."

Another way the spa tackles challenges, such as dealing with the slower business in the off-season months of January and September, is the launch of specific deals to the spa's database of 1,000-plus Walden members who live in the property's residential community or belong to Club Walden, an exclusive membership program that gives guests special access to the property's recreation and dining amenities. Roy also takes to the airwaves in traditionally slower months, offering discount deals, such as gift certificates that can be purchased for $25 but are worth $50, on local radio stations. "During this airtime, we launch other promotions that can be used in conjunction with these gift certificates to try and get maximum output," she says.



Though the spa is only a little more than a year old, expansion plans are already in the works. Spa Walden can cater to more than 50 clients per day at maximum capacity, something that occurs with regularity during high season, the busiest month of which is November. "Our future plans are to build out different phases to try and keep our guest experiences growing," says Roy.

First up will be the construction of indoor and outdoor pools, a high-end cardio center, and a yoga studio, all of which will be located within the spa. This will be followed by the addition of luxury Spa Cottages that combine the Five-Diamond luxury of Inn Walden accommodations with the best of the private spa suite experiences. The cottages will include personal spa suites, a spa concierge who is available 24/7, and more.

Thoreau concluded Walden with the following: "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." At Spa Walden, those dreams of success have become a reality.

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