Hilltop Elegance

The Huntington Hotel is a landmark luxury retreat ideally situated in San Francisco's exclusive Nob Hill neighborhood. Featuring picturesque hilltop vistas of the city skyline and a history of catering to the world's elite travelers, the hotel is a posh getaway for the privileged. Nob Hill Spa, the hotel's acclaimed spa, is equally elegant.

The expansive city view is perhaps the spa's most distinctive feature. "One of the things that makes Nob Hill Spa so unique is the unbelievable setting," says spa director Jenean LaRoche. "We sit about twenty-five stories above the city of San Francisco and have a spectacular view of the city from floor-to-ceiling glass windows."

Along with spectacular views, the 12,000-square-foot spa also features an indoor infinity pool where spa-goers can relax pre- and post-treatment and enjoy sumptuous spa cuisine, as well as a charming outdoor patio.

 The posh Huntington Hotel is home to the 12,000-square-foot Nob Hill Spa.
The posh Huntington Hotel is home to the 12,000-square-foot Nob Hill Spa.

When it comes to the clientele, LaRoche says the ratio is skewed more toward local clients than hotel guests and spa-seekers from nearby luxury hotels. "We appeal to Bay Area locals and San Franciscanites because we truly are like a small destination spa in the heart of San Francisco," she says. "Because we are located in the historic Nob Hill area, many guests come to the spa for the day and then stay in the area for a great dining experience or to go out for a night on the town."

Massage, which is performed in one of the 10 treatment rooms, is the lifeblood of the spa and the favored treatment among clients.
Massage, which is performed in one of the 10 treatment rooms, is the lifeblood of the spa and the favored treatment among clients.

To meet this demand, the 10-treatment-room spa employs around 70 full- and part-time staff members, a number that is necessary to accommodate the 100 to 125 guests who frequent the spa on a typical busy Saturday. The staff generally encourages guests to enjoy 80-minute treatments versus 50-minute treatments, which brings fewer guests to the spa and offers a much more private experience for all. This doesn't take much encouragement, however, as most Nob Hill spa-goers generally partake in more than one treatment, preferring to spend the day at the spa enjoying the pool, the views, the state-of-the-art workout facilities, wellness and fitness classes, and the organic local spa cuisine.

The pool area with a fireplace and Jacuzzi is an ideal place for spa-goers to relax.
The pool area with a fireplace and Jacuzzi is an ideal place for spa-goers to relax.

The spa also caters to groups, with friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, couples, and bridal and birthday parties making up a significant portion of the clientele. On a typical weekend, the spa will host four to six organized social groups. To help facilitate this business, the private Premier Spa Suite, which can accommodate up to eight guests for massage, facials, body treatments, and nail services, was recently introduced. In addition to treatment areas, suite guests enjoy a private living room, dining area, lockers, and a restroom, as well as stunning views of the city. Says LaRoche, "This is perfect for those wishing to have a private function or who want to create a special one-of-a-kind private day."

Expansive city views are available from the infinity-edge indoor pool and outdoor patio.
Expansive city views are available from the infinity-edge indoor pool and outdoor patio.

But whether hosting groups or individuals, Nob Hill Spa is renowned for its spectacular treatments. Menu highlights include an extensive collection of treatments from around the world, ranging from Asian-inspired therapies to skin and body sessions using lavender and other local herbs to facials and more. Seasonal experiences, like the Cranberry-Pomegranate Body Treatment ($125, 50 minutes), which is offered during the winter, are also available.

Massage, however, is by far the most popular treatment. "Massage is at the heart of what we do, and we have a very rigorous hiring process," says LaRoche. "We receive many applications each month, but we look for those therapists who have a little something extra special about them in addition to excellent training. We also invest a lot of time and money into continuing education for our therapists. We want them to be well-educated, and we love it when we hear our clients say that they always get a great massage when they come to us."

The spa entrance leads guests to the retail boutique and check-in area.
The spa entrance leads guests to the retail boutique and check-in area.

A variety of products are used in the treatment room. Body treatments are performed using Babor, Biotone, Jamu, Red Flower, and Tara Spa Therapy, as well as a lavender sugar scrub made locally. The skincare lines include Babor, MD Skincare, Skinceuticals, and True. "We've carefully chosen these lines to give us a variety of products and approaches to appeal to a wide range of consumers," says LaRoche. This has paid off well in the retail arena. "Our standard product sales-to-service ratio is fifty percent and above," she says. "The estheticians are well-trained, love the products they work with, and educate our guests with professional homecare recommendations so that they will have the best possible lasting results."



Indeed, retail is an important aspect of the spa and is of particular interest to Huntington Hotel owner Serena Fritz-Cope, who has a fashion design and merchandising background and has been integral to the success of the spa boutique, which offers one-of-a-kind fashions, jewelry, accessories, and gift items. The boutique also prominently features the lines used in the treatment room. "We educate our spa concierge about the lines and provide incentives to all of the staff," says LaRoche. "It is a win-win for everybody—the guest gets to learn about and take home great products, the staff has incentive to sell, and the spa makes money."

In fact, LaRoche is currently putting the finishing touches on an online retail store to help meet the growing reorder needs of her customers. It is that expanding customer base that presents one of the spa's biggest (yet most welcome) challenges. "Because we are in a historic hotel, existing space was precious when it was being built," says LaRoche. "If we could expand the spa to two or three times its size, that would be perfect, but that is just not possible. We have to turn away business because we fill up two to four weeks in advance on weekends. We have expanded our sales staff to two people to handle the demand of our social groups and expanding repeat corporate business."

Too much business is a cherished challenge for LaRoche and her team, and they continue to introduce new elements to the spa. Up next is the launch of a guided imagery healing spa experience for guests created by world-renowned holistic physician Martin Rossman, M.D. "Guests will be able to choose to have guided imagery as part of their treatment experience," says LaRoche. "When the treatment is concluded, they will receive a private-label branded CD that will contain guided imagery exercises that they can listen to at home to extend and renew their relaxation benefits." It's just one more thing that makes Nob Hill Spa the picture of elegance.

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