Commonly referred to as The Triangle, the region surrounding Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC, has long been home to numerous universities and high-tech companies. What many felt it lacked, however, was a first-rate hotel that could accommodate visiting executives. To remedy the situation, Ann Goodnight, wife of Jim Goodnight, founder, owner, and CEO of software giant SAS in Cary, NC, set her sights on creating a world-class hotel that would reflect an appreciation for the arts as well as preserve the heritage of North Carolina's natural beauty. "We wanted to set the bar on luxury in the area and really create something that North Carolina can be proud of," says Goodnight. Five years after first conceiving the project, she accomplished what she set out to do with the completion of The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. "We consider The Umstead to be the signature North Carolina luxury hotel and spa, and from the beginning, we had that goal in mind," says Goodnight.
Guests at The Umstead can enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds the resort.
Because nowadays no hotel is complete without a topnotch spa, Goodnight was adamant that the hotel include an equally impressive one. Considering that The Umstead Spa was recently made a member of The Leading Spas of the World, it's safe to say: mission accomplished. The 14,000-square-foot spa features 10 treatment rooms, including a mini spa suite. Ideal for hosting bridal showers and other spa celebrations, the suite features a couples' treatment room with hydrotherapy tub, a Vichy wet room, and an esthetics room. Able to accommodate four to eight spa-goers, the suite also comes complete with an outdoor balcony on which guests can kick back and socialize. The suite is typically booked for four to six hours. The spa also offers plenty of places for guests to relax. In addition to the men's and women's lounges, guests can also mingle in the co-ed lounge or the outdoor relaxation garden.
The couples' treatment room offers views of The Umstead's scenic grounds.
Although Raleigh's spa scene is still considered to be in its infancy, expectations and standards in the area are high. The spa caters to savvy spa-goers, many of whom are traveling on business from New York City and other metropolitan areas. Despite the influx of business travelers, the spa's clientele is equally divided between hotel guests and locals. Due to this steady flow of traffic, the spa has two entrances—one through the hotel and another that leads to the outside—to accommodate both groups.
In the spa lobby, guests can check in for their appointments and peruse a variety of product displays.
According to assistant spa director Nicolette Kroucamp-Lee, community outreach has been especially helpful in building relationships with area residents. In fact, the spa employs a spa sales manager, whose only job is to "sell" the spa. A major draw for locals is the Spa Elite Membership Program (for an annual fee of $2,400 for individuals and $1,680 for their companions), which includes a host of benefits, including two complimentary weekend stays in an Executive Suite, unlimited access to the fitness studio, one free 50-minute spa treatment per quarter, five complimentary guest passes a year, a 10 percent discount on all spa retail items, and more. Limited to 100 members, the Spa Elite Membership Program currently has 60 members.
Guests can soak up the great outdoors in the heated pool.
Serving up a taste of Southern comfort, the spa offers packages named after various North Carolina state parks, landmarks, and notable characters. For instance, The Umstead ($175, 100 minutes) couples a Body Polish with a relaxing Aromatherapy Massage. It gets its name from William B. Umstead, the former state senator and governor (and hotel's namesake), from whom the nearby William B. Umstead State Park is named. At the height of luxury is the Do It Wright ($400, 5 hours) package, which includes a full-body sugar scrub, a massage, a Thermal Water Facial, a manicure and pedicure, a glass of champagne, and a platter of fresh fruits, bread, and a selection of cheeses. The Wright Brothers, the package's inspiration, changed the world forever with the first successful airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, NC. The idea behind this lavish package is to change a guest's world for a day.
With 40 employees on staff at any time, the spa is able to accommodate approximately 120 guests in a typical day. According to Kroucamp-Lee, finding the right staff was a challenge. "Because we're part of the very first resort spa in the Raleigh area, it's difficult to find a pool of good therapists who really connect with people," says Kroucamp-Lee. Despite the slim pickings, she feels fortunate to have assembled a staff with the qualities necessary to run a first-rate spa.
As for the future, Kroucamp-Lee says there are plans to introduce new treatments, such as a Tibetan bandle massage, which uses a bundle of herbs with a handle. Offering a new results-oriented skincare line is also on the agenda. Resting on the spa's laurels is not an option, according to her, as keeping the staff's morale up is key to running a successful spa. "It's onward and upward," says Kroucamp-Lee. "We motivate with pride, passion, and performance."