Real Simple

With Its Modern, Clean Design, Youthful appeal, and simple menu, Benu Spa & Salon is not your mother's day spa, which is entirely the point, according to its founders. Benu was created when the owners of the Phoenix Midtown apartments in Dallas decided they wanted to open a spa in some unused retail space in the building. Wanting to appeal to the young urban professional tenants, as well as the same demographic group that lives, works, and shops nearby, they contacted Doug Chambers and Cary Collier of Blu Spas (Whitefish, MT) to create a haven that less experienced spa-goers would embrace.

 The communal co-ed Waterhouse features a Whirlpool, rain shower, and steam area.
The communal co-ed Waterhouse features a Whirlpool, rain shower, and steam area.

The result is a 5,000-square-foot Zen-like retreat that features muted gender-neutral colors, minimalist designs, Asian-inspired accents, and a simple yet creative menu. "Benu was specifically designed to be approachable and inviting," explains Chambers. "In some of the focus groups we conducted, we found a lot of younger spa-goers, particularly women, who said they loved to go to the spa, but there was a part of them that felt a little intimidated, like showing up to a party and not knowing the dress code."

A variety of nail services are available in the salon.
A variety of nail services are available in the salon.

To appeal to this group, Chambers and Collier kept Benu's philosophy of "Clean and Simple, Excellent Services, Wonderful Results" in mind for all aspects of the spa's creation. "We wanted to find a spa concept that would match with the demographics of the neighborhood and be distinguished from other great spas in the area," says Chambers.

Guests can partake in one of three pre-treatment footbaths.
Guests can partake in one of three pre-treatment footbaths.

Benu guests are made to feel welcome from their point of arrival. The spa features the city's only communal bathhouse, the Waterhouse, where guests can relax together in the co-ed Whirlpool, rain shower, and steam area. After decompressing in the Waterhouse, guests can prepare for their treatments with one of three relaxing, scented footbaths—Jama, Plonk, and Za—which cost $30 for a 20-minute soak.

Retail products offered in the treatment rooms and near the reception desk account for about 16 percent of business at Benu.
Retail products offered in the treatment rooms and near the reception desk account for about 16 percent of business at Benu.

Another distinguishing feature for Benu is the menu. It is simple and straightforward, offering a concise selection of effective, uncomplicated treatments. Chambers and Collier purposefully decided to only offer a few selections in each treatment category. For massage, for example, there are just three options—a customized Benu massage, which uses various techniques to cater to guests' individual needs, a hot stone massage, and a couples massage. "We wanted a menu for Benu that would be in stark contrast to most other spa menus," says Chambers. "Too many spas offer menus that leave guests, particularly spa novices, confused and overwhelmed. We wanted to make a clear departure from typical spa menu formats and verbiage."

Treatments using all-natural products, like Anakiri, are available in all five treatment rooms.
Treatments using all-natural products, like Anakiri, are available in all five treatment rooms.

Blu Spas also made a departure from the norm when choosing the products for the spa. The selection of environmentally friendly, natural or botanical lines was important to the team, as was finding offerings that were unique to the area. Jamu devotes a portion of its proceeds to UNICEF and offers biodegradable herbal remedies, Epicuren offers green products, and Sprayology is designed to positively impact health and well-being. "We wanted to have distinct and eclectic offerings," says Chambers.

Billy Yamaguchi's Feng Shui beauty rituals are used in the salon.
Billy Yamaguchi's Feng Shui beauty rituals are used in the salon.

Although the spa's location could have posed a challenge, the Benu team has thus far handled the issue with ease. While situated near a busy thoroughfare, it is located in the back of the apartment complex, hidden from the road, which makes attracting walk-in traffic difficult. But that hurdle has been conquered with aggressive marketing techniques that include email blasts and maps with all promotional materials. "Originally, we anticipated that the majority of our clients would come from the apartment complex, but the response from the outside market has been stronger than expected," says Chambers.



Benu's core 25- to 35-year-old client base has enthusiastically embraced its simple, yet effective philosophy. The spa comes close to its maximum capacity of 130 treatments per day on Fridays and Saturdays, and Chambers says he has noticed a marked increase in mid-week appointments as well. "Word-of-mouth recommendations about the quality of Benu's services attract spa-goers," says Chambers. "Benu's reputation for a fresh approach to the spa environment and not taking itself too seriously attracts many first-timers."

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