Whimsical Woodlands

“Ask and you shall receive” may as well be the motto of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Farmington, PA). For the past 20 years, the expansive 2,000-acre property has regularly transformed and added one-of-a-kind amenities based on the whims and wishes of visionary founder Joseph A. Hardy and its loyal employees and guests. Set in the Laurel Highlands near a trail carved by Delaware Indian Chief Nemacolin and later a private game reserve owned by Pittsburgh industrialist Willard F. Rockwell, the property was purchased by Hardy at auction in 1987 in hopes of offering his daughter, Maggie Hardy Magerko, now president and owner, a good fishing hole. Instead, the original 550 acres paved the way for a luxurious family getaway destination that now boasts a range of accommodations from RV sites to ultra-luxurious suites; two spas; adventure activities including a zip line and four-wheel driving outings; a wildlife preserve with lions, tigers, and bears; an extensive art collection; a casino; a world-renowned golf course; and much more. Earlier this year marked the completion of the largest renovation project, a $30 million transformation of the resort inside and out. Among the array of improvements is the debut of the Holistic Healing Center, which lead acupuncturist and therapist Alik Minikhanov dreamed up and helped make a reality. “He’s the reason we started the holistic center,” says Stephanie Wendell, director of operations and massage therapist for the Holistic Healing Center. “He was looking to take things a step further and offer what his guests needed.”

The new 2,800-square-foot facility, which is located adjacent to the AAA Five-Diamond Falling Rock boutique hotel, houses four private treatment suites, a group meditation space, a consultation room, and a retail area, as well as an outdoor terrace and an onsite Holistic Garden. Here, the focus is on healing and transformative results. “We look to be defined as a place that you can come and receive authentic, personalized treatments and walk away rejuvenated and still sit in the lap of luxury and dive into what you want to do, where you want to go, and who you are,” says Wendell. A skilled team of 14, including three full-time, five part-time, five independent practitioners, and one advisory board member, can help approximately 40 guests achieve their wellness goals each day.

The menu at the Holistic Healing Center has been a collaborative effort between area professionals and the staff, starting with the selection of Ancient Healing Oils, a local, simple, and pure product line. Two custom-blended essential oils from the company, called Breathe and Peace, are incorporated into each treatment. One of the most popular therapies available is the Acu-Kila ($140, 50 minutes; $215, 80 minutes), which merges massage movements from Asian, Russian, and Swedish modalities with healing energy techniques and stretches to open joints, work out tight tissues, and heal injuries. Also in demand is the Acu-Vitality ($195, 80 minutes; $275, 110 minutes), which Minikhanov created expressly for Hardy, who enjoys the balancing and restorative service twice a week, and at 92 years old, is a walking billboard for its curative power. In addition to specific massage techniques and acupuncture, the therapist taps into energy points known to help maintain a strong body, mind, and spirit and uses tuning forks to help focus and quiet the mind. The Holistic Healing Center also introduced a monthly Ayurvedic Sanctuary, a three-, five-, or seven-day rejuvenating retreat. “Guests get a consultation with a true Ayurvedic practitioner who checks the pulse and evaluates the tongue to determine what foods are best,” says Wendell. “They will enjoy those foods while they’re here and experience a very detailed program with aromatherapy, essential oils, and treatments.”

Whether they participate in a retreat or are simply seeking a total wellness immersion, the healing can continue round the clock thanks to the Serenity Rooms at Falling Rock. These accommodations come with signature aromatherapy from the Healing Center, a yoga mat and blocks, butler service, and healthy swaps for the indulgent turn-down service temptations—house-made granola bars instead of chocolate chip cookies and kombucha tea in place of Champagne. “People do want to look inside themselves, but they also want to keep their comforts, so it’s a very unique environment,” says Wendell. “We’re unique, we’re elegant yet personal, and we’re very private.” Visitors needn’t leave their rooms for healing as an acupuncture treatment or a private yoga session is just a phone call away as part of the exclusive in-room service menu.

For those seeking a more traditional spa experience, there is the 32,000-square-foot Woodlands Spa, which debuted in 1988 and received a refresh in 2005 with a dozen new treatment rooms and a Fitness Center. A five-minute walk from the Chateau Lafayette accommodations, the 40-treatment-room, three-storey oasis offers a selection of nearly 100 different options—including salon services, nailcare, body treatments, massages, facials, and personal training—to appeal to the luxury spa-goer. Spa director Lori Shubert describes her clientele as well-educated, well-rounded, and well-traveled professionals who expect the best. “We’re finding that they’re more and more spa savvy,” she says. “They know what they want, and they’ve experienced it, so we need to be on top of our game at all times making sure that we have the best products and best education, and we can offer something different.” The Dream Catcher (starting at $270, 1 hour 45 minutes), a massage devised by Wendell years ago, is one of the signature offerings that has proved popular with Nemacolin’s discerning guests. It draws from the area’s Native American heritage and brings together Hawaiian and Eastern traditions for a transformative relaxation experience. Guests leave with their own dream catcher to remind them to return to the calm moment.

They also often return to the resort and the Woodlands Spa, which generally keeps the nature-inspired treatment rooms occupied. Shubert’s 100-person team—40 are full-time and 60 are part-time—can accommodate 450 appointments on their busiest days, but 300 to 350 appointments is more common. Booking appointments hasn’t been a concern, though recruiting enough
therapists and estheticians to keep up with demand has been. “We’re pretty far away from everything here in the mountains, so it can be a challenge,” says Shubert. “Housing in this area is tough, as well, and when people relocate, it’s difficult for them to find a place to live.” Once hired, however, they prove to be loyal and often stay for five, 10, 15, and even 20 years. “Our people are really dedicated to giving the best customer service they possibly can, and that really makes a difference,” says Shubert. The team is equally devoted to the spa’s primary product lines—Dermalogica, FarmHouse Fresh, Mama Mio, and most recently Naturopathica—chosen for their effectiveness, brand education, and the luxurious experience they offer spa-goers.

“The Woodlands Spa has always been known for pampering and great customer service, but we also want to promote a healthy way of living,” says Shubert. “Because of all the changes that have come with adding the Holistic Healing Center as one of our other amenities, it’s made us more aware of healthy activities and amenities. People still want to come to the luxury resort, but we want to add all the aspects of healthy living for them to get the best of both worlds.”

Holistic Healing Center (Farmington, PA)

Owner: Maggie Hardy Magerko

Director of Operations: Stephanie Wendell

Opened: April 2014

Client Base

70% female

30% male

Space

2,800 square feet; 4 treatment rooms

Products

Ancient Healing Oils

Equipment

Mac, Multi Radiance Medical, Neomedic, Seirin

Architect

David Merritt, Merritt & Associates (Pittsburgh)

Interior Designer

DRS Architects (Pittsburgh)

 

Woodlands Spa (Farmington, PA)

Owner: Maggie Hardy Magerko

Spa Director: Lori Shubert

Opened: 1988

Client Base

70% female

30% male

Space

32,000 square feet; 40 treatment rooms

Products

Aura, Balance & Harmony, Cuccio Naturalé, Dermalogica, FarmHouse Fresh, L’Oréal Professionnel, Mama Mio, Monarch Robes, Naturopathica, Yeah Baby

Equipment

Cybex, Living Earth Crafts, SpaSoft

Architect

Clodagh, Clodagh Design International (New York City)

Spa Consultant

John DiJulius (Cleveland)

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