Treetop Tranquility

 

For those who want to take their spa-going to new heights, Hidden Pond (Kennebunkport, ME), a 60-acre secluded resort, has the perfect solution with its new Tree Spa, which immerses guests in nature by featuring treatment rooms that have been built in the trees. Guests will pine over the spa’s three treetop treatment rooms, which are situated eight feet above the ground and connected by a catwalk woven through the trees. According to founding partner and operator Debra Lennon, Tree Spa was an important part of Hidden Pond’s close connection to nature. “We wanted to create something incredibly authentic and unique that matched Hidden Pond’s laid-back casual elegance,” says Lennon. “The spa is unique in the sheer fact that the spa rooms are built as tree houses nestled in the trees. The styling, the decor, and the ambience are rustic yet luxurious.”

Originality is nothing new to the resort, which features 14 eclectic cottages, each designed by a different Maine designer, and 20 bungalow cottages situated among the property’s balsam and birch groves. The spa’s location was determined by the fact that it would overlook Hidden Pond, the resort’s namesake watering hole. “The location was perfect to reflect the seasonality and tie into all of the natural elements of Hidden Pond,” says Lennon. The tree houses themselves feature unfinished wooden interiors with tree-themed elements, such as mirrors encased in a section of the oak trees and birch-finished sinks. Other accents include vintage potting benches used as work stations and natural ingredients displayed in glass apothecary jars. Rolled towels can be found in wicker baskets and old water pails. Tree stumps serve as ideal tables for guests to place their personal belongings.

Trees also played a role in the development of the menu. Green leaves dangling from tree branches make up the background of the printed menu, which also features various tree-related poems. “The poems talk of the strength, the character, the need for nurture, and the individuality of trees, and how they are similar to the human body,” says Lennon.

In creating the menu, it was important to all involved that there be some stand-out signature treatments and to hold true to the resort’s commitment to sustainability and conservation. “We chose not to offer nail services because of our goal to use only the finest organic and all-natural products,” says Lennon. As for the spa’s face and body treatments, Farmaesthetics was ultimately chosen to fit the bill on account of the fact that the products are both organic and based on herbology. The glass jars with handwritten labels that the products are packaged in was also a point in its favor.

According to spa consultant Carla Bashaw, choosing the line was rather serendipitous. Unable to recall the company name, Lennon mentioned the line to her in their preliminary discussion about the decision. “I knew exactly which one she meant, because I had originally wanted to carry it in one of my day spas several years prior but was unable to for exclusivity reasons,” says Bashaw. She later came to find out that managing director Natalie Ward used to work with someone whose relative worked for Farmaesthetics.” They also discovered that the lead esthetician for Farmaesthetics is originally from Kennebunkport. “It was definitely meant to be,” says Bashaw.

In keeping with the property’s eco-friendly philosophy, the spa also relies on local ingredients picked fresh from Hidden Pond’s garden. Lavender, mint, and rosemary are three ingredients that figure prominently in various treatments. Wanting to ensure that guests get exactly what they need, customization is key. Fortunately, that made-to-order mentality can also be found throughout the property. “Hidden Pond is all about laid-back living with an opportunity to customize your stay to your own tastes,” says Ward. “It’s a vacation reminiscent of sleep-away camp but with all the elements in place to feel truly relaxed and pampered.”

 

Staffing Stats

In creating the ideal spa for Hidden Pond, it was determined early on that a spa partner with prior operating experience was needed. “We looked for someone with local experience, who had run successful spa businesses, and who understood our vision for the spa and the importance of the spa as part of Hidden Pond,” says Lennon. “We needed someone with local resources, a great service culture, and strong organizational skills, as we were working with a short timeline from building to opening.” Fortunately, they didn’t have to look far to find Carla Bashaw, who owns Genesis Day Spa (Ogunquit, ME) and also serves as spa director at The Spa at Stage Neck Inn (York Harbor, ME). “Carla played a very critical role in the spa development from start to finish,” says Lennon. “She was instrumental in keeping us on target with timelines and action items.” Responsible for assembling the spa team, Bashaw looked for employees who excelled in their areas of expertise and had strong customer service skills. She also wanted those who could relate to being a part of a bigger guest service experience. “I chose therapists with a background or a lifestyle fitting with the theme of the property and the spa—natural, organic, simple, and nurturing,” says Bashaw. “I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many great therapists and estheticians in this area and made many phone calls asking them to be a part of my team at the Tree Spa. Not all were able to accept, but those who did are the perfect fit. They listen to guests and have the education and the intuition to just know what is needed. They are personable, happy, non-judgmental and, above all, very talented. They love what they do, and it shows through their hands.”

Obstacles Overcome

As with many projects, opening on schedule proved difficult because of equipment that didn’t arrive on time. “I would have ordered all equipment sooner,” says Lennon. “Too many things came in late and caused us to scramble.” As a result, Bashaw had to borrow items from one of her day spas and another Kennebunkport Resort Collection property in order to pull the spa together in time. Another major challenge was finding the right staff members. “Carla had a clear indication of who she was looking for and kept interviewing until she found the best people to match the vibe of the spa and Hidden Pond,” says Lennon. Because of the time crunch in getting everyone hired and up to speed, the spa had to utilize staff members from Bashaw’s other spas.

 

Hindsight

Opening in May, Tree Spa is gearing up to welcome guests. According to Lennon, there are a few things she would have done differently. Adding an additional treatment room is one of them. “The cost for construction wasn’t too high, and based on usage, I think it would have been prudent,” says Lennon. Each tree house cost approximately $15,000 to build and another $10,000 to furnish. A locker area would also have been a welcome addition, as well as a larger sized reception area and retail space.

 

Spa Timeline

February 2011

Founding partner and operator Debra Lennon and managing director Natalie Ward decide to hire someone to operate the spa. They meet with spa consultant Carla Bashaw to discuss the spa’s philosophy and menu.

 

March 2011

Farmaesthetics is chosen as the spa’s product line. Menu is designed around selected product line. Bashaw begins assembling the equipment list, and Lennon and Ward make final selections.

 

April 2011

Bashaw begins interviewing and hiring therapists. Equipment list is finalized. Construction begins on spa tree houses.

 

May 2011

Equipment and supplies are ordered. Therapists undergo product knowledge training. Tree house walls are completed, and interiors and exteriors are painted. Spa menu and materials are printed.

 

June 2011

Spa officially opens on June 10. 

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