October 7, 2012
I love autumn. The season makes me think of change. This fall I decided to begin the writing of a blog designed specifically for you, our guests. The blog will address all things spa related and hopefully provide you with some great tips! You will have the opportunity to hear from our spa experts. We welcome your thoughts and questions.
But before we get to that, I think it is important to start at the beginning of the journey that took us here…..
I think I am dreaming. My head feels heavy and I struggle to open my eyes. I see my brother and his fiancé sitting in chairs wearing surgical masks and staring at me. Ok Deb, wake up.
I am not dreaming. I look around and realize that I am in a hospital. Have I been committed? I try to sit up and ask my brother why he is wearing a mask. He tells me that I am in an isolated hospital room. Oh this is bad. As he is telling me how sick I was, two words stick in my head: “The Spa.”
Flashback to December 2010. I had been a Spa Director at the same spa in Newport for seven years. I had the opportunity to trouble-shoot and solve problems in other spas owned by the company; I won numerous awards, worked with an excellent team and was able to walk to work. I am bored.
Unexpectedly, I receive a random call from a recruiter. The owners of the Providence Biltmore want to open their own spa in the space that a chain spa was vacating. I was not looking for a job, but figure, what the heck and decided to go talk to them.
I am intrigued. Fixing failing spas had been the favorite part of my job. I loved the challenge of it.
Two weeks later
I am a now a commuter. I remember my early morning workout crowd looking at me like I was going to the moon.
“You’re going to drive to…Providence? …every day?”
I have been fortunate to travel to various parts of the world. My travels took to me from Vietnam, to Easter Island and everything in between. Alas, I am from Rhode Island and I get it.
My assistant, Lisa and I (yes, I stole her from my previous job) arrive for work on January 10th 2011. We report to our new boss at the time (no longer with the hotel but that’s another story) who promptly tells us that the owner needs the spa open in two weeks and that the existing spa will be operating up until that day. The day they move out, we move in at midnight. She then promptly shuts her door to take a phone call.
Now I am not only panicking and sweating but wondering what we were doing in this room.
Why did I leave Newport?
The chief engineer knocks on the door.”HIDebbieIamTomandletsapologizetoeachothernow.” One run on sentence and he POOF! he vanishes (More about nuts and bolts Tom later).
I glance at Lisa and she looks like she could possibly faint. I know she is sweating too.
Ok Deb, get it together. Do something, anything to make this feeling go away.
I start making phone calls to vendors. It is evident that we need everything from bobby pins to bathrobes. But more important we need a staff.
We just started and never looked back. We placed orders, wrote a menu, drank a lot of coffee and moved into a bigger room. But most importantly, we built a team. Admittedly, the least favorite part of my job is interviewing. I just don’t like it. We had our some of our past co-workers that wanted to work with us, but we needed a much larger team. We had agreed to interview everyone from the existing spa to see if they were interested in staying. From the first interview I knew we were in trouble. They were a very close family and they felt like we were breaking it up. They had only been recently told their spa was closing. Many of them had been working together for years. I was the devil from Newport. I could feel the resentment. We interviewed so many people. There were some interesting answers too. Example: one eager beaver applicant ended the interview with, “Yeah, I need next Saturday off.”
During this time, the existing spa had been kind enough to give each client my cell phone number, just in case they had any questions about the thousands of gift certificates that had been purchased during the holidays or if their bridal party would still take place next week. Brides become quite frantic when being faced with the possibility that all the months of planning their wedding day hair and make-up could possibly be blown to bits. It was at that time I made my first executive decision – I handed my phone to Lisa and made her answer it.
Those were the long days. Every minute of was spent doing something. The poor security guys had the pleasure of delivering hundreds of boxes to us.
We still hadn’t seen the spa and were still working out of a meeting room that was becoming increasingly overrun with these boxes.
Thank goodness for Lisa. I am excellent in operations, however I am quite terrible at writing things down. I have my older brother to thank for that. I write things on post it’s and hand them to Lisa to sort out. My brain works too fast sometimes. I spit out ideas and things to do and Lisa actually understands them. So while I am planning the move into the spa, Lisa is making lists. Lots of lists. Important lists like employee phone numbers, employee’s schedules and every exact detail of every bride that called my cell phone.
January 24th 2011.
We are ready to move in. Boxes are moved, computers are set up and products are placed out. Somehow, in those two weeks something magical happened. A team was built. It wasn’t ‘our’ old spa or their ‘spa.’ It was now ours: The Spa at the Providence Biltmore.
Right after the opening I began to feel tired. Really tired. I remember calling Lisa and telling her I didn’t think I would be able to come in the next day. I called my mom and dad who immediately take me to the hospital. (Thanks Dotti and Jim!) I have pneumonia and the swine flu. I am hospitalized for two days. Two Days! I beg my brother to give me my phone and I think I called Lisa. When the nurses were gone, I would text her from underneath my blankets. I can only imagine what some of those messages said.
When I was released, I was told to rest at home for a few days. Ok. Sure.
The next day I am back to being a commuter. I remember having a sense that the worst was behind me. We had pulled together and made this happen. The spa was open. Nothing this bad could happen again….
Right??? To be continued…….