Sumo wrestlers, saunas and suc­cess

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

It’s a sunny Fri­day morn­ing at Nat­u­ral Body Spa and Shop in Morn­ing­side and busi­ness is brisk. Cus­tomers mill about the re­tail por­tion of the store brows­ing the lat­est skin­care prod­ucts while oth­ers are check­ing their phones in the nail salon as they get man­i­cures and pedi­cures.

Be­fore long, in walks Cici Cof­fee, owner and op­er­a­tor of Nat­u­ral Body since the busi­ness’ hum­ble be­gin­nings in this very same neigh­bor­hood nearly 30 years ago. A tour of the prop­erty re­veals a dra­matic scene change as one makes their way from the bright, ac­tive re­tail por­tion back through wooden doors into the dimly lit, tran­quil 13-room spa area, which takes up most of the nearly 4,200-square foot fa­cil­ity.

But flash back to 1989 and take a few steps across the street and you would have been stand­ing in the first Nat­u­ral Body lo­ca­tion, a 1,000-square-foot re­tail store with just two treat­ment rooms in back. Com­pa­nies like Estée Lauder ruled the skin­care world and peo­ple had barely heard of Kiehl’s, An­neMarie Bor­lind and other brands Nat­u­ral Body of­fered. But cus­tomers loved test­ing out the prod­ucts, do­ing makeup ap­pli­ca­tions and learn­ing how to take care of their skin.

“The de­mand for those ser­vices – be­cause no­body else was do­ing it in town – was just crazy,” Cof­fee told Georgia Voice.

Within a year they moved across the street into the cur­rent lo­ca­tion.

“We brought a lot of lines with us and now they’re com­plete stores,” Cof­fee told Georgia Voice. “We con­stantly have to rein­vent our­selves and move with the times and stay fresh and rel­e­vant.”

Jan­uary 6, 2017

Nat­u­ral Body would move into its next phase of growth as the eyes of the world turned to­ward At­lanta.

When or­ga­niz­ers of the 1996 Sum­mer Olympics de­cided to have a day spa in the Ath­letes’ Vil­lage for the first time in the Games’ 100-year his­tory, they turned to Nat­u­ral Body. The pal­ette they were given to make it come to life? The Georgia Tech foot­ball team’s locker room.

“We put two blow-up Jacuzzis in the mid­dle of the locker room. We wiped the old wooden lock­ers down with tea tree and orange es­sen­tial oils be­cause it smelled,” Cof­fee said laugh­ing. The ath­letes ate it up. “We did not have one minute to squeeze some­body in. It was fun.”

And the saunas and steam cabi­nets they lined up in the bath­room gained quick fans from the Far East.

“Sumo wrestlers were packed into our saunas,” Cof­fee said. “It was a hoot.”

It also gar­nered the busi­ness press at­ten­tion na­tion­wide, po­si­tion­ing them to take the next step – fran­chis­ing. They soon got up to 20 lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide. The re­ces­sion hit years later and Nat­u­ral Body wasn’t spared, as sev­eral lo­ca­tions closed their doors. But they’ve re­bounded in re­cent years and are back up to 12 spas and three nail bars in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, with


paperwork close to be­ing signed on a new spa in Al­pharetta.

One as­pect of the busi­ness that’s con­tin­ued to at­tract cus­tomers is the com­mit­ment to en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity – “nat­u­ral” isn’t in the busi­ness name for noth­ing. For ex­am­ple, they use re­cy­cled school bus tires for the floor­ing in the spa area, which has more than one ben­e­fit.

“The ther­a­pists love it be­cause it’s easy on their backs, and it also grabs sound,” Cof­fee said.

And the busi­ness’ Brookhaven lo­ca­tion was the first plat­inum LEED-cer­ti­fied spa in the US.

“We’ve al­ways been about peo­ple, planet, profit. Try­ing to al­ways stay true to sus­tain­abil­ity, do­ing as much as we can for our staff and for the com­mu­nity while still main­tain­ing prof­itabil­ity. We try to bal­ance those as equally as we can. That’s what’s got­ten us close to 30 years in now,” Cof­fee ex­plained.

Cof­fee and the Nat­u­ral Body team know they have to con­stantly stay in tune with their cus­tomers’ needs and with the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in the skin­care and spa treat­ment worlds in or­der to make it an­other 30 years. But it’s a chal­lenge they wel­come.

“I get turned on by that for sure. And as I age too it’s like, what am I look­ing for? I want the most ag­gres­sive skin­care line out there that’s still go­ing to honor our brand stan­dards, which is not tested on an­i­mals, no toxic in­gre­di­ents, the com­pa­nies are look­ing at ways they can pack­age dif­fer­ently and be more sus­tain­able,” Cof­fee said. “We’ve been able to stay true to that as our clients age, and now we’re start­ing to see their kids. How do we stay rel­e­vant to what the next gen­er­a­tion is look­ing for? They en­joy that a com­pany has a mis­sion, so my goal is just to make sure that the next layer of staff is able to hold onto that and tell the story of a LEED plat­inum lo­ca­tion and what we went through to try and achieve that award, and what’s it meant to be here for al­most 30 years. So as long as I can keep telling the story and they are com­fort­able re­lay­ing that story, I think that the next gen­er­a­tion will re­ally dig what we try to do as our mis­sion.”

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