HER Fea­ture

Spa owner's down­town dream now a re­al­ity

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by Beth Reed, pho­tog­ra­phy by Grace Brown

Per­se­ver­ance and ded­i­ca­tion to the craft for 10 years helped Amy Es­ner achieve her goal of open­ing a down­town lo­ca­tion of ThaiMe Spa.

Es­ner stud­ied mas­sage in Thai­land and has prac­ticed for 14 years. While look­ing for a down­town lo­ca­tion, she in­stead set up shop in a rented space in a shop­ping cen­ter on High­way 7 south. At that time, it was just her, learn­ing every­thing she could about build­ing a web­site, brochures and busi­ness cards in be­tween work­ing with and find­ing new clients.

“When you don’t have money, you have time and you have to learn how to be re­source­ful,” she said. “In hours and hours of work­ing, I got to where if I wasn’t in the store work­ing, I would be out find­ing cus­tomers. I was go­ing around do­ing free mas­sages, any­thing I could do to get peo­ple into the build­ing. If I did a free mas­sage and they liked it, they would come back and pay or they would send a friend, buy a gift cer­tifi­cate. I didn’t have busi­ness, but I had time and I had hands that I could give some­one work.

“Be­cause I en­joy giv­ing mas­sage and be­cause I re­ally want to help peo­ple with their prob­lems, a lot of peo­ple that would come in to me were peo­ple who had pain and when they fi­nally had res­o­lu­tion, they would say ‘You know, I’ve been get­ting mas­sage for years, but I’ve never had any­one who re­ally worked on my knots.’ For me, that’s what I thought mas­sage was.”

Six months af­ter open­ing her orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion, Es­ner said she broke her arm. She was com­pletely booked with cus­tomers and found her­self learn­ing to build a team that was con­sis­tent in the ser­vice her cus­tomers were ac­cus­tomed to.

Es­ner said she never lost sight of her dream of a down­town lo­ca­tion, but it was put on hold for a time. In the mean­time, she opened an oxy­gen bar down­town, Oxy-Zen, which also fea­tured aqua mas­sage. The down­town lo­ca­tion is now home to all three busi­nesses.

“We’re the only oxy­gen bar in the en­tire state,” she said. “I’m not sure if there’s any aqua beds any­where else.”

The lo­ca­tion also houses Ar­gen­tinian Cof­fee & Wine Bar, which has the only self-serve wine dis­penser in the state, she said.

“The cool thing about the dis­penser is you can try one ounce, a half glass or a full glass, and we’re al­lowed to have 16 bot­tles open with­out them go­ing bad,” Es­ner said. “It has a layer of en­no­ble gas on the top of it that pro­tects the ox­i­da­tion so they day you try that glass of wine ver­sus a week later, same fla­vor. It pro­tects the in­tegrity.”

The bar serves wine ice cream that has 6 per­cent al­co­hol con­tent. While not a restau­rant, Es­ner said the lo­ca­tion is more of a tapas bar with fin­ger food-type selec­tions in­clud­ing a va­ri­ety of olives, cured meats and Ar­gen­tinian em­panadas.

“Our cof­fee is from Ar­gentina, too,” she said. “Some­thing that’s unique about our cof­fee is the way they roast the beans. There’s not a place in

the U.S. that I could find that would roast our beans that way. … They use sugar to roast the beans that cre­ates a carameliza­tion and in turn by do­ing that it ac­tu­ally pro­tects the beans. If you have the beans roasted in that sugar, in­stead of af­ter three weeks them go­ing bad and hav­ing to throw them in the trash, it pre­serves them. It also keeps in all the an­tiox­i­dants and the caf­feine.”

The spa of­fers a wide range of ser­vices and prod­ucts to meet the needs of ev­ery­one who walks in.

“In the spa, we make our own es­sen­tial oil blends,” she said. “Every­thing else that we use in the spa is or­ganic. We use a prod­uct called Emi­nence which is the No. 1 or­ganic skin­care line in the world. It’s made in Hun­gary and the prod­ucts smell re­ally good. A lot of peo­ple who are sen­si­tive to chem­i­cals and sen­si­tive to things in gen­eral, and that’s the kind of thing that when they say ‘I don’t want a fa­cial, I’m too sen­si­tive,’ that’s when we say ‘OK, you want a fa­cial be­cause you may have just found your new prod­ucts.’”

The spa also car­ries the Jane Iredale line of makeup, a pure min­eral makeup line per­fect for peo­ple with sen­si­tiv­i­ties and that pro­mote healthy skin.

As far as mas­sages, Es­ner said “pretty much ev­ery mas­sage you’ve ever heard of is prob­a­bly on our menu.”

Ten li­censed mas­sage ther­a­pists and es­theti­cians make up the down­town team for a to­tal of about 15 em­ploy­ees through the whole busi­ness, she said.

“We had to in­stall the bam­boo bars on the ceil­ing be­cause so many of the ther­a­pists use their feet,” she said. “We’ll walk on you. We’ll use our hands. We’ll use ev­ery tool we can find.

“We have ther­a­pists that do what’s called ashiatsu where they only use their feet. Or you can do Thai mas­sage where they use their feet or stretch­ing. We also do hot stone mas­sage. We do pre­na­tal mas­sage. We’ll have two mas­sage ther­a­pists work­ing on you do­ing a four-hand mas­sage.”

The down­town lo­ca­tion also fea­tures aroma ther­apy baths with Thai-Me’s own blend of bath

salts made with Hi­malayan salts, Dead Sea salts and Ep­som salts mixed with es­sen­tial oils.

“No, you’re not get­ting the wa­ter from the springs, but yes you’re get­ting the min­er­als from the salts,” she said. “The Hi­malayan salt, when you heat it up, it’s sim­i­lar to how a salt lamp works with the tox­i­c­ity in the ions. So when you’re heat­ing it up in the hot wa­ter, it’s do­ing sim­i­lar things.”

When asked how she was able to make her dream a re­al­ity, Es­ner said the road blocks she met along the way never de­terred her from her goal. She hopes her story will in­spire oth­ers to ac­com­plish their goals.

“In life, we al­ways hit road­blocks and some­times in life, the things we want to hap­pen don’t hap­pen,” she said. “It could be be­cause that’s not where we should be and it could stop us so that we could go a dif­fer­ent route that will lead us to where we need to go. I had a lot of blocks and in­stead of get­ting dis­cour­aged and see­ing these blocks as ‘Let’s just quit,’ I saw it as ‘Let’s just try a dif­fer­ent way.’

“When I look back now at ev­ery time I was blocked I was be- ing pro­tected. I feel like a lot of peo­ple get down and de­pressed, and feel like they have dreams and they’ll never get there, but if you just take that a step at a time, 10 years is go­ing to go by.”

Amy and Josie Es­ner

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