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More Massages at a Mall Near You

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Shoppers from Pasadena to Mission Viejo are finding new spots to spend money on personal luxury: day spas where they can treat themselves to pleasures that range from a simple steam bath to a full day of rubdowns and relaxation.

Day spas have been proliferating during the last few years at resorts and hotels, but they’re a relatively recent phenomenon at shopping centers.

Their operators hope that shopping and massaging will mix, thanks to the rising popularity of spas in general and landlords’ perpetual quest for attractive tenants.

Spas are designed to soothe the senses with trickling waterfalls, the scents of fresh flowers and lotions, muted music, soft lighting and earth-tone decors.

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The Glen Ivy day spa slated to open this year at the Brea Mall will feature a garden setting surrounded by 14 massage rooms, five suites for facial treatments, men’s and women’s locker rooms, two Roman baths, two steam rooms, and eight manicure and pedicure stations. It also will sell bath salts and body oils, skin cleansers and toners, shampoos and conditioners, moisturizing creams and Glen Ivy bath robes.

The Brea location will be the first venture into a shopping center for 129-year-old Glen Ivy, which will join a growing list of Southern California shopping center spas offering the same pampering and relaxation that have made spas so popular at resorts and hotels.

Among those already operating at shopping centers are Pasadena-based Amadeus Spa & Salon and Santa Monica-based Burke Williams. More shopping center spas are in the works. Amadeus will have one at the Grove, the new shopping center going up at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles, and spa operators are looking for other retail locations.

“Day spas have a much broader appeal today than they had even 10 years ago,” said leasing vice president Michael Means of Santa Monica-based Douglas Emmett & Co., owner of the Sherman Oaks Galleria, where Burke Williams recently opened a spa.

Day spas have caught on because they are convenient, according to John Gray, chief executive of Glen Ivy Hot Springs.

“There are lots of people who don’t have the time or money to go away to a resort or a destination spa for a week and spend a couple of thousand dollars,” he said, “but they can afford a visit to a day spa.”

Glen Ivy is venturing into Brea Mall to get closer to a lot more potential customers, said Gray, who pointed out that the mall’s 16 million shopper visits per year far exceed the number of people who happen by Glen Ivy’s entrance on a country road in Corona.

Shopping center spas are an outgrowth of the success of such operations at hotels and health clubs, said Bill Wilhelm, a vice president at Irvine-based R. D. Olson Construction, which has built half a dozen day spas at Southland hotels in the last few years and is the contractor for Glen Ivy’s Brea location.

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Hotel day spas draw many of their customers from the surrounding community, Wilhelm said, so it stands to reason that people will visit a shopping center spa that’s nearby. Among the newest spas to open in retail centers are Burke Williams at the Sherman Oaks Galleria and Amadeus at Paseo Colorado in Pasadena.

“The notion of a day spa fit very well for the mix we wanted to create,” said Means, who said Emmett’s goal in redeveloping the Galleria was to create a “lifestyle business center” combining offices and shopping with restaurants, movie theaters and leisure activities.

The Grove at the Farmer’s Market will be the seventh location for Amadeus, said President Joe Wong, who founded the company in 1987. Spas can work well in malls, he said, provided the spa operator can negotiate an affordable rent--an important consideration because profit margins are thinner than those of typical retail businesses.

“Our labor costs are relatively high because we provide personal services,” Wong said. “You can only generate so much revenue from a steam room or a massage room.”

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Selling such items as robes, slippers and skin care products can be more profitable than the service side of the business, so most spa owners now operate retail counters in their establishments. Retail sales account for about 20% of Amadeus’ business, said Wong, who hopes to boost that percentage.

Spas also have a harder time making a profit because the cost of outfitting them is much higher than the cost of building ordinary retail store space. Generic retail stores cost about $20 to $30 per square foot to build, according to Wilhelm of Olson Construction, but spas can cost $100 to $200 more per square foot. At the Brea Mall, Glen Ivy is spending about $1.5 million to outfit its 14,000-square-foot spa.

The extra costs, Wilhelm said, are for the specialized and more extensive plumbing lines, showers, sinks, tubs, expensive piping and fixtures in steam and sauna rooms, more-elaborate heating and air conditioning systems, larger electrical power supplies, and other extras such as marble entries.

If the Brea shopping center location succeeds, Gray said, Glen Ivy will consider expanding to other shopping centers in California and other states. Spas will face much competition for consumers’ discretionary dollars, he said, but they’re also one of the few ways people can splurge on a treat that doesn’t involve calories.

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