Ocean blue and seafoam green walls lend an air of calm when you walk into Silver Essence Floating Spa in Williamsville.
A couple of blocks away on Main Street, the Green Spa offers a body rejuvenating Swedish massage, or a gently exfoliating sugar body scrub.
Farther down the street, you can have your eyebrows waxed into a perfect arch at the Village Browery, or add some dazzle to your smile at the Teeth Whitening Spa across the street from Village Hall.
Take a 2-mile walk down Williamsville’s Main Street, and you will find more than a dozen spas to suit as many different tastes. There are day spas, homeopathic spas, cosmetic spas and even a gym spa – serene oases where women – and men – go to pamper their inner selves.
Margaret Smith drives all the way from the Rochester suburb of Churchville to be a regular visitor at the village’s commercial strip.
“I book something at least once a month. It’s mandatory,” said Smith, who recently visited the Silver Essence Floating Spa for the first time on the recommendation of a friend.
Exactly when and why the spas began to proliferate on Main Street is a mystery, said Frank Mischler, president of the Williamsville Business Association.
“I don’t think there’s any planned thing, but I know there’s a lot of salons and spas, barbers, whatever, in the village,” he said. “Somebody said the most (salon) chairs of anywhere in the region, I guess, is in the Village of Williamsville.”
There are, at least, five spas per block in the village, estimates cosmetologist Crista Stoklosa, proprietor of the Village Browery at 5501 Main St.
The soothing aroma of scented candles is the immediate sensation that greets customers venturing into the small lobby of her tidy shop, which is followed by a friendly but professional greeting from Rose Conner, Stoklosa’s aunt, who manages the spa.
“We’re considered a day spa,” Conner explained to an uninitiated visitor recently.
“Beauty salons are something else different. Here, there are no smelly chemicals from hair products. We’re just smelly with all the good stuff, from essential oils used for facials and, of course, from candles,” Connor added.
Inside, the vibes of these establishments tend to be as carefully curated as the various treatments they offer.
Traditionally, the word “spa” referred to a place where people went for medicinal baths. Modern marketing seems to have expanded the meaning to include not only baths, massages and facials, but colonic hydrotherapy, botox treatments and hair treatments other than waxing and hair removal. The Green Spa, for instance, offers a body scrub using lotion mixed with sugar.
Chez Ann Salon & Day Spa is one of many establishments on Main Street in the village that combines traditional hair styling and coloring services along with various spa treatments that include facials and manicures.
The waiting area of the Silver Essence Floating Spa is spacious, with several small area rugs in a variety of pastel colors placed atop the neutral colored carpeting. Dena Gutowski, a specialist in the Japanese, palm-applied healing technique called reiki, also is quick to explain how the business – which also offers massages, aroma touch therapy and artisan facials – differs from a traditional beauty salon.
There is no noisy chit-chat or booming pop music, nor are clients lined up in chairs in close proximity.
In spas, the clients are pampered in quiet, private rooms that offer a sense of tranquility.
“We don’t do hair and nails,” Gutowski said. “What we do here is spiritual self-care.”
Many treatments at the Floating Spa are geared more to relaxation and health maintenance, as opposed to cosmetic upkeep.
Smith emerged refreshed after her 90-minute session in the floating spa, a tiny tank-filled room with a low, sloped ceiling behind a shower.
“It’s an open room. Because of the openness, it doesn’t feel like you’re closed in. It’s kind of a cave-like atmosphere,” Smith explained.
While patrons have the option of switching on a variety of colored lights as they float in the tank, Smith opted for total darkness to experience a sort of sensory deprivation. She described it as like being on the moon.
“Relaxing is not having that outer stimuli. Instead, you’re focusing on your total you, everything within you, noticing where you’re feeling the tension,” said Smith, who also runs her own massage and reiki business.
At the Village Browery, Stoklosa, a petite, tanned woman with short dark hair and a ready smile, is serious about brows. In a space dedicated to body waxing inside her shop, Stoklosa demonstrated the art of etching the perfect eyebrow on Stephanie Vogel, a regular customer.
“I’m just about to start the eyebrows. We cleanse them first. You’ve got to clean them and trim them in a very nice shape,” Stoklosa said, before measuring Vogel’s eyebrows.
Stoklosa then took a small stick dipped in honey-colored melted wax, carefully applied it to the area and gently pulled it off with a small, cloth strip.
“I’ve been doing this for 19 years,” she said. “There’s both an art and a science to it. The science is measuring, which is going to be different with each side of the face.”
The art comes into effect when Stoklosa takes into account the various attributes of each face, such as the shape of the eyes, the nose, even the texture of the hair and the proportions of the face.
“You have to take all of that into account, including the personality of the client,” she said.
Afterward, Vogel looked approvingly as she examined Stoklosa’s work, using a hand mirror. She is committed to her monthly eyebrow waxings.
“It’s something you do initially to splurge, but once you see how different and how much better you look, it becomes a necessity,” she said.
Vogel said getting her eyebrows done regularly offers several cosmetic benefits, including the effect of slimming her face, so much so that people think she has lost weight after a treatment.
“You do get a lot of compliments,” Vogel said.
Among Stoklosa’s growing clientele are men who seek to remove extraneous or excessive hairs from their backs, necks and ears. The Village Browery also offers a variety of facials and massages.
“We try to pamper them during the entire facial, hands, legs, shoulders, neck and feet,” Stoklosa said.
Stoklosa, who is a member of the Williamsville Business Association, speculated that it is the abundance of other amenities – clothing shops, restaurants and coffeehouses – that makes Main Street in the village an attractive location for spas.
“We have a lot of shops, a lot of great restaurants and it’s very walkable,” she said of Main Street.
“A lot of our clients don’t live in Amherst. Some live up to an hour away,” Stoklosa added.
Pat Laduca, a personal trainer in Williamsville who has been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years, said she has noticed a tandem trend in which, not only spas, but boutique gyms that offer classes in Pilates, boxing and cycling are popping up along Main Street.
“I think the trend kind of mirrors what’s been going on in the fitness industry,” Laduca said of the proliferation of spas.
“A lot of people are taking better care of themselves and wanting to look and feel better about themselves,” she said. “There’s spas all over the place, because the demand is there.”