Father's Day became Spather's Day as Dad enjoys the Spa



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Certified massage therapist Craig Babcock works on a male client at the Asante Spa in El Dorado Hills. Today, Asante is offering a “Father’s Day relax and recharge” package that includes beer, brats and a basalt stone massage. Two-dozen dads have signed up for the $305 package that features a facial, massage and body scrub.

How’s this for a Father’s Day gift: beer, brats – and a basalt stone massage, customized body scrub and a cleansing facial topped off with a Swiss shower treatment?

Asante Spa in El Dorado Hills is offering just that for the 25 dads who will take over the facility for three hours today – no women allowed. The $305 “Father’s Day relax and recharge” package is the business’s latest move to pull in more male clients, a fast-growing demographic for an industry traditionally considered the domain of pampered women.

“It’s harder to get guys to come in,” said Asante Spa manager Shelby White. “But once you do, they’re loyal repeat customers. We love them.”

White’s Father’s Day promotion highlights how day spas locally and nationwide are aggressively marketing themselves to men, now 30 percent of the $9.4 billion industry’s business. That’s up from 28 percent just two years ago, according to the International Spa Association.

The industry trade organization, based in Lexington, Ky., reports that U.S. spa revenues dipped about 3 percent in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available. White said that Asante’s business has been steady.

“I was really scared going into this year,” White said, “but we haven’t had any slowdown.”

Still, it makes sense for spas to diversify, said Dennis Tootelian, a California State University, Sacramento, business professor.

“Strictly relying on women is dangerous,” Tootelian said. “For companies to survive, especially these days, they have to diversify their revenue base.”

Father’s Day gives spas a prime chance to exploit several converging trends. Middle-age and younger men no longer think of spa treatments as a woman-only activity, Tootelian said, and a cultural focus on fitness is spreading from the gym into spa services such as massage and skin care.

“It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to indulge yourself,” Tootelian said. “Airline fares and gas prices mean people are staying more local. A trip to a local spa lets them treat themselves without busting the budget.”

Perhaps just as important, spa owners say, many women are encouraging their boyfriends and husbands to get treatments.

“I’ve had wives and girlfriends of big burly construction workers come in, throw a hundred bucks on the counter and say, ‘Fix him,’ ” said Sara Daly, a spa owner in Middlebury, Vt.

Her company, Waterfalls Day Spa, this year sold Father’s Day gift certificates printed on baseballs and entered dads who received them in a raffle for two hard-to-find box-seat tickets to a Boston Red Sox game.

It’s the kind of promotion that would have been unthinkable just five years ago, Daly said in a telephone interview, “but we can’t just be all about the girlie stuff.”

Spa operators around the country have reached the same conclusion, including Massage Envy LLC. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company has 400 franchises nationwide that market inexpensive massage for women and men.

“The company did a lot of research, right down to our gender-neutral name and the colors we use in our space,” said Janelle Johnson, a supervisor for the chain’s new Sacramento clinic on S Street. “We want men to be comfortable here.”

Asante Spa shares that philosophy. Visitors to the center on Post Court enter a reception area painted in earth tones. The shelves offer his and her products: One company that makes lavender scented candles also offers oil diffuser sticks that combine the smell of oranges and tobacco.

In back, fluted uplights cast a relaxing glow over tan-colored rooms trimmed in dark brown slate tile. Men’s robes are extra large.

“It’s not all frou-froued up like a women-only spa,” said Morgan Ward, a 48-year-old El Dorado Hills resident who frequents Asante for facials and massages. “I’ve never thought of it as too feminine for me. Some spas tend to do that.”

Ward and men like him now make up about 29 percent of Asante’s client base, up from 10 percent a year ago.

Today, the spa closes for about two dozen dads. Between sports massages, body scrubs, facials and showers, they’ll pluck Coronas from tubs of ice next to the spa’s sun room waterfall and scarf down 75 brats slowly cooked in beer and sautéed onions.

“We think they’ll love it,” White said.

Other spas around the country are pampering papas in other ways.

In Atlantic Beach, Fla., One Ocean Resort Hotel and Spa has a two-night father-and-son getaway with golf, a spa package and a take-home shaving kit loaded with high-end French skin care products. Viridian Day Spa in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., has knocked $73 off its $223 combo sports massage, deep-cleansing back treatment and men’s skin fitness facial.

Other have advertised Father’s Day “manly facials,” “MAN-icures,” “handshake and grooming maintenance” and “foot repair” at discounted prices. A Texas spa has three male-centric offerings for dads, including the “Big and Brawny” and “Lean and Mean” massage and facial packages.

“You have to stay away from the chi-chi terms,” White said. “A man isn’t going to want a revitalizing facial, but he will do a power-cleansing men’s facial.”

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