Every day bad economic news pours out the radio, and right now it’s filling the air in Aromatherapy — bailouts, bankruptcies, riots — right along with a delicious smell from the scented candles.
This eccentric upscale spa, which also sells microwavable plush toys and calming teas, seems perfect for this eccentric upscale town.
But — at least today — it’s also empty.
Business is down as much as 50 percent, owner Michelle Davis says. In tough times, massages and spa treatments are the first to get waxed.
Davis and her employees think that’s a shame, since they believe massages keep a body healthy and out of the doctor’s office.
“I got into this business to help people,” Davis says.
And so, for the foreseeable future, Aromatherapy is responding to the drastic recession with a drastic (and generous) move of its own.
It’s burning its price sheet right along with its scented candles.
No longer are pedicures necessarily $40, Brazilian waxes $85, and massages $125.
From now on, services are on a sliding scale. It’s “pay what you can.”
“Having nobody walking in the door isn’t helping anybody,” says Davis. “So let’s reach out a hand and say, What can you afford?”
Clearly, people can’t afford what they once could. A sign on the window advertises “20 percent off everything.”
This is a new program, and Davis isn’t sure exactly how it will work. But you can tell Aromatherapy has always tried to go out of its way to be nice.
“Be kinder than necessary,” a note above the cash register says, “everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
Davis is a thin, blue eyed blonde who is New York-excited in the best kind of way. She talks with her hands and interrupts other people’s conversations to tell stories about cabbies’ kindness. She wrote an e-mail to Barack Obama about friendliness. She wants second homeowners to open their empty houses to others. She rails against money hording and negativity and fear. She fights the recession with hot rocks and scissors.
“Maybe people need to get that haircut to get that job,” Davis says. “Maybe they’re feeling depressed, and we can do energy work for them.”
It helps depressed people to have their ki balanced or their Chakras rotated.
Clients feel better afterward, Davis says. Harried, yogurt-stained moms tell her, “I didn’t know how good it would feel to lie down and let someone take care of me for an hour.”
Her dozen or so employees are on board, she says, though it remains to be seen how this new tactic will affect their salaries.
Jasmine Poulton has worked in massage for six years, and Megan Rood has massaged an Olympic gold medallist.
Now more than ever, they say, their clients spill their troubles all over the massage table, talking about how intently they watch CNN and worry about their retirements.
Much of this downturn is Wall Street’s fault, and Davis has a special loathing for Wall Street’s greed and misdeeds. Before she came to Telluride, she worked as Wall Street analyst specializing in high end retail, basically advising clients on which companies to invest in.
“As I grew as a human being I found out that my own personal values were not in alignment with Wall Street,” she says. “Wall Street is not about helping people.”
Now Davis is doing what she can to restore some of the faith America lost to CEOs who jacked up their salaries as they bankrupted thousands. The folks at Aromatherapy trust people to be honest about how much they can really afford, and not swear they have $1 for a 90 minute massage.
“It’s part of being a human being,” Rood says, “being able to trust each other.”
Davis is hoping that, at least in the near future, maybe just for an hour or so, we can all relax.