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Spa Owner Keeps it Simple While Embracing Her Roots

Cathy Christensen
Laura Henzell

L. Henzell

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Keeping it simple is a way of life for Laura Henzell, the founder of Driftwood Spa at Jake’s in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, and she is busy building a solid spa business while focusing on the simplicity and sincerity of embracing her roots and offering value to clients. Always a lover of spas, this self-proclaimed “city girl” found herself far from an urban area after marrying her husband Jake, who owns Jake’s, an Island Outpost hotel in a relatively undeveloped area of the island. Because she is a people person, Henzell regularly found herself chatting with guests at the hotel’s bar and discovered a common bond between them. “In one way, shape or form, most guests were coming here for a reconnection. Many were getting over a family tragedy or divorce, and were looking to get away from it all,” Henzell explains. “This is a simple fishing village and people keep coming here to spend time with their families, and for reflection and introspection.”

Because of this need for an unhurried escape, Henzell felt she had the perfect growth opportunity that would assist guests in meeting this need. “I thought, ‘What a perfect location to build a spa,’ so I brainstormed the idea of opening one at Jake’s,” she says. Although her husband wasn’t crazy about sharing prime beachfront real estate for the facility, Henzell insisted upon having the spa front and center on the water. “I suppose people think since you’re having a treatment, you’re not focusing on your environment, but I feel it is part of the process,” she explains, and so, in 2008, with the help of spa consultant Linda Hall, she opened her two-room spa on the rocks in front of the hotel, featuring sticks commonly used to make lobster and fish traps as the walls. And in an effort to embrace the innate wonders of the location, Henzell insisted on natural ventilation—no air conditioning—as well as natural light. “I feel like a lot of spas in the Caribbean haven’t embraced the resources we have here,” says Henzell.

Two years later, the spa’s official home was built, still on the beach, with four treatment rooms—all couples-sized—as well as a manicure/pedicure room, relaxation room and yoga area on the roof. Although the region has been through its ups and downs economically, Henzell just sees this as support for the idea that simplicity and affordability are the secrets of spa success. “It’s a time to tighten your belts and look at your menu. What are your best sellers? I would rather go to a restaurant that does four dishes deliciously than have a huge menu to choose from. You really need to treat people well and focus on customer service, consistency and quality,” she says.

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