By Mary Koppenheffer
The Biltmore Beacon
Cristy Patten, co-owner of the Spa at Biltmore Village, announced they are celebrating their 10-year anniversary. When Patten and her sister, Brooke Robert, purchased the property in Biltmore Village in late 2005, the Village had just experienced epic flooding, the space was under construction and there were few other tenants in Biltmore Courtyard Shops. With hard work, creativity, and a very positive attitude, Patten and Roberts, both working mothers, steadily grew their business. It now includes a loyal local following, an array of services and boutique items, and a large staff of talented massage therapists, aestheticians and nail technicians.
Patten will be the first to say it was not always an easy road. Along the way to reaching the ten year mark, she and Roberts went through substantial changes in the business climate as well as in their personal lives. “But I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Patten said. “It has been such a labor of love.”
Patten describes herself and her sister as ‘spa junkies.’ Prior to ever thinking about opening a spa of their own, the sisters, together with their husbands, traveled to some of the world’s most exotic spas, including the exclusive Terme Hydrotherapy Circuit at the Grand Wailea Spa in
Maui, Ritz Carlton’s La Prairie on Grand Cayman, and Miraval Resort and Spa in Arizona. When Patten experienced unusual treatments, she was often drawn to the protocols used in administering the treatments as much as the treatments themselves. “We didn’t realize we were doing research for a business we had not yet conceived.”
Closer to home, the two frequently hosted spa parties for friends and family. “We would set up our dining room tables with skin care stations having a mirror and facial products at each one,” Patten said. At the time, Patten was working as a church administrator at Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Lake Junaluska. She credits that experience with helping her learn to meet people “where they are.” While most times spa-goers are celebrating or just relaxing, sometimes they are recovering or dealing with challenging life situations. “It’s important to embrace every client with what they need during their hour of pampering. It is like a ministry to me.”
The journey of being spa owners began in May of 2005. Patten and Roberts met for a rare sister lunch at Fig Bistro in Biltmore Village. “The empty space across the courtyard was just a shell, but when we drove out we jotted down the name of the sales agent on the window and called on the way home,” Patten said. The sisters broached the idea of opening a spa, soon pitched the idea to their supportive husbands, and “We were off!”
What came next was a frenzy of activity which included finding and working with an architect and builder, developing a business plan, securing financing, traveling around to spa shows to find the
product lines they would carry, and interviewing dozens of applicants to work in the spa. The spa held its grand opening just seven months later.
The sisters complemented each other’s skills – Patten has a degree from UNC Chapel Hill in environmental science and engineering, while Roberts’ background was business, marketing and high-end retail. Patten also gained some hospitality experience along the way while doing post-graduate work at Western Carolina University when she took a tour guide job working with Elder Hostel participants.
The first few years the business grew strong enough that a second location, Balsam Spa, was contemplated and opened at the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa in 2008.
What followed next was a time of intense challenge for the owners both personally and
professionally. 2009 was a particularly tough year. Their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer (and has since fully recovered). Patten separated from her husband and later divorced, giving her primary care of her two young children Ben and Lucie. “And with the economic downturn, the phones almost stopped ringing.” While Cristy and Brooke had to cut back some hours, they never laid off any employees. Cristy credits their prime location and well established local following for getting through that tough time.
In 2012 Roberts was drawn to leave the business and spend more time with her special-needs daughter, Isabella. Since then Patten has continued to run both locations on her own. In 2013 she worked six days a week from the time the spas opened to closing, taking off only 7 days the entire year. What resulted was two weeks in bed with total exhaustion. More time off was introduced into her schedule after that.
Patten saw an opportunity for her businesses and it helped her keep going, even through the most trying times. She had a key support network including her parents and ex-husband that helped her to manage work and family. “I think I set a good example for my children, that sometimes you have to buckle down and do whatever it takes to make it happen. As a result, they now see that I have been rewarded with a viable business and a lot of flexibility for our schedule.”
Patten exudes enthusiasm and strength when she speaks about her ten years at the Spa at Biltmore Village. “I have a different perspective now than when I started the business- I don’t feel like I need to be that working Super-Mom who does it all but feels she always needs to do more. Once I let go of that pressure, I discovered what fun it is to watch every day unfold, personally and professionally, knowing I’ve done my best.“
What she has done is start a new venture from scratch and grow it into a thriving business that will likely continue to serve Asheville and Waynesville for many years to come.
Spa at Biltmore Village offers massage therapy, body treatments, skincare, nail care, and waxing. They also specialize in couples services, bridal parties, and girls’ retreats. You can find more information at SpaAtBiltmoreVillage.com.