Vasaio Spa Busy At JW

June 23, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Vasaio Life Spa and Salon recently opened its second location on the third floor of the luxurious JW Marriott Hotel in downtown.

The opening not only marks an expansion of the local business but also gives the spa's owners a chance to test the domestic and international franchising markets by servicing the hotel's national and global clientele.

Victor and Vickie Bennett told the Business Journal in January they were starting to take the necessary steps to franchise their spa business, after more than three successful years in the Terrazzo Fine Shops at 1100 East Paris Ave. SE. Now that they're a vital part of the landmark hotel on Louis Campau Promenade, they feel their chance of achieving that goal may have increased significantly.

Vasaio Life Spa & Salon

Victor and Vickie Bennett, principals
What: Full-service spa and salon.
When: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Where: JW Marriott, 235 Louis Campau Promenade NW, Grand Rapids
Why: Vasaio offers a one-of-a-kind "Suite Spa," where services are offered in guest rooms in addition to its third-floor spa.

"I think just being at the beginning stages of wanting to franchise nationwide, this certainly gives us a lot of credibility," said Vickie Bennett of their association with the exclusive Marriott brand..

"We will really be able to see if our services will go worldwide, as some of these people that are coming through the JW Marriott are from all over the world, and so far, they seem to be really enjoying the services," she added.

Massages, body treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures are just some of the services Vasaio offers guests. But what is really unique about the hotel setting is that Vasaio brings its offerings to them through the "Suite Spa," a service that lets guests receive treatments in the privacy of their rooms.

"The JW Marriott Grand Rapids has raised the bar in luxury, service and dining. The addition of such a posh and elegant spa is a perfect complement to our hotel's amenities," said JW Marriott General Manager George Aquino in a release.

The Bennetts created a cart system that allows them to make room calls with the spa's offerings. Bennett called the cart an invention of necessity because it didn't take very long for Vasaio to reach service capacity in their third-floor suite.

"We can perform pretty much every single service in a guest's room that we have available in the spa world."

Bennett said the Suite Spa program will also be offered to guests at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, which has more than twice the number of rooms as the Marriott. Amway Corp. owns both downtown hotels, which are connected by the skywalk, and Vasaio will be pushing its carts across it to reach the Amway Grand.

"We're probably going to be starting the service over there in the next week and a half or two. We've got real-time online booking for that now and the concierges are just learning it. The guests can certainly do it themselves, but a lot of guests prefer that the concierges do it," she said.

To mark the opening of their new location, the Bennetts are offering the Luxe Lunch Spa. It's a noontime special targeted for business professionals that consists of an exclusive menu and a 35-minute spa treatment of choice. The JW Marriott has a Spascape package for overnight guests. It includes a room for two, two half-hour spa treatments, breakfasts, a gift basket and parking.

"I think that the way George (Aquino) did put it when we were talking together is, this is really kind of a quasi-franchise. The better we do, the better they do because they get a portion of the sales, and that really is the way that most franchises work," said Bennett.

"They really want to push it forward because they can see the vision. We've already been at capacity for many days, and we're actually using empty guest rooms to service people."

The Bennetts first thought they would be moving into the hotel last September. That deal fell through, though, because hotel management wasn't sure back then if a full spa treatment would be successful, with a fitness center and pool already in place at the hotel.

But Bennett said the hotel did a study to see if its guests wanted the service, and the results showed there was a market for it.

"Apparently there was more of a need for it than they thought," she said. "We ended up getting it, which is pretty exciting."

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