Insider's Guide to Spas
Jamie Ahn
Jeanie Jang

Insiders

Day Spa Entrepreneur Jamie Ahn

Mary Bemis


She left Wall Street to pour her talents into day spas, opening Acqua Beauty Bar and Townhouse, two of New York City’s best day spas. And she’s just getting started.

Insider’s: How did you get into spa, and why?

Jamie Ahn: I‘ve always been around beauty. My mother owned six salons since I was 12. I worked there full-time on weekends and in the summers. I never went to camp! I tell my mom now this was child labor! But I cherished the time with my mom. Spa is really ingrained in me, it’s an important part of my life, instilled in me from my mom.

Insider’s: Why do you think Korean spa treatments have become so popular?

JA: Korean bathhouses are a way of life, passed down through generations. They’re not considered a luxury, but a lifestyle. People from all economic walks of life visit them. I remember when I was five years old, we’d go to the real bathhouses in Korea. They were full of people sitting on plastic buckets and scrubbing each other’s backs — a real community. There’s one in Queens now, Spa Castle, that’s amazing.

Insider’s: What’s the best thing about this type of bathhouse experience?

JA: Families go together. It’s created quality time for families that don’t involve pigging out at restaurants. It’s a great thing to do together. The more you feel good, the more it’s contagious. Plus, there’s nothing like a Korean body scrub, all that dead skin that rolls right off of you. I always tell women to have one before a date. The guy will be mesmerized…

Insider’s: You opened Acqua Beauty Bar 14 years ago, and Townhouse seven years ago. How did your day spas become social hubs?

JA: We do a lot of group bookings. I think people want to get away from the gluttony that people do socially. We try to incorporate little things in spa so people can have that moment together. People come in to celebrate together. Townhouse has a lounge upstairs and a restaurant area. We have steam rooms, and rooms with multiple massage tables. We can fit three to four tables in our couple’s room. We had a mom and two daughters in recently. This is when they’re really able to open up.

Insider’s: What’s your most popular treatment?

JA: It’s back to basic massage. We have our own style that incorporates shiatsu, acupressure, and lots of stretching. Our signature massage is the Townhouse Relaxation Massage. It’s a real rubdown, real bodywork massage, and that’s what people keep coming back for. It’s really about working out the muscles and the trigger points and the tension.

Insider’s: What gives you the most satisfaction?

JA: That has changed over the years. When I was younger, I wanted to be that entrepreneur and turn into a corporate giant. That kind of greed has left me now. A lot of New Yorkers fall into that narcissistic “me, me, me!” trap. I just turned 40, and I feel so much better now.

Insider’s: How are your spas evolving?

JA: I want them to emulate who I’m becoming now. I’ve become much more compassionate. I want my spas to be more about the one on one. The big party interest has left me forever, and there’s a sense of freedom in that. With my spas, I want to build relationships, a haven where clients can come. I’ve gotten closer to my clients now. Loving people is what I want the spa to project.

The middle market is disappearing. You have the one percent, and then the rest of New York. I want people to come in and not be afraid of prices, so we’ve incorporated little services, like 30-minute massages. We did a bachelorette thing and slashed prices. I want to be more accessible…I don’t want spas be a place where they’re just available to the very wealthy. It’s about having everyone be able to feel good.

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.