Stacey Howell wants to show her visitor the salt room. “You have to see this,” she says as she leads her guest to a therapy room bathed in gold light. “Depending on what color you like, it can be changed by remote control,” said Howell, the owner of Woodhouse Spa Buckhead.
Set to open later this month, Woodhouse Spa Buckhead is not only the neighborhood’s newest spa, it’s one of the few owned by a Black woman. On the heels of the failed Buckhead City secession movement, Howell is opening a business that is much more about bringing people together than keeping them apart. “I feel like I have something to give back and to teach people,” she told The Atlanta Voice one sunny afternoon. “My dream is to bring everyone together.”
When asked why she chose a retail space in Buckhead, Howell said she looked at spaces around metro Atlanta, including near Truist Park, the home of the World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Something in Howell’s spirit told her to keep looking in Buckhead. “The whole world is here [in Buckhead] and I want to be in a community that speaks to diversity,” she said.
Buckhead is 11.7% Black, according to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimation. Howell has her work cut out for her, but she says she is ready to serve clients of all races, creeds and colors. Tapping her heart, Howell said, “This is a place to help people get back to healing. We are ambassadors of health and wellness.”
A 21-year-old Texas-based spa franchise, Woodhouse Spa, has 75 locations around the country, including two in Georgia; Alpharetta at Avalon and in Dunwoody. This is Woodhouse Spa’s first Buckhead location. Lone Star Funds, a Dallas-based private equity firm with a presence in 11 countries, purchased The Irby apartment building, which Woodhouse Spa is attached to, for $115.5 million, according to Fulton County property records. Lone Star Funds secured a two-year, $75 million loan from Virginia-based national lender Capital One for financing.
Radiance Holdings, a Colorado-based company that is the parent company of Sola Salon Studios, the world’s largest salon studios franchise with 519 locations throughout North America and Brazil, purchased Woodhouse Spa and all of the company’s locations in July 2020.
As the hospitality industry claws its way back towards 2019 occupancy and revenue levels, the resorts and spas that make up the industry’s drive-to and walk-in business continue to thrive. Resorts and extended-stay hotels remain high on the list of investor demand, driving more lodging industry sales this year, according to industry experts. Spas offer a similar appeal to resort customers, in which it’s a getaway but without the travel aspect.
“We have to take care of ourselves,” said Howell, who owns the spa with her husband Hollis, about the self-care aspect of the spa business. “I want this business to thrive and to be able to give back to the community,” she said.
Woodhouse Spa Buckhead has leased the ground floor space at 65 Irby Ave. for 10 years. A sign that the Howells are in this for the long haul. The 5,000-square-foot spa has 12 treatment rooms, a retail shop, and a private couples massage room. Following completion of exterior construction on the site, there will be a patio that will be able to be booked for private parties and gatherings.
With 12 employees, nine working on a full-time basis, Howell said there will be an additional six to 10 new jobs available at the spa. Woodhouse Spa Buckhead is currently in the hiring phase, according to Howell.
The spa will offer guests massages, facials, traditional manicures and pedicures. There will also be a quiet room and a ground-floor patio.
After giving a tour of the spa, Howell, a mother of four with three stepchildren from her current marriage, wanted to share a story of a conversation she recently had with a Black mother. The mother wanted to have Howell meet her daughter in order for the child to see a Black female Buckhead business owner in the flesh. “My kids are my inspiration too, so I understood what she was doing,” Howell said. “They have to see this, our children have to see that this is possible.”