In which I show up for a tour, and receive a luxurious, complimentary volcanic massage.
Located at the corner of Bering and San Felipe, Houston's newest luxury day spa is preparing for its grand opening on September 20. A modest sign hangs along the San Felipe side of the building, but the spa itself is accessed, quietly, from the interior court of the building where Dish Society is also located.
Upon entering, a friendly staff is ready to greet spa patrons in the combination reception and retail boutique area. At this point, it's important to resist the shelves full of Skinceuticals, Clarisonic, and other luxury bath and body products--proceed to the counter for pampering, and shop later.
Spa owner Jo Dierschke is a longtime Woodhouse Day Spa customer herself, so when she decided to start her own business, opening her own franchise seemed a natural fit. "I was a customer of Woodhouse Spa in Sugarland for a long time, and I've always loved spas," Dierschke explained. "Woodhouse Spas have a resort feeling, but it's right there in the neighborhood. I loved being a [Woodhouse] customer, and was always treated like a queen. One of the greatest things about the Woodhouse franchise is that consistency of service."
Before sitting down to chat with Jo, I was invited to receive a complimentary 50-minute Volcanic Stone massage. Smooth, warm stones are used to warm and loosen muscles, as well as increase circulation. I've had a handful of hot stone massages over the years; they are my preferred style of massage, as the pressure is usually the perfect balance of moderate and firm.
First, I was led to a very well-appointed locker room. The lockers use key codes, so there are no keys to keep track of, and the room is stocked with all the amenities you could need to shower or freshen up post-treatment. Once changed, I moved to The Quiet Room, where I played Lady Mary Crawley alone for a few moments--reclined on a chaise lounge, drinking cinnamon tea and waiting to meet my massage therapist, Angel. When Angel arrived we went over my intake paperwork, discussing problem areas (sciatic nerve, upper back) and preferences, and then I was led to the massage room. After that, everything kind of goes warm and hazy for about an hour.
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Unsurprisingly I walked out with a looser upper back--hunching over a computer all day gives me terrible tightness between my shoulder blades--and a relaxed lower back, which relieved sciatic pain I'd been experiencing for a few weeks. The big surprise was my hands and wrists; I hardly realized how tight they were until Angel gave them much-needed attention. Note to those of us chained to computers all day: When receiving a massage, include hands and wrists when listing areas which require extra attention. The cost for a 50-minute Volcanic Stone massage at Woodhouse is $125--actually slightly less expensive than my last hot stone massage at a private spa over the Christmas holidays.
Post-massage, Jo and I retreated to her office to talk about what makes Woodhouse Spas special, and why she opted to open her own franchise. "After talking to other Woodhouse franchise owners, I really fell in love," said Jo. "They help you with everything from real estate to business plans--it took us three years to negotiate this location, but I really wanted to be in the Galleria/Tanglewood area." Dierschke's franchise on San Felipe is the first Woodhouse Spa in the country to sport their new interior design look, which she describes as "lighter--modern, but cozy and classic."
The goal for Dierschke is simple: to provide the same amazing Woodhouse experience that she found herself as a past client. Hiring her team with that premise in mind, Jo looked for staff members who were willing to work as a team to provide a total client experience. "We are here to make people happy, to treat guests as [our staff] would want to be treated. Customer service is paramount," stressed Dierschke.