Florida Keys Business
Sunday, June 2, 2013

For more than a decade, the historic building at the corner of Simonton and Olivia streets stood vacant, known only as "the old Siam House restaurant."

After a recent, brief incarnation as a real estate office, the stately old building now boasts its own identity and interior atmosphere, even if the addition of whimsical bubbles fluttering at the intersection drew several delighted comments, but one ridiculous complaint and a subsequent order from code compliance officials to knock off the mostly welcome whimsy.

Ocean Wellness Spa now occupies the spacious 1918 building, where the healing and rejuvenating powers of the sea are harnessed in spa treatment rooms, and a three-chair hair and nail salon.

Owner Michael Ruiter opened the new sanctuary on Feb. 10 following his partner, Guy Ross's, purchase of the building at 829 Simonton St.

"We looked at a number of day spas in town, and we never really found any that were making a comfortable and comforting space for both men and women," Ruiter said, adding that the adjoining couples' massage rooms are two of the most popular spaces in the spa. "So we looked at several locations until we found one that would accommodate our needs, rather than trying to tailor a space. We designed this whole space and planned everything from the flow of people, to the design and décor, all the way down to the sound system. You're really in a destination spa minus the steam room."

The spa is divided into private treatment rooms, including an intimate space for hail and nail treatments.

Stylist Candon Criner emphasized the salon's friendly and welcoming atmosphere rather than one of intimidation.

And the nail salon at Ocean Wellness Spa proudly offers vegan nail polish, Criner said, explaining that most typical metallic or shimmering polishes are made with fish scales while other polishes use insect parts.

"But the vegan polishes use mica for that same effect, with no animal products," Criner said while telling Ruiter that he needed to order some natural, henna hair coloring for a particular vegan client.

"We really wanted to offer a very private and intimate space for our clients' treatments, and here, even hair and nail appointments become a luxury spa treatment," Ruiter said, adding that Ocean Wellness "offers a unique blend of healing treatments as well as the pampering and rejuvenation one gets from a massage or facial."

Dr. McCawley Burke offers several healing options at Ocean Wellness as a specialist in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Burke offers such services as reiki, tui na that combines massage and acupuncture, cupping in which glass cups are used to create a vacuum over the human body for localized healing and gua sha, which uses oil applied to the skin to treat pain and other conditions such as asthma, colds and fybromyalgia.

"And the products we use for all our treatments are focused on natural products with proven science behind them," said Ruiter, whose background is in marketing and yoga.

The spa also offers nutrition and culinary coaching, along with catering for dinner and cocktail parties.

The six-car parking lot provides convenient access in the back of the building, and the layout of the spa makes it ideal for groups such as weddings, when five or six want their hail, nails, makeup and massages together.

The full-service spa does it all, without that intimidatingly "hip" attitude favored by many typical resort spas.

"We're high end, but very comfortably, welcoming and customer-friendly," Ruiter said while Criner agreed.

Ocean Wellness is open seven days a week and is offering a summer special for locals, who get 25 percent off any hour-plus treatments, Ruiter said.

"We figured, what do people come to Key West for?" he said. "It's the draw of the ocean, the healing and rejuvenation powers of the ocean, and we recreate that here inside every day."


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