It’s back to the future for Barbara Close, founder and CEO of Naturopathica.
Barbara, who launched her wellness-focused beauty line back in 1995, opened her first Manhattan outpost, the Chelsea Healing Arts Center & Spa, at 127 West 26th St. this past November. With plans to add an additional eight to 10 locations by 2017, Barbara said the brand is expanding fast. Research on potential future locations in several major US cities will be completed during 2016, she said.
“Twenty years later by opening in Chelsea we are bringing the brand to a new level,” said Barbara, who believes now is the right time for aggressive growth. “Our goal is to create community centers where people can come to learn about various healing practices to improve their health and vitality. We empower guests to explore a 360-degree approach to well-being.”
With features like a meditation lounge, therapeutic facials, massage treatments, an extensive exotic tea menu, and even Kombucha (fermented tea) on tap, the spa is centered on the idea of “21st century wellness,” a philosophy focused on prevention, rather than treatment of chronic imbalances (such as eczema, IBS and migraines), inspired by Eastern medicine.
“Twenty-first century wellness values the time between visits as the most important time for healing, which the Chinese figured out 3,000 years ago,” said Barbara, underscoring that the trend seems to be led by young customers. “There is a movement with millennials. They understand holistic health, and want to learn self-care rituals to make their own remedies for optimum health.”
When asked why she believes it took nearly two decades for this idea of modern wellness to catch on, Barbara said Naturopathica, which is privately funded by her business partner, Jonathan Keattch and herself, was ahead of its time, as it wasn’t fully understood by customers in the Nineties when it was born. Now, preventative care is crossing into the beauty space, a trend being driven juice bars, yoga studios, various apps and wearable technology focused on food tracking and health monitoring. Jonathan, Naturpathica’s COO since 2010, is a serial entrepreneur in Europe and the U.S., and is responsible for Naturopathica’s business operations and growth strategy.
“Twenty years ago, when I opened Naturopathica East Hampton, customers found tinctures (an alcoholic extract of a plant) to be too bitter,” said Barbara. “Today, palates have changed and people have come to understand the value of herbal remedies, so our tinctures are one of the most popular retail items.”
The 3,500-square foot space, the second location since her East Hampton Flagship opened two decades ago, features six treatment rooms where guests can receive treatments such as a $100, 30-minute exfoliating facial, or a $240 antiaging facial, which utilizes ultrasonic technology and argan plant stem cells. According to Barbara, the most popular treatments since the center opened are the Bio-Energy Lift Facial, an exfoliating service that utilizes liquid microdermabrasion, as well as the Nirvana Stress Relief Massage, which is meant to soothe sore muscles and joints.
“There are a lot of unique features that make Naturopathica Chelsea different from any other spa in this country,” said Barbara, adding that the brand will launch a new range of ingestible tonics in the coming months.
To keep a focus on education, throughout the store are iPads, and “Well-Being Ritual Cards” to help guide guests through the product line, comprised of “healing rituals,” such as Sweet Birch Magnesium Bath Flakes, $36; circulation-improving Carrot Seed Soothing Facial Oil, $40; and the Aromatic Alchemy Gift Set, $98, which addresses sleep, stress and fatigue.
“Wellness education is really my passion for this brand. You can come in because your neck is stiff or your skin isn’t looking as radiant is as it wants to be, and you will leave with wealth of education,” said Barbara. “Your skin will look different after your facial, but you will also learn how to use products at home.”
After introducing a whopping 87 new products in 2015—expanding the product assortment from skin and body care into holistic remedies for overall well-being—Barbara is hitting the ground running. The intensive growth plan, she said, is a reflection of the growing popularity of the philosophy behind the brand, which she believes will only continue to intensify.
“When I started the brand in 1995 it was a small wellness center in East Hampton that wasn’t focused so much on beauty and pampering but more about teaching people about holistic skincare and taking the segment of natural skincare to prestige,” said Barbara, revealing that it was a chance encounter with Martha Stewart that helped propel her brand into many mainstream distribution channels. “When I launched the line, I was a young entrepreneur and I didn’t have a clear plan,” said Barbara. “Martha Stewart wandered in and before I knew it all the department stores were knocking on my door.” After becoming Eco-Cert certified and undergoing a packaging reboot in 2008, Barbara got back to the basics of her brand; a philosophy that is carried into each new Naturopathica outpost today.
“Customers are embracing [holistic treatments] because they are more aware than ever of the importance of wellness practices for overall health,” said Barbara. “We want to raise the bar on beauty.”