Venice Beach, the bohemian artists’ neighborhood in Los Angeles that is home to skate rats, bodybuilders, and artsy types alike, has a new place to party — and beautify. Opened last year by a former party producer, Nitespa is a new full-service spa for night owls.
UP ALL NIGHT: For Julia Lolita Martin, who is a former party promoter and massage therapist, and co-owner Michael MacLachlan, a spa that bridges the gap between day spa and nightclub makes perfect sense. Billed as a bohemian spa lounge, Nitespa attempts to “integrate your social self with your holistic self.”
Decorated like an Andy Warhol painting in pink, cream, and chocolate brown and offering natural skin and nail services, Nitespa is both a candy confection and a wholesome late-night snack. And with the positive response Nitespa has been getting, it seems Martin and MacLachlan might be onto something.
Salon Name: Nitespa
Location: Venice Beach, Calif.
Owners: Julia Lolita Martin, Michael MacLachlan
Square Footage: 1,000
Years of Ownership: Opened May 2005
Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 5 part-time/25
Specialties: Fancy Feet Pedicure, Sleight of Hand Manicure, Manicure
Other Services: Truly Scrumptious tandem massage, The Hustle quickie facial. Sweet Feet Pedicure, Facial Simple for men. The Warhol night-out make-up application
“Julia, who has always been a night owl, recognized the need for beauty pampering and holistic treatments after- hours,” says MacLachlan, bearer of the quirky title, president of vice. “She wanted to provide an alternative to what is offered in the current nail salon and day spa industry — and also to the bar scene.”
Open from noon until midnight, the appointment-only spa offers a full menu of services, including nail, skin, massage, and make-up services. Clients in need of more glamour can opt for private spa soirees or take advantage of the spa’s party-planning and concierge services.
Housed in a pink-and-brown Craftsman bungalow alongside upscale boutiques, art galleries, bars, and eateries, Nitespa has an ideal location for its unique addition to the local nightlife scene.
“Nitespa’s environment is all its own,” MacLachlan says, “equally inspired by mod boutiques in 1960s London, 1920s speakeasies, rock ‘n’ roll, and sparkler-spangled childhood birthdays at Farrell’s ice cream parlor.” It’s like a Willy Wonka factory for adults, but with polish and cocktails instead of fizzy drinks and chocolate. Manicures take place at hot-pink Lucite tables, and during pedicures clients dangle their feet in turquoise bowls.
“The two big attractions are the late-night hours, which are in tune with the work day of most Angelenos, and the comfortable and relaxing lounge environment. Guests really cannot get this anywhere else and they love the personalized VIP treatment,” MacLachlan says.
PARTY FAVORS: While the “day spa after dark” concept and decor get a lot of attention, the menu is a winner in its own right. Martin and MacLachlan say they want to offer an alternative to the mini-mall nail salon experience and expensive spa services.
Nitespa offers natural nail services priced well below traditional spa prices, but more than the average local nail salon. Sleight of Hand, Nitespa’s basic manicure, costs $25. The Upper Hand, the deluxe manicure, costs $40 and includes a paraffin dip. Fancy Feet, the spa’s deluxe pedicure, costs $55 and includes “serious foot worship: super scrub, paraffin dip, and intense massage.” The High Healing Pedicure is for clients who suffer for beauty in high heels. At $65, the service includes a foot mask and a 15-minute foot and calf massage. Guys can opt for the $20 Manicure from the spa’s Knightspa menu for men.
The Fancy Feet Pedicure is the spa’s most popular nail service “Clients like the extra attention and pampering,” says MacLachlan, “along with the special hospitality that comes with all our deluxe treatments.”
Massage services include Muscle Beach, an intense 60-minute massage that gives the client “a proper beating,” and the ‘Round the World Massage, which offers a taste of Swedish, Thai, lomi-lomi, shiatsu, and ayurvedic massage techniques.
Nitespa also offers skin care for every need. Party people can opt for the After Party antioxidant detox facial after a long night. Sun worshippers can choose the Whole Lotta Love fecial that’s billed as a “birthday present to your face.” The Royal Flush facial features blended botanicals and hot stones. Combination skin gets treated with several masks during the Dazed and Confused facial.
Beach bunnies can drop in for face and body waxing services, including the Bikini Bada-Bing wax. Make-up services are perfect for local party girls, actresses, and brides. The Starlet service is “perfectly primped and completely paparazzi-proof” and recommended for the red carpet, head shot, fancy party, or hot date. The Warhol Eyes Only service gives clients classic Twiggy lashes for $20, and the Church on Time bridal service promises “a dazzling ‘I do’ that won’t melt halfway down the aisle.”
PARTY, PARTY, PARTY: “One of our most popular offerings is our Private Spa Soirees. We specialize in hosting small groups of four to 12 people for birthdays, showers, bachelorette parties, and girls-night-out,” says MacLachlan. “Private parties include two or three treatments per person. In between services, guests can mingle in the lounge, listen to down-tempo music, and enjoy a delicious selection of spa craft services.” Clients can also request to have one of the spa’s disc jockeys spin records to add to the festive mood.
Nitespa also offers home services as Nitespa-A-Go-Go. The salon’s mobile techs have visited clients in hotels and on video sets. The service is becoming more popular. “We have some awards and events in the works for 2006,” says MacLachlan, who also plans to offer Nitespa-A-Go-Go at some Los Angeles hotels. “We can send just one nail technician, or come with a whole team of massage therapists, estheticians, and makeup artists,” he says.
The spa also tempts clients with Sweet 33, a private membership club that allows guests to get discounts on treatments and retail items. Sweet 33 members are also treated to regular private spa events with complimentary treatments and yummy catered treats. But — like any good party — Sweet 33 is by invitation only.
A DIFFERENT BEAT: MacLachlan says he and Martin aren’t just looking to change the way clients view spas — they want to change the way people feel about working in the beauty industry as well.
“Our aim is to change the industry somewhat in L.A., which we feel is not the highest standard experience as it does not pay well enough to attract new people,” MacLachlan says.
He acknowledges that finding nail techs hasn’t been easy. “We have found that there are relatively few qualified nail techs to choose from. We believe this is due to the current nail industry’s low pay rates, less-than-favourable working conditions, and limited opportunities for advancement,” he says. To fill the tech chairs at Nitespa, Martin and MacLachlan have been advertising and finding techs through word-of-mouth and referrals.
“We would like to provide a more lucrative and interesting alternative work environment. We would also like to encourage more people to choose to become nail technicians by providing good job opportunities with room for growth. Longer term, we would even like to facilitate the training and employment of new techs,” he says.
Counting the comfortable and relaxed environment and professional treatment as perks to working at Nitespa, MacLachlan says such pleasantries are rare in some nail salons.
Nitespa’s pay system “ensures that nail techs are making money while they are at the spa,” MacLachlan says. “We offer a three-level pay system that rewards qualifications and experience, length of tenure, customer retention, and retail sales. Technicians are earning $20 to $30 per hour plus tips,” he says.
PARTY FOR SALE: Clients who can’t get enough of the mod-lounge Nitespa atmosphere will be happy to learn that most of the decor and furniture in the joint is for sale.
“It’s not all for sale, but most of it is,” MacLachlan says. “We are trying to provide an interesting environment for our operators and guests to be in, to give the opportunity for our guests to take this home to their own homes, and to support and showcase the many wonderful designers and craftsmen in the Venice Beach area.”
Local artisans (of which there are plenty in Venice Beach) are given the opportunity to sell their work in the spa. On the shelves are “designer jewellery, clothing, and vintage curios. We have rotating art for display and sale,” says MacLachlan.
Skin and nail products make up another portion of the spa’s retail sales. Along with several professional lines, the duo also has plans for their own product line in 2006, “The most important thing for us is high-quality ingredients.”
Clients who enjoy the spa’s signature sounds will be in for a treat this year. “We think that music is an essential part of the Nitespa experience and we have numerous resident DJs to spin vinyl for open houses and private parties,” MacLachlan explains. “Our DJs have created Nitespa playlists — an eclectic, down-tempo, and relaxing mix of grooves. Plans are in the works to stream live Internet broadcasts in 2006,” he reveals.