Emma Hughes

Emma Hughes

Del Mar, Calif.’s SpaBlue has it all. The 6,500-sq.-ft. facility boasts over 12 treatment rooms, men’s and women’s locker rooms, eucalyptus steam rooms, and a co-ed relaxation room. Services include massage, facials, body treatments, spray tanning, makeup applications, and waxing — and of course nail services. What’s more, it’s green. Since buying the former Spa Gregorie’s in September 2014, owner Emma Hughes has put in place numerous green initiatives to transform the entire spa — from organic and all-natural product lines and services to the use of eco-friendly flooring and paint.

We asked Hughes, an industry novice, to tell us what prompted her to get involved in such a huge undertaking and how she made the spa her own.


I understand you and your husband are recent transplants from the U.K. What brought you to the U.S. and to Southern California in particular?

Hughes: The sun of course! On a more serious note, my husband Tom sold his business and he really needed to relocate to the U.S. We narrowed down the many choices to San Diego, and I don’t think we could have made a better choice.


Do you have a background in the beauty business? Why buy a day spa?

Hughes: My spa background is only as a customer. But it has been a dream of mine for many years to own a day spa. I am a businesswoman, which is obviously a fundamental skill required when owning a business, and each day I learn more and more about the wellness and beauty industry.


What was it about this particular day spa that attracted you?

Hughes: SpaBlue is located in a wonderful community shopping mall that has many boutiques and businesses that are a perfect complement to the spa. Also the spa itself is a fantastic size, allowing for various wellness treatments to be offered to the guests.

What was the first order of business in making SpaBlue feel like your own? What changes, if any, needed to be made?

Hughes: SpaBlue inherited a great team of talented therapists who are the core of this spa. But the building the spa is located in needed a bit of love, so we made the decision to paint throughout the facility, upgrade some fixtures, and replace the flooring — all with eco-friendly and green products. This has provided a whole new feel to the spa and made it feel like our own.


Did you make any changes to the nail department?

Hughes: When we first purchased the business, the nail department was squashed into a room that had been used as a men’s barber shop. As our manicure and pedicure services are very popular among our guests, we knew this was not going to work out much longer. We took the opportunity to convert the hair salon into a larger upgraded nail studio. Now we can provide a spacious and relaxing area for all of our nail guests, plus we have some very happy nail technicians!


You’re obviously very committed to having a green spa. Why is that so important to you?

Hughes: As a person who lives on this earth and as a mother of two children, it is very important to me to make sure the wonder and the beauty of our world is still there for generations to come. The memories we enjoy with loved ones — such as walking on the beach and watching dolphins swim past, or visiting the tiger trail at the zoo, or seeing beautiful flora growing on a hiking trail — these things may not be around much longer if we don’t do our part to help preserve our world. Our green-thinking is how we as a team at SpaBlue want to do our part to protect our environment.

Going forward at SpaBlue, we are changing our suppliers to companies that provide not only natural products, but run their entire business with the environment in mind. We have also reduced the amount of paper printed in our spa, encouraged recycling with our staff, switched to non-toxic and bio-degradable cleaning products and to recycled, compostable cups for guests. We want SpaBlue to be part of the community, so we are working with local businesses to partner together and support the community.

How has your real-life experience as an owner matched with your expectations of what it would be like?

Hughes: There have definitely been a lot of surprises along the way, but that is the exciting part of owning a business. Unfortunately the operational and logistical side of setting up a new business is very time-consuming, which does not allow me as much time as I would like to meet and greet our spa guests. However as everything is coming together within the spa, this is starting to change for the better.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.