A Spa To Celebrate Sisterhood

Denver’s Ya Ya Nail & Massage Spa offers a relaxed and casual atmosphere where women can catch up and talk while they enjoy exotic beauty treatments like the Choc-o-lot Razzzberry Pedicure or the Linen Herb Facial.

The term “Ya Ya” is a southern colloquialism meaning to chat or gab, and when owner Makisha Boothe had to pick a name for her business, it fit exactly what she was looking for. “This spa is every woman’s serene version of the barbershop,” Boothe says. “We all bond, catch up, heal, laugh, cry, relax, and get pretty at this spa.”

The Ya Ya Spa first opened its doors in February 2003 in a busy area of Denver with 50 competitors within a three-mile stretch. It occupied a quaint, four-room house with hardwood floors and immediately began to cultivate loyal customers with its relaxed setting and friendly employees. “Cozy is the word everyone uses for Ya Ya,” Boothe says. “People feel really comfortable here and a lot of times they don’t want to leave.”

And the customers didn’t. The Ya Ya Spa has since changed locations to a roomier three-level town house in a redeveloping area of Denver, and old customers are now joined by new ones every day.

Tooty Fruity: Customers of the 1,200-sq.-ft. salon are often greeted with hot servings of herbal honey tea while they wait for the spa’s signature treatments. Ya Ya takes pride in its holistic-style treatments, and offers many services with organic herbs and oils. Some of the favorites are the It Must be a Dreamcicle pedicure, the Queen of the Nile spa package, the Peace of Mandarin Orange pedicure, and the Mayan Healing Stone massage, but their best-known treatment is the Choc-o-lot Razzzberry Pedicure. Boothe recalls an event that showed just how popular it has become. “I attended a spa event once and I set up a hand scrub booth with a chocolate raspberry sugar scrub.” Boothe says that it wasn’t too long before a woman came over to the booth with her friend and said, “We came in and smelled chocolate raspberry and we said, ‘Ya Ya’s here!’”

The spa spends a lot of time training its employees to make sure they can bring the full Ya Ya experience to customers. There are three nail technicians at Ya Ya, and Boothe sets up weekly training sessions for each employee. She makes sure that everyone has detailed knowledge of the services offered, and they routinely go over manicure service manuals.

Getting Started: Boothe is an experienced manicurist herself, having practiced since 1995 as a way for her to pay for college, and it was actually while she was attending the University of Colorado at Denver that she got the idea to open up her own spa. She had written a business plan for Ya Ya while still in college, but put it on the shelf because of other academic interests. She then became very involved in local politics, interning at the Colorado Governor’s Office of Advocacy and the Office of the Mayor as well. But upon graduation, Boothe decided to dust off the old plans and put them into action. She still hadn’t come up with a name when the movie “The Ya Ya Sisterhood” came out. She learned the meaning of the southern saying, and the Ya Ya Spa was born. With the help of her sister, mother, a sorority sister, aunt, and grandmother, Boothe was able to open up the Ya Ya Spa. “So it’s truly been a sisterhood bonding atmosphere right from the start,” she says, and in fact, Boothe is carrying on a family tradition in that her great-grandmother had a hair parlor in her Harlem brownstone home.

Comforts of Home: The spa makes good use of the three-level town house. There are two treatment rooms, a shower, a pedicure room, a manicure room, a waiting area, and a kitchen. Soft sofas and chairs are nestled near a fireplace in the waiting area. Lighted candles are also placed throughout the spa and eclectic art adorns the walls. Boothe describes the setting as a home-like, nostalgic environment, and says the customer conversations change depending on the floor. The second level, where the massages and facials are done, has a quiet serene atmosphere, while the first floor is often full of good conversation at the manicure stations. “But the basement,” Boothe says, “is where it can get crazy. The things that come out in the pedicure room can be hilarious, touching, or shocking. I don’t know what it is about the pedicure room — it’s like the secret treehouse club or something.”

The Party Place: The Ya Ya Spa will frequently host special occasions and has become well known in the Denver area for its parties and events. There is a popular “Girlfriends Day at the Spa” package that attracts sister circles, sororities, and other associations, and there is also an after-hour “Sex In the City Day” event, where single guests are asked to bring a guy who they are not interested in while hors d’oeuvres and drinks are served.

The Ya Ya Spa has also been trying to create a niche for itself among corporate clientele. It is marketing its gift certificate program to businesses, suggesting they be used as a form of employee appreciation, and Ya Ya also offers mobile services so massages and manicures can be performed off-site in office buildings. Businesses are also encouraged to rent the spa for after-hours networking events, where urban professionals can listen to jazz, have a glass of wine, and receive a chocolate raspberry chair massage as they mingle.

The Power of Sisterhood: The spa hosted the inauguration of the annual SHADES Conference, a health and beauty workshop for women of color, and in September 2005 the a href=>Colorado Black Chamber awarded Ya Ya the Clara Brown Award for African-American female entrepreneurs. The spa is having continued success and Boothe hopes to carry this into expansion and open up more spas.

She has drawn up plans for new Ya Ya locations in states such as North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and New York, and hopes to have them up and running by 2010. In the meantime, Boothe still finds time to personally do manicures on clients, but come 2008 she will devote her full efforts to the spa’s management and growth.


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