The first thing you notice as you wind your way through the Axe Factory to Waterfalls, is the line of dudes waiting outside, against the wall. True, they are painted on the wall, but clearly there is something inside they are curious about.
Perhaps it’s the beautifully scented hand-made oils, with names like Bay Rum and Lime, which have them enthralled? Maybe it’s the open, airy space decorated in colors that complement the sky, water and woods just outside the large windows? Could also be the million-dollar view of the Collins Company waterfalls.
There is much to like at Waterfalls. But, sorry, guys. It’s a women’s spa.
Upon arrival, you are warmly greeted by owner Amie Gabriel, but your eyes and attention are immediately diverted to the incredible view of the waterfalls directly in front of you. “Happens all the time,” laughs Gabriel.
Unlike this About Town correspondent, who was still staring out the window, Gabriel’s full attention is already on her guest. With soft music playing in the background, she turns off her phone and offers a restorative beverage of ginger root, spearmint and lime infused water; something she came up with for her clients, many of whom are “fighting off a little something from the winter.”
AT: I’ve been here 5 minutes and I’m already more relaxed, even without a massage. How did you do that?
AG: It’s this space. If you come in through the 10 Depot St. entrance, you walk down several hallways in the Axe Factory to get here. You’re not sure what to expect. Once you step inside the door, however, your batteries instantly unplug and you relax into the space. It happens all the time. And, there’s not a bad time of day in this space. There’s something magical about it.
I also coordinated the colors in the rooms with the natural environment, right outside the windows. I didn’t want to over-improve the space. It was important that my clients still know they are in Collinsville, at the Axe Factory.
AT: And there is something about being near, or in this case over, the water.
AG: I knew when I started looking for a space, that I wanted to be near the water. The sound of the falls, the way the sun hits the large pool of water, the breezes that come through the windows, the warmth of the old wood on the floor; it all fills the room and transports you, in a meditative way, to another place.
AT: Men could certainly benefit from this beautiful space too. Why only female clients?
AG: Philosophically, I wanted to focus on women taking care of themselves; something that is too often on the bottom of their lists. I wanted a place where women could completely get away from everything. That’s what, “Peace, Quiet and Solitude,” and the luxury of time, is all about. I think these are things that are missing in the lives of so many women. I have clients who come in after work, get a massage or facial, and are then ready to greet their family, having shed the stress of work.
Here, in this space, a woman can be tended to. I only take one client in the morning and another in the evening. You won’t see anyone coming or going. My client’s aren’t rushed. They take their time getting up after their treatment. It’s like a mini vacation.
AT: There are a lot of great skin care and massage oils on the market. Why do you make your own?
AG: Because I know what’s in my oils, scrubs and body butters. I do my very best to only use organic, raw, fair trade ingredients: papaya, yogurt, apple cider, oatmeal, etc. This is so important because these things are touching your skin.
Besides, I’m a science geek and love the properties of nature! So, it’s very natural for me to experiment with different smells, oils and ingredients. Our ability to smell is the strongest sense of recall that we have. So, many of these formulations are based upon my own life experiences. For example, the Bay Rum, (an oil extracted from the leaves of the West Indian bay tree), and Lime scent was created from my summer memories in Jamaica. The Santa Barbara Foothills oil takes me back to hiking in the mountains of California.
AT: Let’s say I’ve never had a massage and I’m a little nervous about the whole touchy-feely thing.
AG: There is a power differential that happens when you allow yourself to be massaged. I get that. I always explain what I’m doing, what’s coming next, every aspect of the massage to be sure that my client feels safe. I’m always inviting, never dictating.
What I am trying to do is facilitate my client’s disengagement, to get her out of her head and into a more meditative state. It all works together: the smell of the oil, the sound of the waterfalls, the quality of music I play, even the warm and extra cushy table they lay on for their facial or massage.
AT: What happens when you have a bad day and have to work on relaxing other people? That’s got to be tough.
AG: I love coming to this space, so I usually arrive early to get myself ready for my client. I listen to the day: the sound of the waterfalls, the geese flying by. I feel the warmth of the room. It’s humbling to be here, taking it all in. That feeling I get comes through in my practice, which has its own meditative quality to it. So, I can turn everything off, except what I’m doing for my client at that moment. I am completely invested.
AT: And what about you? How do you relax?
AG: When I decided to go into this practice, I made a conscious choice to model what I’m asking other women to do, to make self-care a part of your life. I live in a cottage, on the edge of a game reserve. I drink a lot of water. I exercise and get the sleep that I need.
I also have a deep appreciation for little things that are actually not that little. For example, there are these little, yellow flowers in the woods where I walk, that are growing despite being shaded by large trees over head.
It’s humbling. I ask myself, how do they do that?
Here’s the Deal
Waterfalls; A Spa for Women on the Farmington River, 30 Depot St, Axe Factory, Collinsville; 860-810-5583: firstname.lastname@example.org & on Facebook.
Amie Gabriel is certified as a Licensed Massage Therapist and nationally certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. She’s also a member of American Massage Therapy Association.