In 1982, Brea Gratia returned from a trip to London, where she enjoyed a full day at "The Sanctuary". It was truly an experience she would never forget. As an esthetician, she fantasized about the day she could have a place like that. A place for physical and mental rejuvenation. She began to write her goals and business plan. By 1983, she determined she could provide a very small version of the London Sanctuary.
Brea rented a 576 sq. ft. office space in March of 1984 and Sanctuary Beauty Institute began to offer facials, massage and body treatments utilizing the principals of hydrotherapeutic principles. That meant Brea opened one of the first TRUE day spas in the United States, perhaps the first.
By March of 1987, she expanded her facilities and staff to a new location consisting 1,200 sq. ft. With the new spa, she added a new hydrotherapy tub and expanded the service menu. In 1988 and 1989, she continued to expand the spa eventually reaching 2,400 sq ft. Hydrotherapy was now in full bloom with the hydrotherapy tub, new shower facilities.
By 1991, Brea's Sanctuary Spa had expanded to include 14 employees (5 estheticians, 5 massage therapists 2 nail technicians, 1 receptionist and 1 administrative assistant). All estheticians and massage therapists were cross trained to provide all body treatments and hydrotherapy services.
Creating "Something to Look Forward To"
As things started to come together and the spa started growing, Brea began honing her craft and started to take a different approach to improve each guest's experience. We'll let her explain it, as she did back in a letter to guests back in the nineties.
"Facials became my passion. Logic drove the passion. Clients were impressed with my work and shared information on facials and treatments they had received from here and there. I listened. Soon, my work started making major shifts as I moved "outside the box" of the standard facial procedures. I found that a steamer was, for the most part, the only equipment I needed. I started thinking and imagining what certain techniques would feel like. Clients started "ooohing and ahhhing" and I knew this was a good thing. The more they liked what I did, the better it got. I paid attention to their skin and how it responded. I talked about what they ate. What products they used.
Today, we hear the same comments over and over and they go something like this:
- "W O W !!! What an experience!"
- "I've traveled all over the world and never had a facial like that."
- "WHEW !! Thank you! "
- "There are no words to describe this."
- "I feel like kissing my own toes." (comment after our Luxor Foot Bath hydrotherapy foot treatment)
We have an in-house training program and each technician is "Skill Certified" before they are ever allowed to perform the service. Each of my staff are trained to do the same work I do and they are confident in their work. So confident that if they need a second opinion, they ask for it. We look at dietary considerations in evaluating skin problems, we inquire about habits and products you may be using. We do not believe in treating all pimples the same nor do we treat all wrinkles the same. Skin sensitivities concern us and our holistic philosophies encourage a treatment that differs greatly from the norm. We use hydrotherapy techniques to manipulate the skin and body to heal itself.
Results are what we get. Holistic treatments with a serious product and a treatment philosophy combined to stimulate, soothe, flush, detox, regenerate, remineralize exfoliate, cleanse, etc., etc. We do go beyond our natural plant products and offer some of the more aggressive technologies such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels and glycolic acid. We feel we need to provide these services for some of the more severe skin situations. However, you must know that we follow up with feeding and regeneration of the skin."
With several years now of sustained success, Brea's Sanctuary Spa was now getting national recognition as a true therapeutic spa. Over the years, Sanctuary has been recognized in prestigious publications such as Time Magazine, Allure, Vogue, Travel and Leisure, Town and Country, PaperCity, Southern Living, and Texas Monthly. The spa and our services have also won numerous awards over the years, such as Citysearch's Best Day Spa in Houston. We're also consistently named as one of the top spas in Houston to visit if you're in from out of town.
In 2014, Brea realized a long sought after dream of moving to Asheville, North Carolina. Sanctuary is now owned and operated by her nephew, Paul Colgin and his wife, Sabrina and their very good friends, Katherine and Robbie Wright. Their goal is simple - to continue what Brea started in providing natural, innovative, healing services and creating an amazing spa experience.