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Downtown decadence

Spa Velia makes everything better

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In this turbulent economy, business professionals are in dire need of some time to themselves to just forget about the outside world -- or at least put it on hold for a few hours.

That's where Spa Velia comes in. Taking the high-end spa experience to a new level, this downtown delight prides itself on offering its customers the complete relaxation package -- or "sensory perfection," as its mission statement reads.

"The niche for an urban refuge was so obvious," said Dana Stallings, who co-founded the spa in late 2005 with partners Chris Guimond and Jody Rogers.

So what separates this company from other stylish spas? The owners' collective spa management experience, for starters, and Stallings will tell you it's all about the details.

"Having to operate other facilities from resort spas to day and club spas," she said, "we noticed that many times, some of the most obvious details were overlooked or left out in the planning of the spa -- everything from layout to lighting, and touching all the senses in every way.

"We really wanted Spa Velia to feel warm, cozy and unintimidating, a sort of 'home away from home.'"

Consider it done.

The talented and welcoming staff complements Spa Velia's choice environment, complete with amenities like a cozy relaxation room where guests can enjoy a signature pomegranate mimosa and other treats before their service, and a well-equipped locker room featuring Swiss seven-head showers.

Spa Velia offers a wide variety of facials, massages and other refreshing experiences, but perhaps the most luxurious option is the "Drench" -- an all-encompassing indulgence of the spa's finest services that lasts 150 minutes and costs $280 -- and it's worth every penny.

The Drench starts with a cleansing citrus exfoliation, which involves a full-body scrub and rinse, and feels like it washes away all the potential grime and gloom of the outside world, leaving the recipient with a clean slate and a second chance.

Next, a conditioning scalp treatment with Spa Velia's own mango/papaya hair care line gives an often-overlooked area of the body a much-deserved sensual treat.

Then the guest is led to a eucalyptus-infused steam room, where therapeutic wet heat allows the body to absorb moisture like a sponge. An 80-minute, full-body massage using a hydrating lemongrass body balm concludes the head-to-toe extravagance.

Simply put, it's a more blissful experience than many people get to encounter or even realize exists.

That being said, Spa Velia is promoted as an "accessible luxury for most," with skin, body and massage treatments starting at $60, while waxing services start at $20. Stallings said she's especially seeing repeat clientele still making spa services a priority -- but which services clients select may be the difference.

"With times being what they are, we have definitely seen a 'back to basics' mindset in what services are booked most frequently," she said. "In lieu of our decadent Milk and Honey (body treatment), they will do a massage; instead of a deluxe facial peel, they may opt for one of our more standard 50- or 80-minute skincare services."

Despite the minor adjustments, Stallings has every confidence that clients will keep coming back, based on their state of mind when they leave.

"I believe that people really 'feel' the value in what they receive at Spa Velia," she said. "Because of our dedication to amazing service each and every time, they don't ever walk away feeling that they didn't get their money's worth."

The spa's self-proclaimed "Old World luxury" appeal stems from its Mediterranean influences and pomegranate-branded products and scents. Stallings explained that in researching the chosen name for the spa, "Velia" turned out to be "an ancient region in Italy where many of the greatest philosophers came to share thoughts and relax." The meaning connects serendipitously with a significant part of Spa Velia's demographic -- "the movers and shakers" of San Diego, said Stallings.

Another distinction that elevates the spa above its competitors involves the strong male demographic it's managed to secure, added Stallings, who contends that men feel as much at home during their Spa Velia visits as female clients.

"They may not all enjoy a pomegranate mimosa, so we may offer them a chilled mug of beer," she said. "Again, it's all in the details!"

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