By Lee Shappell
Contributor San Tan Sun
Essentials Day Spa was just hitting its stride.
After nearly three years in Ahwatukee, it had built a loyal clientele of those looking to relax in a unique and restorative environment for a couple of hours and enjoy a specialized, targeted massage or a facial – a more personable experience than at a franchise spa.
Owner Tatyanna Brenner of Chandler was especially encouraged by the spa’s brisk business in January and February of this year.
“We were on a pretty good track for this year,” Brenner said. “Our first two months were great. We were on track for really good year.”
“And then, it just tanked completely.”
Essentials was forced to close from March 17 to June 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before closure, Brenner had six employees. When Essentials reopened, three chose not to return.
It was just as well.
Additional time was required between appointments for cleaning and sterilization, fewer appointments could be scheduled for each therapist.
Brenner also quickly discovered that the public just wasn’t ready to return to one-on-one activities in close quarters.
Last month, Brenner went out of business. She was forced to permanently close her spa, which had been her labor of love.
“It was really mostly economics,” Brenner. “When we came back, I just wasn’t able to make it happen to where we were generating the income to keep going.
“I did get the PPP (Pandemic Protection Program) Loan but it ran out super fast. It helped out a little bit but it wasn’t enough for us to sustain and keep going.”
As a young Black female, Brenner, 29, who lives in Chandler, took pride in founding and operating a successful business.
Ahwatukee has been good to her, she said. Six years ago, she had opened a small massage studio in Ahwatukee, AZ Massage Essentials. She was the sole employee.
After three years, “I just decided I wanted to do something bigger and have employees.”
At Essentials Day Spa, she offered more than massages. Clients could get customized spa services including skin care. The estheticians specialized in acne and anti-aging facial treatments.
Brenner also sold an array of take-home products, including essential oils, cleansers, exfoliants, moisturizers, serums, skin-care kits and toners.
Brenner said that the strip center’s landlord, Elite Property Investments, was slow to offer relief.
“Once they were willing to work with us, there was only so much they could do because they have bills, too, and they really were trying,” Brenner said. “So, I understand that side, as well. All around, it just wasn’t enough to keep going.”
Brenner said there was a party interested in buying her spa, but no formal offer was tendered.
The space is now empty. She sold everything, down to the barn-style doors on the massage rooms.
“There were random grants here and there but those are very hard to get. I didn’t get any of those,” she said. “And, I did get denied for the SBA (Small Business Association) Loan. Those were really the only other options.”
She is taking a break now, working on projects around the house. She and her three young children live with her boyfriend, who is working.
“So, we’re OK for now,” she said. “I’ve been doing massage for 11 years and I’ve never done anything else in my adult life. I went to massage school right after high school. In my early 20s, I went back to school and got my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Arizona State, so I might be able to use that.
“Hopefully we’ll be talking about something else in a couple of months when the pandemic eases.”