despite working in spa development for twenty years, it seems as though suzanne owen’s career has been anything but relaxed. the owner of neroli spa and founder of relax and rejuvenate has blazed a path that is nothing but highly energized and spirited with an unmistakable entrepreneurial spark. i met with suzanne at neroli, in the manicure room upstairs. the spa is painted and furnished with neutral tones, and space feels like a secret escape from the traffic on barracks road. the combination of low, warm light and the spa music—specifically unspecific, natural, harp-stringy, and undeniably soothing—that played gently in the background where suzanne and i talked could have lulled me into a wonderful half-sleep haze right there, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. the immediate aesthetic effect of neroli spa is that powerful.
indiana-born suzanne has owned neroli for 6 years. she’s been in the business for much longer—she started as a makeup artist, and worked at aveda. when horst rechelbacher, the founder of aveda who cooked up the first aveda products in his kitchen, sold the company to estée lauder in 1997, suzanne went to work for aveda at estée lauder’s headquarters in new york. after a few years in new york, suzanne moved to washington, d.c.
suzanne and her husband, a darden graduate, moved the charlottesville after visiting on the weekends, realizing they were always itching to return to the blue ridge. she founded relax and rejuvenate, which is a nationwide mobile spa that provides in-home and in-hotel spa services, and it serves as a temp agency for spas as well. relax and rejuvenate operates the spas in a number of hotels across the country, including ink 48 and the benjamin, both of which are in new york city. the mobile spa operates all parts of the spas’ operations—from booking appointments to providing treatments—and has outposts all over the country.
when suzanne moved from the fairly conservative corporate dress code of d.c. and new york to the relatively relaxed dress code of professional charlottesville, she definitely noticed a contrast. “i’ve gotten comfortable with casual,” she says. on the thursday afternoon we meet, she’s in a plaid button-up, jeans, a blazer, and cowboy boots—certainly more laid-back than the all-black ensembles she sported before. the boots and the button-up are from scarpa, neroli’s next-door neighbor.
her beauty favorites? prima skincare, fresh lip treatment, and fekkai dry shampoo. she always carries hand cream in her purse, and never leaves home without hand sanitizer. her first foray into the beauty world was at 6 years old, when she smeared on her mother’s green eye shadow during a dinner party, beyond the creases of her eyelids. since then, she’s become a veritable veteran of the industry, and says the mission of neroli is health and beauty education. “we’re educators, not salespeople,” she says of the spa’s offerings, “we provide treatments.”