SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Three women united by an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to spread their positive energy have created a tranquil modern spa in the heart of a historic inn.
The Belladonna Spa at Springfield’s Hartness House is the culmination of a dream shared by massage therapist Darlene Doane, reiki master Lee Serrano and aesthetician Kristen Merrow.
“We always wanted to do something together,” Doane said. The women met and became fast friends shortly after she and Serrano moved to Vermont several years ago, and their dream of working together grew through personal and professional ups and downs. They recently felt the time was right and started looking for a location. That’s when a friend told them that the Hartness House had a spa that was rarely used.
The hotel’s previous managers called in various professionals when a guest requested a massage or facial. The Belladonna women approached the owner and new manager about taking over the spa, and when they saw the space, they knew they’d found the home for their business.
They made only minor changes and mainly sought to create a soothing, welcoming place that offers all the services of a resort and day spa. Belladonna opened last fall.
Doane said she gets massages all over Vermont, both for her own well-being and to network with fellow professionals, but the locations often feel sterile — “like going to the dentist,” Serrano chimed in — and they wanted their spa to be different.
In our modern world, people crave touch, Doane said, adding, “With the internet and social media, there’s less communication on a personal level. It makes massage and reiki so important.”
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It treats the whole person, and that holistic approach was a frequent theme in the women’s conversation. They stressed their commitment to wellness and working with people to meet their individual needs. In particular, they like to offer women the opportunity to put themselves first for awhile.
“We want it to be more than a physical experience,” Serrano said. “We want people to walk away feeling like they had a spiritual experience.”
Although all three women currently work at other locations, the goal is to gradually shift all their energies to Belladonna, Serrano said. She described their decision to go into business together as an awakening.
Doane took a 12-year sabbatical from massage therapy after starting and managing two massage businesses in Massachusetts. She also gave free massages to cancer patients, which she called sacred but emotionally exhausting work. She moved to Vermont and has reinvented herself more than once in the intervening years, including starting the Pizza Stone restaurant in Chester.
Serrano left a stressful career at a brokerage firm to move to Vermont, where she realized that she had been missing the spiritual piece of her life. She said she felt guided to the state, and she and Doane joked that once the idea of moving to Vermont popped into their heads, they saw the state’s name on license plates, food labels and nearly everywhere they looked.
They both arrived in Vermont not knowing anyone and met each other soon after. They and Merrow quickly became close friends, and their children have done the same.
Although each woman has a specialty, they have skills and experience in one another’s areas, which gives them the flexibility to serve more clients. In addition, the network Doane has built with massage therapists across the state gives Belladonna the ability to expand for large events.
The women enthusiastically shared their ideas for events such as a Goddess Ball — where women would come to the hotel for yoga, meditation, live music and speakers on various topics — and a Roaring Twenties weekend complete with costumes for the guests to dress up in as soon as they arrive.
In addition, the women plan to reach out to the Edgar May Health and Recreation Center in Springfield and local hospitals. And they pointed out that the Hartness House has a conference room and a separate dining room for companies that want to hold off-site events for their employees, who could access Belladonna’s services for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Belladonna offers a variety of massages and skin care services, and also features a hydrotherapy whirlpool with seating for seven and a cedar-lined Finnish-style sauna with dry and wet heat. Local residents receive a 10 percent discount.
For more information, go to HartnessHouse.com/spa. To book a treatment, call 802-885-2115.