Neighborhood Spotlight: Interview with Gabrielle Ophals and Audra Senkus of Haven Spa

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This month we're spotlighting Gabrielle and Audra, owners of NoHo's Haven Spa.Tucked away on a quiet block of Mercer Street, Haven lives up to the name. Step inside and you'll be greeted with smiling faces and something all too rare in New York City: peace and quiet. If you need a full day of pampering or a quick treatment, they've got it. Their spa menu draws inspiration globally, and covers all the bases like massage, facials, nailcare, and more. After a treatment or two (or three or more) guests have free access to steam rooms for that extra moment of peace before returning to the outside world. They even offer house calls, when you just want to relax in your home. Gabrielle Ophals and Audra Senkus have been in the spa and wellness industry for decades. Haven Spa was founded as a beauty retreat that was welcoming, not intimidating. Since then their savvy treatments have made Haven a must-go destination. 

What got you started in the spa/ wellness industry?  

G: Kismet, I guess, LOL.  We both worked at small salons through college and after and the timing was right.  The owner of our first salon - Dyanna (later Eve) - wanted to sell the business to us and we went for it.  

What inspired you to open Haven Spa? 

G: In the mid 90's when spas were just on the cusp of being a "thing" we decided we wanted a second location (we owned Eve Salon in the West Village) and that we really wanted to offer more to our clientele.  Spa was so new, we didn't know too much about the concept and took a class at a big spa in New Jersey that really helped us develop a plan for what we wanted Haven to be.

 

What makes Haven special compared to other spas? 

G: I think it's the fact that we're "real people" - not some giant corporation or absentee ownership.  Audra and I are present in the spa, part of the day to day.  Our staff is almost like a family - many of our co-workers have been with us for over a decade.  They're committed to Haven and each other and I think that shows.  Lastly, I believe that we really emphasize establishing personal connections with our clientele.  There are clients who have been coming to us for decades.  It's incredibly rewarding to know that they trust in us and support us.  

One thing that I absolutely love about Haven Spa is that it's constantly coming up with new, unique ways to help people look and feel their best. Whether it's the Game of Thrones inspired line or innovative treatments like the LED anti-aging light therapy. How do you come up with new treatments?  

G: BRAINSTORMING ... and hints from clients and staff.  One of the things about this industry that we enjoy so much is the opportunity for creativity.  Clients enjoy when we keep things fresh and interesting and we strive to meet their expectations.  

What are your own favorite treatments at Haven? 

G: That's a difficult question to answer. I go through phases of different types of facials, but I particularly like the Hydrafacial Plus.  I feel like it's thorough and relaxing and most importantly, it delivers results.  I'll take any massage I can get - when I have time and they have time (as if that happens).  I LOVE my permanent UV gels!  I hate hate hate my natural nails.  They're weak and ugly - I have what I call, "peasant hands".  The permanent UV gel has given me real nails that aren't paper thin, I can still use my hands as tools (almost), and they look pretty.  

A: Anything that I can squeeze in! I love everything on our menu.

What's the most rewarding part of owning a spa?  

G: As I mentioned previously, the personal connections we make with our clients makes what we do special and enjoyable.  Also, knowing that people leave Haven feeling better than when they come in.  You can see it in their faces when they check out - it's almost as if the stress has been ironed out of their face, the muscles relax in a way that they didn't realize were tensed, their expressions change.  And that makes us happy.  

You've also got an incredible selection of products in your store! What are some of your favorite products in the gift shop?  

A: I love the Rosy Rings diffusers, the Ultraluxe Acai Face Wash and their Hydrasoft moisturizers, Booda Butter lip balm, and anything with Vitamin C or Hyaluronic Acid.

G:  I LOVE our candles from Rosy Rings - they're beautiful and incredibly fragrant.  I'm a huge fan of Cane & Austen products - the face and body glycolic acid scrub in particular.  The iS Clinical Moisturizing Complex.  I try and use A LOT of product - so this answer could change next week.  


What's your favorite thing about the NoHo neighborhood? 

G: It has a really nice cadence to it, there's a nice energy - it actually feels like a neighborhood.  SoHo was great - but the streets are so busy it's really changed the dynamic.  

A: All the trees in the neighborhood and the mini park across the street. 

What are some of your other favorite NoHo businesses? 

A: Astor Wines and Think Coffee

G: Dig Inn, Il Buco

To close, if you could give our readers any piece of skincare advice, what would it be?  

G: Actually take care of your skin, it's going to represent you forever.  Use quality products with effective ingredients and use sunscreen.  Don't suffer through skin challenges - seek professional attention.  

A: It is easier to prevent damage/aging than it is to repair it once it happens.  So use suscreen!  And cleanse and moisturize with good products every day.

 

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