We are excited to debut our most ambitious website to date for Insider’s Guide To Spas. Creating this project with founder and editorial director Mary Bemis has been a dream. Working with her team to help visualize the website has pushed MinkWell to new heights technically and creatively. Get to know Mary and find out how she is “keeping spa culture alive”.
1. You have quite an extensive background covering spas and spa culture. How have things changed from when you started?
Things have changed pretty dramatically in that not only is there a true-blue spa industry in this country today, but that it has grown tremendously since the launch of American Spa [the industry's leading trade publication] back in 1997. When I ran that magazine, it was a pretty tough sell in the beginning. I’d get calls from potential advertisers advising me to turn out my office lights and go home—that there’d never be a spa industry in this country! There were about 4,000 spa locations in the States in 1999—fast forward just 10 years ahead to 2009, and there were close to 21,000 locations. That’s a lot of towels…
While I’ve seen a ton of treatment trends come and go, the number-one seller is still massage—and the number-one reason people frequent spas is for stress relief. That hasn’t changed much over the years. And I’m happy to report that there’s a new appreciation for and of water therapies—from hydrotherapies to hot springs. There’s less of a demand for what I call “fluff” and more for authentic and indigenous treatments and therapies. That makes me really happy.
2. The tag line for your website is “Keeping Spa Culture Alive.” What will the site be covering?
I like to think of the site as the heartbeat of the movement. It will be a real community of like-minded individuals who want to delve deeper into the spa world and what makes it tick. It’s an insider’s look into spa from its people, places, and unique products to its numerous healing cultures. I have a great group of very smart writers who will share their first-person take on their spa experiences, the benefits and/or drawbacks, and more.
3. You just received the distinguished Dedicated Contributor Award, from the International Spa Association, which is quite an accomplishment. Any secrets as to how you got where you are?
I’m determined, I love what I do, and I’ve been doing it for a very long time. I guess you could call me a Spa Advocate. Along the way, I launched the leading trade magazine, American Spa, and co-founded Organic Spa, a small independent consumer magazine. I love to start things, especially when people tell me it can’t be done! A few years ago, I co-founded the DC-based Washington Spa Alliance, and I chair its annual Symposium at the National Press Club in DC. You should come, the next one is March 18th, 2014! I never strayed from my path. Before American Spa, I covered preventive health and beauty for a number of consumer magazines. I grew up in a household that lived the “spa lifestyle” long before the phrase was coined—good fresh local food, lots of dance/movement, an appreciation of the waters, a respect for the power of healing touch, a good sense of community, and time spent in nature—for which I’m forever thankful.
4. What do you like best about your job?
Discovering new spas (a gorgeous, well-designed space is a real pleasure and not that easy to come by, believe it or not); testing new treatments; meeting the people behind-the-scenes who are innovative and passionate about what they do. Sharing my stories. Educating consumers about the beauty and benefits of the spa world.
5. When you aren’t covering Spas and working on your website, what do you like to do?
Soak and sauna weekly at the no-frills local hot springs, bicycle along the banks of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon, discover new local wines, cook up a storm, take super-long baths, test new products, and help my husband, Stephen Kiesling, with his amazing creation—the Gold Hill Whitewater Center—it has the potential to be one of the best natural whitewater centers in the world, according to the experts. But that’s another story!
Ready to relax? Let Insider’s Guide To Spas lead the way.