The scent of fresh ground rosemary lightly fills the air as Linda Candels of Niantic walks into and takes a seat.
The plush black chairs where she will get her pedicure are supplemented with a disposable liner tub system instead of jet tubs for a clean soak in a homemade mixture of rosemary, Epsom salts, baking soda, and lime juice.
This mini-spa in a residential neighborhood at 264 Vauxhall St. in New London is smaller than most spas, but homey.
Nylon peacock blue floor-to-ceiling curtains drape one wall. Marie Claire and Mother Earth News magazines are spread across a low table and set beside an olive-colored restored divan. New London artist Susan Hickman’s silk-screens of knarled roots decorate another wall.
“It’s really a nice place to come,” said Erin Mockler of New London after getting a facial on a recent sweltering June day. “It cooled me down. My whole body was relaxed and it was nice to talk with Sara.”
A former singer with a local band, Brazen Hussy, spa owner Sara Florek, 35, of New London, opened her own spa a year and a half ago after 10 years working at a salon and day spa (she declined to name it). She also trained in cosmetology in her 20s as an aesthetician at Albert’s Academy in Niantic.
“I wanted to brighten our future financially,” she said, referring to living with her 4-year-old daughter. “I’d always wanted to mix my own products and come up with fun specials and be very creative.”
At Spa 264, customers can get manicures, pedicures, facials, eyebrow work, body waxing, exfoliating treatments, spray tanning and more.
Back rooms are available for privacy and spray tanning or massage work, for which Florek hires a dedicated massage therapist.
Instead of working with shelved organic products, which tend to contain preservatives, Florek makes mostly natural mixtures for facial masks, pedicures and other treatments, and grows herbs, like mint or rosemary, in her garden. Her work is regulated by the health department. She also uses some commercial products for items like nail polish that are chemical free.
Always experimenting, Florek’s penchant for using her own ingredients dates back to when she was a teen.
“I always had mayonnaise in my hair or tea bags on my eyes,” she recalls.
Mockler and Candlers, both regulars, say they like the friendly, reliable service and affordable prices.
A blackboard behind the settee lists current specials, like a free pedicure when a customer pre-pays for five. Regular prices, including sales tax, range from $30 for a polished pedicure, and $14 for a manicure to $56 for an hour-long facial and $37 for spray tanning.
This summer, she said, her phone has been ringing “off the hook.”
A pedicure or manicure just “makes you feel better,” said Candels, who comes every two weeks. “Sara will only do something that’s good for you.”