A Resurrected Retreat

trolly on St. Charles Avenue
Dual Appeal: Le Jardin’s idyllic location on historic Saint Charles Avenue appeals to both tourists and locals.

Luring Locals

Currently about 75% of Le Jardin’s business is mobile. However, owners are taking steps to achieve a 50/50 ratio while they expand both aspects of the operation. The thinking behind this is twofold: First, tourist attendance can’t always be counted upon (not only did Hurricane Katrina drastically curtail city visits, but Cuartas also notes that 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which pumped nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, also devastated New Orleans’ tourism industry).

Second, the city desperately needs a destination spa for local residents. “There are a lot of area hair salons that may offer waxing or chair massage, but if you really want a full-on spa experience, that means trekking to the handful of places in the French Quarter,” Cuartas explains. “Most locals don’t live there, so they have to deal with driving, finding parking and then all the crowds—not very relaxing!”

Le Jardin’s location in the Garden District seems to strike an ideal balance—a quick streetcar or cab ride from the tourist-y parts of town, yet within walking distance of many residential neighborhoods. So far, marketing initiatives have included reaching out to area women’s networks, organizations and clubs (Le Jardin even offers for-credit internships to women seeking to learn about the spa industry).

The ongoing expansion should also help better establish Le Jardin as a community fixture. In addition to adding a steam room and sauna, spa owners plan to build yoga and Pilates studios, and offer daily classes. “We want this to become the kind of place where people can spend a whole day,” she says. “They can do yoga in the morning followed by a sports massage, then lunch and a facial and hand treatment.”

Le Jardin is still “a diamond in the rough,” says Mike Melito, but he’s quick to add, “The business they had going here was good; now we just want to take it to the next level.”

No matter the exact trajectory for Le Jardin, one thing remains clear. “We’re lifelong New Orleanians,” Cuartas emphasizes, “and we’re committed to serving our city.”

Shari Goldhagen is a New York City-based writer.

Website: lejardinspa.net
Open since: 2008 (as Spa Laje); re-launched March 2012
No. of employees: 12
Average service ticket: $115 on-site; $170 off-site
Product lines: Éminence Organic Skin Care, Nola Beaux aromatherapy candles
Most popular treatment: Pralines & Cream Hand and Foot Treatment (90 min./ $100; $125 off-site)

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