Embracing your outer beauty
Moving on up: Urban Retreat adding wellness to its beauty menu in locationchange
After two decades as Pampering Central for many of the city's top femmes, Urban Retreat is poised to move from its original San Felipe location and head a few blocks north to River Oaks Shopping Center.
CultureMap broke the news of a River Oaks move back on March 15, but now we've learned many more details. Doors open in October and things will be different.
Don't expect this to be your mother's Urban Retreat. Owner Francie Willis— with new investor greenbacks and with a new president Saira Ali — is expanding the concept from old line beauty salon to wellness center with an added focus on anti-aging. Two physicians will join the team bringing with them laser treatments, injectables (love that Restylane) and natural hormones.
Wellness is the expertise that Ali brings to the table, having operated two such centers in San Antonio.
Despite the new digs, all of her current service providers, including makeup artist Edward Sanchez, will be making the move, according to Willis. Even popular valet parker Armando Altivera, a favorite with Urban Retreat regulars, will remain on board. He's been with the salon for 17 years.
"It really breaks my heart to move," Willis says. "But we need something new and exciting and this is going to be very special."
Cue to the corner of West Gray and Shepherd in the Barnes & Noble building. Urban Retreat will be located on the fourth floor above the bookstore, occupying 10,000 square feet.
Willis' tone turns from slightly melancholy to joyous as she stands in the middle of the new locale, at the moment a vast empty space. "The entire east wall will be glass with a view of the downtown skyline and overlooking our outdoor patio. It's going to be big enough for several hundred people for charity events or receptions."
And when the weather is nice, Urban Retreat clients can have lunch there between services, she adds.
Expect to find a sleek, state-of-the-art environment and in place of the old Urban Retreat indoor swimming pool (used today as a lily pond), the new salon will feature a water wall, offering the soothing sounds of trickling H2O.
Excited by the possibilities that the roof garden affords, Willis says the space will be enriched with grassy areas, potted trees, cabanas and flowering plants.