ST. ALBANS CITY –– Brandie Shilling wanted to open a day spa before she turned 30.
Six months before that milestone, in June 2007, Shilling, now 34, and Danny Barratt, 35, opened Mystic Waters Day Spa, Salon, and Boutique in Hungerford Plaza, on North Main Street.
“When people come in here for a couple hours of services, they say they don’t feel like they’re in St. Albans,” Shilling said recently, while seated with Barratt, Mystic Waters’ receptionist and bookkeeper. Shilling is the human resources manager and a massage therapist.
Mystic Waters offers a glossy brochure full of quick escapes, from massages and organic body treatments to facials, body waxing, manicures and pedicures, and a sauna. Spa packages are also available, and the salon is open to men and women.
When Shilling and Barratt first opened Mystic Waters, they were surprised by how many people locally had never been to spas, or been educated about their health benefits for people with diabetes, stress, even acne.
There were concerns Mystic Waters wouldn’t last, Shilling recalled, but the 1,800-square-foot business now logs an average of 125 to 150 customers weekly.
“There was much more of a need in this area than we anticipated,” Shilling said, “and that’s why we’re growing so well.”
“This isn’t just a luxury to people anymore,” Barratt added. “Now, we are the preventive care.”
Mystic Waters fared the recent recession well, mainly because people opted for a day or two there, instead of spending $5,000 on a vacation.
Mystic Waters has also kept a high community profile by offering free massages at Swanton Schools, during Teacher Appreciation Day. Mystic Waters is also involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“When someone comes here and says we’ve fixed their problems, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Shilling said.
Both natives of Swanton, where they share a home and raise a son, Shilling and Barratt graduated from Missisquoi Valley Union High School in the mid-1990s and attended Johnson State College, where they became friends.
While studying art and sports medicine at Johnson, Shilling played soccer. Her coach was a massage therapist. Shilling followed suit and became certified in 2001, after years of offering $25 massages out of her apartment, and spending two years at Smugglers’ Notch.
In 2001, Shilling and Barratt went to Arizona, where she worked at a day spa in Phoenix. “That’s when I fell in love with it,” she said.
Barratt studied art and design at Johnson State. He then worked for Northwest Counseling and Support Services for three years, which prepared him for his work with disabled children in Arizona.
Barratt, his mother, and his brother also own and operate Tuttle’s Trucking, in Swanton, a business previously owned by his late father, Tom.
Barratt and Shilling hope to grow Mystic Waters. “We fit a lot of stuff into a small space,” she said. They currently offer facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, hair and scalp treatments, and have a fully stocked boutique filled with organic products.