By Priscilla Morrill
“I’m very grateful for the past 25 years. Peterborough is a wonderful town to have a business in.” – Ellen Smith, founder and owner European Esthetics Wellness Spa & Tea Room
The last thing she’ll talk about is herself.
“I’m grateful to be able to do what I love, to have a career serving people, making their skin feel better, seeing them feel better about themselves,” Ellen says. “I think our success is a result of continuous, consistent, professional services with personal care.”
When Ellen opened European Esthetics’ doors 25 years ago on School Street, there was no one specializing in skin care services in Peterborough. But the area was ready, and her spa was successful from the start. In fact, quite a few of Ellen’s clients have been with her since day one and over the years children of her clients have become clients, too.
“I’m very grateful for the past 25 years. Peterborough is a wonderful town to have a business in.”
But in 1992, not everyone in town was convinced the business would last. “I have a client whose husband said, ‘Skin care? Peterborough? I’m going to give her six months.’ And to this day, I love seeing her, saying, ‘Hmmm, say hi to your husband,’” Ellen says with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.
A quarter of a century later, the spa is back in the heart of the town, after operating in a number of locations nearby. In May 2015, European Esthetics moved to Depot Square, to the right of Waterhouse Restaurant.
“I love the community, I love the Square, I love the interaction with other businesses,” Ellen says about the new location, adding there’s an energy there and the proximity to Nubanusit River is perfect for a spa. “It felt like a full circle complete.”
European Esthetics Wellness Spa & Tea Room will celebrate its momentous anniversary all month, with specials and discounts. An Open House Celebration will be held Thursday, Aug. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m., with music and mingling at its Grove Street location. All are welcome to the catered event.
Ellen’s passion for all things natural
Before “organic” and “all-natural” became popular product labels, Ellen was offering clients those alternatives. And that care doesn’t end with what touches the skin.
“Our spa is conscious about the environment. We recycle, use non-toxic cleaning agents and are meticulous about clean linen.”
Ellen says a love of nature was instilled in her as child, and would later serve her in her career choice.
Growing up in the Netherlands, Smith had no intention of becoming an esthetician; she wanted to be a nurse. But she had taken bookkeeping and banking classes in high school that would later help in running a business and, while she was waiting for her nursing courses to get started, she went with her mother, an esthetician, to the opening of a new esthetic school.
That’s when her eyes got wide.
“All of a sudden it clicked. I could do what mom does,” Ellen recalls.
From the start of her career, Ellen was using natural skin care products, such as Dr. Eckstein and later Dr. Hauschka, Decléor, Glymed and Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics. She was following her mother in that regard, and the love of all things natural has led Ellen on a mission that’s more than skin deep.
“My eyes were opened,” Ellen says, referring to the lack of regulation on ingredients in skin care products in the U.S. that’s recently come to her attention.
In October 2016, Ellen began exploring more deeply what “natural” and “organic” on labels really mean, and she’s learned it isn’t always good. She credits Beautycounter, a line of toxin-free skin care she’s promoting, with expanding her awareness.
Now, Ellen feels a responsibility to educate others about the potential dangers of lead and arsenic, for example, in lipsticks and foundations, not to mention the chemicals that can often be found in sunscreens, deodorants and shampoos.
“The transparency on products just isn’t there,” she says, noting the associated laws have not been updated in the U.S. since 1938 and a number of ingredients banned in Europe for decades are still in use here. “You can’t just trust what’s on the label.”
What’s new for EE
When the spa moved to its present location next to the Waterhouse two years ago, Ellen took advantage of the big open space she gained to add a Tea Room, where herbal tea and a whole lot more could be served.
The space Ellen has created flows seamlessly with the beauty of nature just outside, and the sound of the rushing water helps transport visitors to a place of peace and calm.
“You don’t have to have an appointment,” Ellen says, “to enjoy a cup of tea, a snack and the scenery. It’s an open door.”
More and more, people are stopping in to have a cold drink on a hot day, sit by the water and relax with friends. The Tea Room is also a place where groups gather for meetings and classes are held in nutrition, health and wellness. In the near future, Ellen hopes to find the right person to host High Tea and offer baked goods at the spa on a more regular basis.
In January 2016, Ellen and Registered Dietitian Ruth Clark of Smart Nutrition LLC established Women 2 Women in Business, a networking group for area entrepreneurs, which meets the third Monday of the month at European Esthetics.
“It’s the support of women, learning from women who have done things I haven’t,” Ellen says. “I’m constantly learning and improving, while supporting others as well.”
The group averages 10 to 14 people per meeting, but they have 50 women and growing among their ranks. Making business connections, learning from each other and sharing ideas and collaborative efforts are the group’s highlights.
Ellen’s support for other women in business begins with her own employees, helping them to obtain the training they need, mentoring them and encouraging them to succeed.
“I am so grateful for all who have ever worked for EE, all that everyone has brought to the business, and who treated our clients with care, respect and patience,” Ellen says. “All have taught me something, improved services, added their own touch and made EE what it is today.”
So, what’s in store for European Esthetics? Ellen says, “There’s something next, and I’m excited to find out what that will be.”
While her new vision takes shape, Ellen and her team continue to offer an extensive menu of services, including a new lineup of facials, expanded massage techniques, manicures, pedicures, waxing services, lash and brow tinting, health coaching and mineral makeup application.
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