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Langdon Hall Country House & Spa: Working With Nature to Age Gracefully

As you enter The Spa at Langdon Hall near Cambridge, Ont., bouquets of fresh flowers handpicked from the gardens that morning extend a warm greeting in glorious seasonal scents and hues, hinting of the spa’s devotion to natural ingredients. The spa is partly the reason the property is recognized by Relais & Châteaux for exemplifying the highest standard of excellence, one of only 14 in Canada.

There’s also something else. Behind the scenes, on a wall in the spa’s staff lounge, you’ll find a small photo of an 84-year-old woman suspended in mid-air, inhibitions released as she bungee jumps into the rocky abyss below. Spa director Julie Simcox explains that the lady, a long-time guest of the spa, has won employees’ hearts with her verve and exuberance for life, a poignant reminder of what it means to age gracefully.

Helping skin retain its youthful bloom through anti-aging measures factors prominently into the spa’s brand, explains Simcox, a former aesthetics instructor and board member of Leading Spas of Canada (LSOC). She has been with the company for 13 years, and a day doesn’t go by when she’s not invigorated by the beauty around her, inspired each morning as she arrives at the classical manor reminiscent of an English country estate.

The Spa at Langdon Hall, a Quality Certified Member of LSOC, has been voted among the top 25 spas in Canada, and is a recipient of the Canadian Spa and Wellness Award. “Achieving Quality Excellence sets you apart,” explains Simcox. “It assures your guests they’re receiving service and treatment from professionals who uphold the highest standard of practice — especially during COVID.”

Simcox notes that while stringent protocols were implemented during the pandemic, they did not dramatically change practices at the spa, which had already prided itself on safety and hygiene.

New Valmont product line may trump cosmetic surgery
The spectacular natural surroundings set the tone for the spa’s brand. “It’s actually quite a focus,” explains Simcox. “It’s also why we exclusively carry Valmont products. They share our commitment to youthful, nature-inspired skincare.” While the spa offers clients a wide array of Valmont skincare and body-contouring products among its retail offerings, the more popular ones are focused on preventive measures and anti-aging.

“We’ve never wanted to change. Valmont fits so well with us. Their technology, innovation, and products are fantastic. They’re a privately owned company, too, built by the Guillon family, known for their anti-aging cosmetics and perfumes. That passion is what we’re all about, too. It’s about the experience and the whole philosophy behind it. It’s just a really good marriage between us and Valmont.”

This October, Valmont is introducing what Simcox calls a revolutionary high-end elixir line, La Quintessence des Glaciers, including a kit priced at $4,888. “The kit may very well prevent the need for cosmetic surgery,” explains Simcox. “The products are not inexpensive. But, we have people who are just so loyal to the brand; they know all about it and are waiting for it to launch. Avoiding cosmetic surgery is exactly what they want to prevent, or want to prolong the need for, and this product may help them do just that.”

Homegrown treatments
The spa’s treatment menu pays homage to the surrounding countryside, with ingredients that are natural, organic, and grown on the property. From a range of services and treatments on the menu, guests can select manicures, pedicures, and other hand and foot treatments; facial treatments; a variety of specialty massages and alternatives like acupuncture, reiki, and reflexology; as well as body scrubs, wraps, and masks.

After a facial, most guests leave their treatment without any redness because spa staff bypass manual extractions, unless requested. “The product we use does it for you. It lets the sebum and anything that’s been oxidized come out naturally,” explains Simcox.

“We don’t even do artificial nails or shellac, and no machines or steamers are used in the facials because we want everything to be natural. Everything has to have that hand-to-hand, hand-to-face, or personal contact without machines or harmful chemicals. It takes away from the essence of what Langdon Hall is all about,” she explains.

“We get a lot of requests for shellac. And, honestly, it would make it easier on my life if we had it, but it just doesn’t fit the feel of the property.”

It’s also about personalizing treatments for the guest, something that’s supported by the spa’s price points. “I don’t feel like price should be a determining factor for which facial you’re going to pick. With everything at the same price, our guests can switch from one to another treatment.” There’s even an option for guests to mix and match between product lines to enable treatment for different skin conditions.

COVID has elevated spa services in the resort industry
According to the Retail Council of Canada, “Consumers are increasingly looking for custom-made solutions that fit their specific needs. Nearly 75% of consumers wanted personalized products and services in 2019.” And, since the start of the pandemic, health concerns have risen even more, along with Canadian consumers’ greater health awareness, which is expected to accelerate as the population ages. It’s something Simcox has seen at the spa.

“I think all of us were a little concerned when COVID first hit. But when we came back from the first lockdown, we actually saw the demand for our spa remain quite robust, and it’s not going away. We’re just so busy. We’re booking two months out now.”

Simcox is seeing a growing number of guests looking for spa services as a deciding factor when visiting the resort, a change from the days when the property itself was the draw. “Spa services go along with dining and room accommodations, and seem to be part of the full experience they want now,” she says.

“In the last three or four years, our guests have been much more regular. Before, people would come once a year or two; now we’re seeing more make it a regular occurrence.”

These regular visits have increased since the spa moved into its new space five years ago. “But, I don’t know if that has to do with the new space or if it’s timing and people’s priorities with spas becoming part of their daily lives.”

The move meant a bigger spa team that was doubled in size to almost 50 professionals. To ensure a team that large consistently delivered high-quality treatments, the spa hired a trainer. Rigorous training and assessments occur every three months, although Valmont does the initial training on its products.

“We do this with the aestheticians because Valmont is very particular in their facial branding, and we wanted to make sure we’re doing everything the Valmont way.”

Simcox believes one of the things that sets her spa apart from others is the low staff turnover rate. “I have three RMTs that have been here 20 years, and the majority of my aestheticians have been here around 10 years, some even 15 and 16 years.”

What’s the secret to staff retention? “I think it’s mutual respect,” says Simcox. “I think you have to treat everyone fairly and then they will treat you well. I make sure we have open conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable, but I’m not afraid of having those conversations. People generally want to be liked and respected, and to work well with others. If they’re doing something you’re not on board with, have a respectful conversation with them about it, and then you both can move on.”

In the main foyer of the spa hangs a large floral painting, taken from a photo of the flowers in the Langdon Hall gardens. It’s an original, one of three, on loan from Bobbie Burgers, a prominent Canadian artist, whose art speaks to the process of transformation and metamorphosis — a fitting message for the spa, where it’s all about working with nature to bring out the best in life.

Jana Manolakos
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