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Island business owner nominated for BB&T’s Blue Chip Business Award

October 12, 2016
By MEGHAN McCOY (mmccoy@breezenewspapers.com) , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

An island business was nominated, and is in the top five, for the BB&T's Blue Chip Business Award for overcoming challenges while prospering and continuously moving forward.

Amy Sbarra, owner of Spatini Teabar Organic Spa & Hair Lounge was nominated for the award through numerous friends. She said she was very humbled by the nomination.

"Everything was so public, the destroying of me was so public, I was just so horribly embarrassed and kind of ashamed. I found it amazing to hear that people had been watching me and they had seen the rebuilding of me," she said.

Article Photos

Spatini Teabar Organic Spa & Hair Lounge Owner Amy Sbarra.

MEGHAN MCCOY

The award ceremony will be held Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Harborside Convention Center.

Sbarra began her massage therapist career in September 1998 on Ande Rosse Lane, nine months after receiving her massage license. Although she wanted to be in business for herself, she brought on a nail tech to join her.

"Somebody said to me, 'oh, you're a day spa.' I said, 'what is that,'" Sbarra said. "You kind of laugh at it now. Back then that is when it was just starting. Hardly anyone knew about it. It's come a long way in a short time."

Throughout the years, Sbarra's business, Sbarra Day Spa Services, moved around the island at various locations. Each location had a different theme.

"I wanted an experience," she said.

She began doing massages off of the gym at Tween Waters, which Sbarra said was not too glamourous, especially since they heard clanging of weights in the background.

"I talked them into building a spa. We did a couple of rooms, smaller facility. Eventually I talked them into expanding that," Sbarra said of having four treatment rooms, plus a salon. "We opened that in February 2004."

The theme at Tween Waters was a retro 1940s day spa complete with rocking chairs and a massage table set up as a kitchen table.

She then began servicing Casa Ybel Resort the same year. Although that was the same year Hurricane Charley impacted the island, Sbarra said they did not have too much damage.

The Verandah community was picked up after the storm through her business Sbarra Day Spa Services, as well as South Seas Island Resort. The space at South Seas Island Resort was again not an ideal location above the gym.

The theme of her business at South Seas had a zen atmosphere with the treatment names mirroring the theme.

Although the locations were not perfect, Sbarra made sure she had great technicians and services regardless of the facility they were occupying.

The business was thriving with more than $1 million annually in sales until her world was shaken, first in 2004.

"The first wave, or challenge, was certainly Hurricane Charley," Sbarra said. "We overcame that as a lot of the island did. I added accounts and expanded."

The second wave of destruction hit her by surprise.

"I am a very positive thinker. I didn't think of any possible wrong doing coming my way. What I found was people were coveting what I built that came to me so very easily," Sbarra said.

She ended up losing Tween Waters at the same time the economy went south in 2008. Sbarra said her business was breaking even, if not having a small loss at the resort. She remembered thinking if she could just hang in there.

"In 2009, I lost South Seas Resort. That was absolutely financially devastating," she said, which resulted in filing personal bankruptcy, losing her car and home. "Frightening as a single mom. I called 2010 the year of terror because I just felt like I was falling, falling, falling. I was waiting for that last shoe to come to knock me down."

If it was not for her friend Al Ten Broek of Mariner Corporation, Sbarra said she did not know what she would have done.

"If it were not for his voice on the other end of the phone when I was going through this . . . It was the only life line. Just to talk to somebody that was used to dealing with the kind of numbers and losses that I was looking at, never mind as a single parent," she said through tears.

Although she felt like she hit rock bottom, she had a rare quiet moment as a mother laying in bed when the idea of opening Spatini Teabar hit her, with specifications of it needing to be organic, addressing the environment and economy, as well as the services offered. The front of the business represents the daytime with grass and a rocky path, while the back of the building resembles a nighttime feel, complete with the sound of crickets.

That revelation came when she began self reflecting, resulting in a relationship with God.

That relationship, she credits to some of her services, such as her mani-tini and pedi-tini that uses a rinse basin. Sbarra was also guided to have an open space for the area where massages are conducted providing another experience.

"Three months, or so later I had it opened, which in itself is pretty remarkable because that is as long as it takes to get licenses, not to mention getting a business open," Sbarra said of opening next to the Sanibel Bean before moving in the same complex as Jerry's. The new space doubled in size providing the opportunity to do a full salon.

A steady progression has occurred every year since Spatini opened. Sbarra said on average they are up about 25 percent on business every month besides September.

"That's tremendous gains," she said.

Through all the ups and downs, it was vital that Sbarra hired high quality technicians.

"I tend to have very long relationships with the people that work for me. I think number one because I care. Number two I have been on their side. I am also a technician, so I get both sides of it," she said. "While I do have to take care of myself and my family, I am a giver. I regard everyone who works here as family."

To learn more about the services, visit www.spatiniteabar.com, or call (239) 472-8464.

 
 

 

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