Model D-troiters: The Women of Innergy

Keli Hearon and Aida Brown are co-owners of downtown's Innergy Spa — and, most importantly, best friends. Closer to each other than are many sisters, they finish each other's sentences, and their Gilmore Girls-worthy banter is equal parts teasing, scolding, supporting and loving.

Hearon says, "We balance each other..."
Then Brown completes the thought by saying: "(But) we drive each other crazy!"

Then Brown adds: "I'm the serious one, the nurturer..."

"And I'm the funny one," Hearon says. "She's the nurturer. I'm the fun aunt."

The two women just celebrated the first anniversary of Innergy Spa, which was the only day spa downtown when they opened a year ago. But the concept and dream have been with them as long as they have been friends.

Business partners, friends

Hearon and Brown met at electrical trade school — exactly how many years ago that was is subject to dispute. Brown claims 11; Hearon believes 12. They agree to settle with "around 11." One thing is for sure: They became fast friends.

Brown remained an electrician for some years while Hearon returned to her business background, working for the Detroit Urban League and later running a friend's business, but all the while the concept of Innergy was swirling around. "Innergy came about in our second year of friendship," Brown says. "When we'd get disgruntled (with our jobs), we'd pull out the plan and make additions. Then we'd tuck it away."

It was a dream, but they were serious enough to get licensed: Brown in massage therapy and Hearon as an esthetician. When Brown got laid off, she was ready to take the leap and get things rolling, but it did not solidify until Hearon called her from work in December of 2005 and said, "I resigned today."

 "I didn't think she'd do it!" Brown says. "That's when we moved forward."

Hearon stumbled across their Bricktown space — a brownstone next-door to Beaubien Street Saloon — on a downtown drive-about she took on a whim that very same month. She immediately felt she had found Innergy's home. She was right: they signed the lease just a few days later.

They opened their doors in just two months after rolling up their sleeves. They enlisted their parents' help, which Hearon calls "a blessing."

The spa they created is truly homey and inviting. The first floor waiting area is a cozy seating area and clients are greeted with a selection of loose tea served in quaint china. Oftentimes, fresh fruit and pastries are available as well. Jazz music is softly piped in and there is plenty of reading material, from current women's magazines to books of affirmations and meditations.

The second floor has three beautifully decorated rooms. The Moroccan-inspired Honor Room is used for manicure and pedicure treatments, as well as a transition space between treatments. The quiet and soothing Love Room is used primarily for massage treatments, and the Acceptance Room, used for skin treatments, evokes the sea with its blue-green decor.

Comfort zone

Innergy offers the general array of treatments expected from an upscale day spa, but at decidedly affordable prices. When considering uptown spas that offer similar services at much higher prices, Hearon says, "We don't even compare ourselves to them. We connect with our clients. If you want a relationship with your therapist, a place where you feel comfortable, Innergy is a place for you."

That relationship is imperative, Hearon says. "Our clients have become like family. We know the names of their children, their spouses, if they bought a new house."

They have plans in the coming year to add another Detroit location "We're too small right now," Brown says.

They've also started a nonprofit, Radiance, which awards two spa packages a month to women who, as Hearon puts it, "are carrying the weight." Clients can nominate a woman in need of pampering, whether she is a victim of domestic violence, a recovering substance abuser or even a single mother attending school, and Innergy will pull out all the stops with a full day of total luxury.

With a new and bigger location, they would like to provide packages to more women who could then experience the treatments in groups. They also hope to partner with hair salons and clothing boutiques to round out the experience for the women they service.

Hearon and Brown's distinct yet complementary personalities are infused in every aspect of Innergy: the warmth, the friendliness, the witty banter. The pair has created an oasis in the city — for their clients and themselves. Hearon sums up the experience, somewhat in disbelief: "To go somewhere you love everyday, to do what you love … with your best friend. What can be better?"

Innergy is at 639 Beaubien.

Kelli B. Kavanaugh is development news editor for Model D.


Innergy Spa

Aida Brown

Massage Treatment Room

Keli Hearon

Massage Treatment Room

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

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