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Spa Offers Greek Isle Cure-all

NEW YORK — The city may have been passed over as host for the 2012 Olympic Games, but this summer it will welcome another Greek institution, Mastic Spa — a new beauty haven scheduled to open today in SoHo.<BR><BR>Mastic Spa, a family-run...

NEW YORK — The city may have been passed over as host for the 2012 Olympic Games, but this summer it will welcome another Greek institution, Mastic Spa — a new beauty haven scheduled to open today in SoHo.

Mastic Spa, a family-run company, has built its business on mastiha — a sap-based extract found exclusively on the Greek island of Chios.

Fittingly, the Chios-based firm is taking charge of introducing New Yorkers to mastiha by opening Mastic Spa — the company’s first U.S. store — located at 436 West Broadway.

Mastiha has long been heralded as a cure-all treatment for ailments such as toothaches and stomach ulcers. Thousands of years ago, the extract, chipped from the trunk of the mastic tree, gained favor as a beauty regimen, as well. Cleopatra is said to have used it to give her face a dewy glow. (See story below for more on mastiha.)

In the late Fifties, Chios pharmacist and Mastic Spa founder Ioannis Sodis began researching the benefits of mastiha in cosmetics and personal care products. He launched his first product, Masticdent toothpaste, in 1985.

The Sodis family, which includes 11 pharmacists, refers to the late Ioannis Sodis as a pioneer in developing modern beauty products using the extract. His wife, Vina, now serves as president of the company.

After selling its products in pharmacies throughout Greece, the company opened retail outlets under the Mastic Spa nameplate two years ago. Today, there are 15 Mastic Spa locations throughout Greece — eight of which are owned by franchisees. Mastic Spa stores house some 250 items across the beauty spectrum, namely skin, body and sun care and cosmetics and fragrance items. In addition to mastiha, the formulas include spring water and wild flowers indigenous to Chios. Products range in price from a $5 bar of glycerin soap to $45 for facial cream.

The 400-square-foot SoHo store is dwarfed by the company’s other locations, which average 800 square feet. The company said it sacrificed size for a bustling shopping district. The shop’s pale green walls and wood-paneled floors convey the natural positioning of Mastic Spa products. In September, it also will launch two collections: Oenostherapy (which combines Greek wine and mastiha) and Mastic & Olive. Both will include skin, body and hair care products.

George Sodis, a pharmacist, managing director and son of the company’s founder, acknowledged that the company may have had an easier go at starting its international expansion in Europe, but said that he deems New York City a global hub. “From here starts everything,” he declared. Mastic Spa is gearing up to open a second North American location in Montreal next month. The Canadian store will be operated by a franchisee; the Sodis family owns the SoHo store. George Sodis said the company has begun fielding inquiries from potential franchisees, but that the firm has no additional North American stores planned at the moment. The company’s gross revenues for 2004 were $5.9 million at current exchange rates.