International Orange in Marin

International Orange, the renowned San Francisco holistic wellness spa named for the paint color of the Golden Gate Bridge, has journeyed across it to open a second outpost at the Marin Country Mart.

Larger than the original urban location on Fillmore Street, the new spa stretches over 6,000 square feet and 11 treatment rooms on the second floor of the upscale shopping center that J.S. Rosenfield & Co. principal James Rosenfield rebooted with retailers such as Malia Mills, Unionmade, Space NK, Hudson Grace, Calypso St. Barth and Intermix. It offers facial, massage and acupuncture services priced mostly from $120 to $220, and an array of around 30 skin-care, hair and makeup lines in a 600-square-foot retail boutique at the entrance.

Rosenfield spent years trying to convince owner and cofounder Melissa Ferst to transport International Orange to the Marin Country Mart before she agreed. “He approached me. He looks at things all over the world and found the San Francisco location. We have a good reputation, and it’s a brand that people recognize,” she said. “I never really thought I’d expand, but I was so impressed by what Jim has brought to this place. It really had nothing, and he’s transitioned it to have a village atmosphere.”

The first International Orange cost $725,000 for Ferst and then partners Amy Darland and Kary Chendo to complete in 2002. The construction budget for the second location exceeded twice that amount. The unadorned setting features white walls; light reclaimed teak and sustainable cork flooring; an outdoor deck; an indoor relaxation area with James Perse furnishings and a Malm fireplace, and women’s and men’s locker rooms with sauna and steam facilities.

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“We wanted to keep the design and the foundation of the brand, and elevate it. It’s a blank canvas to showcase not only our products, but our services,” said Ferst. The Marin location doesn’t replicate the private yoga studio that’s housed in the San Francisco spa. But YogaWorks will soon be its neighbor for customers seeking yoga sessions.

Simple luxury is International Orange’s calling card. “When we started, we were young, and we loved going to spas and yoga. We looked in San Francisco for a yoga and spa combo with our not-fussy aesthetic. We saw other spas that had seven-page menus, and we didn’t want to do that,” explained Ferst, who noted International Orange has limited its menu of services to two pages. “It’s about the work you are getting in the room, not all the stuff around it.”

As injectables, fillers and lasers have revolutionized medi-spas and cosmetic dermatology offices, International Orange has stuck with a milder, albeit results-driven, approach. “It’s tempting because there’s money in it,” acknowledged Ferst. “We realize that our clients sometimes want treatments that are more intense, but we are not going in that direction. We do give active treatments within the confines of taking care of the whole self and relaxing. Coming here is not about getting poked. It’s more of an experience than a hardcore treatment.”

Ferst is insistent that upselling not get in the way of the treatment experience. “Since the beginning, we didn’t want a place where people sold very hard. That was always a turnoff for us at other spas. We have a soft approach to selling,” she said. “For the aesthetician, it is really about learning about their clients and helping those clients continue to work on their skin at home. You don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.”

Despite International Orange’s gentle sales tactics or perhaps because of them, retail accounts for 25 to 30 percent of its revenues. The spa specializes in natural and organic products, and is a platform for up-and-coming beauty brands. Arcona and In Fiore are best-selling brands. They are used heavily in services, and there’s a dedicated In Fiore shops-in-shop inside the Marin spa. Emerging brands include Goop by Juice Beauty, Leaves & Flowers, Gressa Skin Care and Suntegrity.

Ferst relocated with her family to Marin from Los Gatos to build International Orange’s Marin business. “We have a lot of San Francisco regulars, and Fillmore holds its own, which is one of the reasons why I thought I could do this, but, when we opened Fillmore, we were brand new and pounding the pavement,” she said. “We don’t have to do that as much now because we have a brand, but I am starting to get involved [in activities in the area] to get people to know that we are here. I feel like it’s going to do well. I’m very hopeful. People have moved from the city to Marin, and we have Marin customers [at the Fillmore location] that can come here.”

Even if the Marin spa’s performance exceeds Ferst’s expectations, it sounded improbable that she could be persuaded to open a third or fourth location. “It is such a detail-oriented business, and so intimate and personal,” she said. “I don’t want to lose that touch that we provide.”

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