For Daniel Francoeur, owner of Bode Spa for Men, the biggest obstacle to his business isn’t competition, but stereotypes. Visiting a spa isn’t about cucumbers on the eyes and gossiping with your friends, regardless of what you’ve learned from Reese Witherspoon films or the epic saga of Carrie Bradshaw. It’s about fitness, hygiene, and health, and Francoeur wants to make “spa” a part of the male lexicon. Apartment613 visited Bode in Sandy Hill, and got the dirt on getting clean.
Bode Spa for Men offers a range of services for guys, including massages, scrubs, facials, and foot and hand care. However, Francoeur puts a masculine spin on many of the terms, because some preconceived notions can put off his customers.
“When men hear manicure, they think of red, dripping nails,” he says. “That’s not what we’re about.”
Despite the many stereotypes surrounding men’s grooming, Francoeur isn’t looking to serve only Ottawa’s Affleck-inspired narcissists. His clientele range from businessmen to construction workers, triathletes to diplomats, and he aims to provide a service that’s comfortable and accessible for everyone from the movie star to the computer geek. He has a loyal tourist clientele as well, including many traveling businessmen looking for a place to unwind.
“There is no stereotypical guy that comes in here,” says Francoeur. “I have guys that come in here who know spas inside out. But we also have a lumberjack, we have steel workers, we have two dairy farmers that come in every month. Young guys dealing with acne, guys who are really hard on their bodies, and just your average Joe. We get everybody.
“Most spas, from the moment you walk in the door, there’s nothing familiar and nothing comfortable for guys,” he continues. “Everything in the industry is formulated for women. I wanted to create a space and a place that was comfortable for guys, period.”
Everything at Bode, from the magazines to the dressing gowns, is designed for men. The waiting room has individual chairs, rather than couches—Francoeur believes that for men, the spa is a private experience. The spa doesn’t have a sign, and its interior—it’s located in the basement of the former Italian embassy—is subdued and masculine, with dark colours and exposed brick. Appointments are spread out to avoid too much overlap between customers, and Francoeur’s belief that for men the spa is a private and individual experience informs everything that Bode does.
Francoeur was running the Little House Spa in Cumberland, outside Ottawa, and the spa’s more rough and raw design made it attractive to an unexpected number of men. Seeing the demand, Francoeur developed a section of the spa for men only. The success of his “Men’s Den” inspired him, when an opportunity arose in 2003, to buy Bode Spa and turn it into a destination for men’s grooming in the capital. He bought Bode from its founder ASHe Randall Levesque.*
He worked with a Montreal-based company to develop a wax made specifically for the thicker skin of men, and his (mostly) Canadian products are made with the male in mind. The spa also offers couples packages, for those who want a hands-on experience with their partner. Since the beginning, Francoeur has been open to suggestions from his clientele, and has offered what his customers demand, from the ordinary, like extensive massages, to the extraordinary, like the new trend of anal bleaching.
“Our services have grown and expanded,” he says. “As men get more comfortable with [our] services and start to really enjoy them, they ask for more. Right now we’re reworking our pedicures and manicures, because now that men are comfortable with that care they’re asking what else we can do. It’s listening to what the clientele are wanting, and becoming educated on it and doing more.”
Even after all the work he’s put into making Bode Spa a destination for men in all walks of life, the biggest problem for Francoeur is getting people in the door. Getting over the stereotypes and stigmas attached to spa treatments for men is hard, but he knows that once a guy steps through the door, he will become a devoted customer.
“That’s all that’s needed, is just to get them in once. Once they’re in here once and they’ve gotten one service, they’re over whatever it was for them. They can’t believe they’ve never done this before. It’s just the toughest step.”
*Our original story stated that Daniel Francoeur was the founder of Bode Spa when in fact ASHe Randall Levesque founded the spa in 1994. We apologize for this factual mistake.