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Spa that Ruth built

Biella packs a village into a hotel lobby

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Walk into what used to be Avanti Spas from the Pacific Ave entrance and you may do a double take like I did last week when I popped in to meet with Ruth Michelle to get the full scoop on all the changes that took place when Avanti spas became Biella by Ruth Michelle.

What I first noticed is that the area once dominated by the salon has been split into segments with a traditional salon on one end, a boutique area in the middle, and a private salon on the other end. Turns out, the private salon is the Color Sanctuary, with flat panel television, private basin, and even pedicure chair for an express pedi as your color develops.

Of course, there are more pedicures to be had, also in a private space with a large flat panel TV — I’m told the three chairs can be reserved together for private TV parties, like a “Friends” re-run party, or maybe “Desperate Housewives,” or even “Sex and the City.”

Did I mention boutique?

A boutique greets you at the street level, with some fun, kicky little frocks, a variety of tops, and jeans that retail and marketing manager Alissa Mayzak says “make everybody’s butt look great!” Other gift-perfect items in the boutique include herbal hot and cold packs in fluffy pet shapes, as well as herb-stuffed slippers that made my feet whimper in want. Hand-made jewelry and cards created by Biella staff also looked perfect for gifting although the Biella signature line of goodies might be the gift of choice. This line has the best botanical blends of fragrances mixed in with organic, natural, free-trade ingredients.

Other product lines include True cosmetics, IS skincare, Redken and Alterna hair care. A partnership with Alterna is in the works that would make Biella a regional training center for the company, which would add another feather to the salon’s cap alongside its “Salon of Distinction” designation by Salon Today Magazine.

But past the cool stuff happening in the salon side is a world unto itself in the spa side, which can be entered from the street or from inside the lobby of the Marriott.

“Sanctuary” is a word used a lot at Biella, and it’s well used. The whole salon feels like a private Italian villa, and not by accident: the name “Biella” is borrowed from a small Italian Village nestled at the foot of the Alps, and wandering the tucked-away “alleys” of the spa feels like a cross between a really neat home and some little grotto you’ve discovered as your own private secret.

And on the topic of private, there’s what Mayzak refers to as “the Grotto” with a giggle: the splendidly glass mosaic-tiled room next to the sign saying simply, “Rasul.” Rasul? Think of it as a mud-slinging good time with your life-partner, or you can think of it as an indulgently naughty good time with your life partner, you decide. Basically, it’s a mud and steam treatment you do together — sans spa personnel — ending on a tropical rain shower note to cleanse, with moisturizer ending the fun on a slippery nourishing note.

Seduction of the senses is another pairs package, lasting 90 minutes, beginning with candles, champagne and strawberries in a couples bath, followed by a couples massage, after which you can both enjoy a five-step mini-facial and scalp massage.

Or combine the two indulgent packages into a 5-hour Indulgent Escape, and finish with manicure and blow dry and style.

Of course the spa has an extensive line of individual treatments as well, the most intriguing of which, to me, is the Ionithermie that works like a slimming, detoxifying wonder treatment.

Since the Ionithermie runs $140 for an hour, I’m likely to more frequently visit the coffee shop in the salon, which can be easily accessed from the lobby side of the Marriott (and up the stairs) — here, I found my newest addiction, the Elixir drinks such as “Mind over Muddle” that combine refreshing club soda with juicy goodness that can help a person re-energize, calm down, or focus. And give me one of those refreshing drinkies after a tan that I can also conveniently get at Biella.

[Biella by Ruth Michelle, 1506 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.682.2005  or go to www.]

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