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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   October 2009


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Heaven on (a Healthy) Earth


Mesilla's Salon Puravida and Eco-Spa offers earth-friendly beauty in a world apart. Plus: Bear Mountain Lodge closing, Fountain Theatre sold and more business news.


"My father thought I was crazy when I told him, 'I want to do facials in a Moroccan tent!' But he helped me make it happen and here it is!" says Raven Rooney. She pulls back a flowing panel of rich, brown fabric. "Isn't it just beautiful?" she asks, eyes sparkling beneath her, yes, raven-dark bangs.

Raven Rooney
Raven Rooney poses in a hair stylist's chair
in the front of her shop.
(Photo by Donna Clayton)

In fact, everything is beautiful — not least of all Rooney — at Salon Puravida and Eco-Spa, her steadily growing Las Cruces business that turns a year old next month: from the harem-like Tiki Bikini Wax room, down the halls lined with striking art, to the elegant facial tent and pedicure area where the occupant relaxes in a vibrating massage chair, ensconced in drapes of mosquito netting.

Rooney describes her decorating theme as "heavily ethnic, a fantasy place, the whole world in one place." Whatever the decor's literal geography, the salon is, indeed, a world apart.

Rooney invites her pedicure client to sit and enjoy the relaxing chair, sets the mood lighting in the whirlpool foot tub to lavender and pours a glass of her homemade mimosa mix into a champagne flute.

"It's 'Mimosa Saturday!'" she says with a bright smile. A platter of cheese and crackers, fruit and chocolates sits on the side table. "Have some, please!"

The 26-year-old entrepreneur chats about her California training, her eco-friendly business philosophy, her salon-owning parents and more as she treats her client's feet and lower legs with a sugar scrub, all-natural lotions, a mint-rosemary mask and a paraffin dip to seal in moisture. She de-calluses heels with a loofa, explaining that it is gentler on the skin.

"My parents are my heroes!" Rooney says as she buffs and rubs. "I couldn't have done this without them, both for their support and for their example. They are such hard workers! And they have helped and supported me every step of the way."

Rooney's parents are Robin and Pam Hogan, former Las Crucens who own and run Cinega Spa, Salon and Gallery in Silver City.

"I'm so lucky to have my own business," Rooney says. "I get to make my own rules. I get to listen to the music I like. I love being behind all the creative aspects of this, creating the space and marketing it. And I feel good knowing that my business is making a difference in the world."

Her eco-friendly philosophy extends from her products to her practices and the way she treats clients. Rooney encourages clients to bring their own shopping bags for purchases, and she gives discounts to those who bike or take the bus to their appointments.

"Take my make-up line," she says. "Not only is it all-natural and good for you, non-toxic, but customers can bring back their empty jars and I will refill them at a discounted price."

Her private line of organic cosmetics is manufactured for her by a dermatologist in Beverly Hills. All of her products are healthy, she says, right down to the eyelash tinting.

"It's actually good for your lashes. It builds them up and conditions them," she says, batting her own rich lashes. "Your lashes improve, application by application."

An aesthetician, Rooney says she has always loved skin and make-up and specializes in facials. The Classic Euro Chic is her most popular facial service and includes "the whole works." Other options include a Skin Clearing facial, a Chocolate Mayan Princess facial with exfoliation by cocoa and coffee beans, and the Ancient Crystal Chakra Facial.



While Rooney focuses on facials, make-up and pedicures, her staff takes care of clients' other needs. "It's great to have other professionals working with me — two stylists for hair styling and care and a massage specialist for the body treats," she says.

Her customer base is made up of about 70% locals, she estimates, with some walk-in business from tourists visiting Old Mesilla.

"I trained in LA and worked in my aunt's shop in California. There are a lot of California transplants here and they want those special services; they're accustomed to it," she says. "They find out that we're California-trained and they like that."

Salon Puravida offers a variety of massage options. Clients can pick and choose or get a set package.

"Couples coming together are getting more and more popular, and I like to make it nice for them, giving them wine and snacks," she says, pouring another mimosa.

Putting the final coat of polish on her pedicure client's toenails, Rooney talks passionately about beauty, how it radiates from the inside out. What we eat and how we live, she insists, is at least as important as skin care.

"It's the whole thing, getting out and exercising, eating the right things, that's the basis of our beauty," she says. "Oh, I've got a great smoothie recipe so you can get up and going and feel like getting out for that early morning walk," she says, then details how many handfuls of kale and raw spinach — organic, of course — to throw in the blender. "It's got so many good antioxidants in it. We just don't get enough greens!" she says, playfully admonishing with a raised finger and broad smile.

"Then you throw in a banana and a handful of strawberries — oh, this is so good for you! — and it just tastes amazing!"

To Rooney it's a "building block — to better skin, a better life and a better world."


Salon Puravida and Eco-Spa, 207 N. Avenida de Mesilla, Suite B. This month's special is a free papaya peel with first-time facials. Open Mon.-Tues. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 524-2494.




So much for "conserving"

To the heartbreak of local hikers, bird watchers, conservationists and Silver City businesses serving its guests, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is closing Bear Mountain Lodge as of Oct. 5. A staffer at the Lodge confirms the move was a financial decision, saying that TNC, like all nonprofits, has been struggling for the past couple of years and had to take a hard look at preserving its most important programs. "We don't have endangered species here. This is a beautiful 'open space' operation, but it's not as critical to conservation issues as other (TNC) programs," the spokesperson said. The decision came suddenly, the staffer confirmed, adding, "We got the word just a couple of weeks ago" — in late September. The property soon will be up for sale, with "multiple easements and restrictions," the spokesperson said, to keep the property in one piece and preserved.

The Lodge's trails will close to the public, the spokeswoman said, effective with the Oct. 5 closure, as security and liability would become an issue if people continued to use the trails with no official personnel on premises. The staffer said that Lodge employees can, of course, apply for jobs at other TNC facilities; the Lodge's cook has already done just that, but did not get the job for which she applied.

Supporters of The Nature Conservancy — and of Bear Mountain Lodge, in particular — may wonder about the wisdom of trying to sell this huge, rustic property in the current down economy and real estate market, especially with its sizeable lodging facility falling into disuse, rather than generating money. And this reporter — a longtime TNC member and donor — is sure she is not alone in feeling badly done by with the fate of Bear Mountain Lodge now uncertain, as TNC donations and membership dues are used to buy properties around the globe in order to preserve them. Myra McCormick and her husband Fred, who died in 1978, bought the property and operated it as the Bear Mountain Guest Ranch for 41 years. An avid birder and legendary proprietress, McCormick donated the property to The Nature Conservancy prior to her death in October 1999.

Even before any announcement of the Lodge's closing, effects were already rippling through the Silver City economy: One restaurateur reports 17 cancelled Thanksgiving reservations from out-of-towners who no longer have a place to stay. www.nature.org, www.bearmountainlodge.com




Reel news

 

In a letter addressed to the Mesilla Valley Film Society, Chris and Anna Biad, through their Hacienda Investments company, announced they have sold the historic Fountain Theatre to Tom and Jerean Hutchinson, owners of La Posta restaurant in Mesilla. The Hutchinsons have assumed the lease for the film society, long-time tenants of the storied property. The Biads state that they decided to sell because their future plans have changed significantly since purchasing the theater in December 2007. They write that they accepted the Hutchinsons' offer to buy the Fountain because the La Posta owners had expressed interest in the theater for years and were qualified buyers. The Biads add that the Hutchinsons "are dedicated to preserving Mesilla and they have a true appreciation for old buildings."

Silver City's Video Stop in the Albertson's shopping center on Hwy. 180 has been having a "Fall Blow-Out Sale" of massive proportions since mid-September, prompting many to wonder if the store is selling off its inventory and soon will go out of business. Not so, says a Video Stop employee. Though the long-established store has never had such a massive sale before — more than 25,000 titles on sale, the huge banners proclaim — the staffer says he has talked to the owner, who insists he is not shutting down. Selling off old inventory to invest in new releases? Supporters who like having a real, local video rental store in town can only hope. Well, and encourage their neighbors to burn their NetFlix membership cards! 538-5644.



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