There's truly no place like home. It's a place of relaxation, hour-long massages and facials. It's the perfect site to enjoy a gourmet dinner prepared by the personal chef in your kitchen, and where else can you kick back with a glass of wine as you contemplate the blank canvas upon which you will paint your next masterpiece?
If this isn't the home you were thinking of, think again. The Scenic City is home to an array of businesses striving to serve their clients without even asking them to walk out their front door.
How much more relaxed could you get in a spa environment than if it was in your own living room?" asks SpaGo co-owner Carrie Sutton.
Services offered at SpaGo house parties include:
Paraffin hand and foot treatment
PCA chemical peels
Eyelash and eyebrow tinting
Massages ($1 per minute)
For more information visit spagochattanooga.com.
For a year and a half now, business partners Sutton and Candace Hernandez have packed up their spa equipment each weekend to take into homes of clients near and far, up to three hours away.
"It spread by word of mouth and now we're slammed," says Hernandez, explaining the two first got the idea to provide at-home spa parties after a good friend, Jessica Parker, was inspired by an episode of Desperate Housewives and asked to host one of her own.
Hernandez serves as the spa's aesthetician, having worked as a make-up artist in Los Angeles for 10 years. She started out as a touch-up girl on the red carpet, powdering the faces of stars like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez until she moved back to her hometown of Chattanooga.
Sutton is a licensed massage therapist who specializes in Swedish, therapeutic and sports massage, and has even worked on professional athletes in the NFL as well as an Olympic runner.
The two entrepreneurs worked together at a local traditional spa until they embarked on SpaGo. "I love how relaxed the parties are in clients' homes. People sometimes come into a spa and feel intimidated," says Sutton. "But it's just a fun atmosphere in homes, and spa services lend themselves well to girl talk."
Hernandez emphasizes that all of the typical spa services are possible in any home. "Everything is portable; we don't have to cut any services. People worry if they have a big enough house, but they shouldn't. I usually tend to set up in the living room or kitchen, so pretty much I get to be in the middle of the party," laughs Hernandez. "It's educational too. People ask so many questions, especially when it comes to facials."
SpaGo has been the main attraction in every kind of setting, from sweet baby showers to exuberant bachelorette parties. Regular clients host spa parties as often as monthly, getting together with old friends to catch up and relax with a massage or pedicure. "They love it; they love that they are not just going to a boring party-they are getting something done," Hernandez says.
And though a trip to a spa might seem expensive, the spa parties don't necessarily carry that same reputation. "We've tried to make sure we've discounted and included services at different price points so it's not ostracizing," explains Sutton, adding that SpaGo's mini pedicure costs as little as $20.
"If you're going out and buying drinks with friends once a month, you are spending the same amount of money," notes Sutton.
"This is a big treat."
When speaking of treats, good food is often the first thing to come to mind.
Local businesses and farms that partner with Chattanooga Food Ventures:
Colvin Family Farm
Circle S Farm
Pickett's Trout Ranch
Lodge Cast Iron
Signal Mountain Farm
For more information visit chattanoogafoodventures.com.
Chattanooga Food Ventures' Robert Peterson and Eric Taslimi met while working together at the former Table 2 Grill and Lounge. Peterson handled the wine as wine director and Taslimi favored the fare as chef, and not much has changed-well, except nearly everything else. Upon the fine dining restaurant's closure, the two joined forces to bring fine wining and dining directly into the homes of Chattanoogans.
While the two food adventurers are currently planning a catering menu for a wedding reception of up to 300 guests, they truly appreciate the homey atmosphere of, well, a client's home. "Wine dinners are our forte," says Peterson. "Twelve people is the ideal, intimate crowd."
The wine connoisseur has spent more than two decades in the wine industry, experiencing different wine cultures while living in foreign locales like France and Germany. Peterson says he strives to pair the perfect wine with each meal carefully prepared by Taslimi. "One of the things I try to do is get people off their chardonnays," Peterson explains. "It's all about opening up your mind and trying a bunch of different flavors."
Taslimi specializes in cooking pretty much everything, and he keeps his style simple. "It's all really about technique and quality," he says. "I like to cook really honest food, not a lot of pretentious things. I want to get the best, freshest, well balanced plate and menu." Peterson adds, "Eric's modest, but what he does a lot better than any chef in town is seafood."
According to Peterson and Taslimi, a personalized wine dinner simply starts with a phone call. The business is all about customization, and clients can literally have anything they want, from a classic steak with a bold cabernet to a gourmet pizza party or a shrimp/ crawfish boil. "For us we are not getting the food off of a shelf," says Taslimi. "When we get off the phone with you, we call the farmer."
While Peterson hunts down the best wine at the best price to pair with the menu, Taslimi makes his way to local farmers markets, personally handpicking each edible aspect of the meal. "We want people to know there is a really great local food community," he says. "More people are more knowledgeable about food, and more people want good food, so more people want to do these wine dinners."
The dinners are indeed highly educational. Guests are welcome to watch Taslimi ply his trade in the kitchen to learn a thing or two. "Just like at any party, it always ends up in the kitchen," says Taslimi. "There is always energy when you are cooking and people are drawn to that, so we try to prepare as much as we can there." While guests are dining and experiencing a new wine, Peterson is happy to teach the group about the intricacies of the wine itself, whether it's a French Bordeaux or a Napa Valley chardonnay. "They are afraid to ask because they feel stupid, but 25 years ago I was asking the same questions. It takes time," says Peterson.
"With a home setting people are much more comfortable; they don't have to worry about the intimidation."
Peterson and Taslimi say they will do everything including tuck a tired host into bed at the end of the night, though they haven't had to test that promise out just yet.
An atmosphere of intimidation seems to be the only thing lacking from mobile parties, including at Brush, Paint and Sip mobile painting parties.
Owner John Tallman has only one rule when he leads a painting class at a client's home: you can say whatever you want about your friends' paintings but you can't be critical about your own.
"People are their own worst critics," says Tallman. "I came from an elitist painting background, but this is a great way to bring art to everybody. I'm kind of into taking away the mystery of art."
Tallman and his wife Connie have lived as far away as New York, Seattle and even Korea, but family connections are what brought them both to settle in Chattanooga, as well as the prized art culture of the Scenic City. "The business was my wife's brainchild to start out with," said the art educator. "It provides people a good excuse to have people over to their homes. Some people are just good hosts; we fill that niche."
Tallman has had his own art in exhibitions in New York City and in Europe, but he tends to downplay that aspect of his career to lessen the intimidation factor that comes with trying something new, especially in the creative realm. "The parties take over my teaching impulse. I'm starting people from nothing- a blank canvas. I take them all the way to the end," he says. "I love it; it gives me tremendous satisfaction to bring people on that journey."
Canvasses can be set up in hosts' dining rooms, living rooms or kitchens, though Tallman does advise placing some kind of protective covering over the floor, such as old sheets or plastic. He creates each model painting himself and even offers a Chattanooga-inspired collection that clients can choose from, including paintings of the Chattanooga skyline and the Tivoli Theatre. He says he also has a Lookout Mountain painting in the works. "It gives people the chance to express their Chattanooga pride," he says.
A favorite among clients continues to be the "paint your own pet" parties. Tallman says he needs a little more time to prepare for these, as participants must send him a picture of their pooch so he can scan it and draw it out beforehand. However, one of his favorite memories involving his business was at just such a party when the subject of the painting pranced into the dining room where it was being painted. "It gives people some fun in their busy lives, and I get to share about art as well," he says. "People comment on how it's so relaxing. They find it therapeutic and sometimes a little bit challenging as well. If a painting is too simple, people would get bored. It has to be a good balance."
And the party is expanding. Tallman says that he and his wife have found a prime location to extend Brush, Paint and Sip into New York City, directly in view of the Empire State Building. "It seems to be a really untapped market there," he says. "But Chattanooga is still going to be our home base." So no worries-Brush, Paint and Sip will continue to be at home in Chattanooga, as well as in the homes of its clients.
Check out upcoming events and paintings, as well as to learn how to plan an at-home painting party, at brushpaintandsip.com.