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A New Orleans Experience 

Feeding a variety of senses by placing a cutting-edge contemporary salon and spa inside a restored historic building in the French Quarter, playing up all the aesthetics that reside there, is the whole point of the 4-year-old Eclipse Hair and Body Salon (536 Bienville St., 522-3318).

The brick-and-stucco art nouveau building that houses Eclipse was lovingly renovated to create an ambience of old New Orleans with a focus on its arts and personalities. The owner, a New Orleans physician, says the business satisfies his passions for aesthetics and working with creative people and fulfills a need to express his non-medical side. Employees call it a studio because of the feeling customers get when they walk through the door.

As many as 70 percent of total customers currently are tourists from out of town, something Manager Darlene Morales says she hopes to change.

"It's very true to New Orleans, the environment and the feeling," Morales says of the salon and spa. "A large number of our clients are tourists. We have a good rapport with the concierges ... and then those customers return when they come back in town, or they send their friends."

The salon also has a staple of regular customers, mostly from the French Quarter, Warehouse and Art districts. The mix of customers keeps the salon lively and interesting.

"It's a mix of many different types of people who live in the French Quarter," Morales says. "It's eclectic. The French Quarter clientele are very interesting people. One of the best parts of my job is to have the ability to meet so many different types of people from so many different places."

Other things that make Eclipse different from many salons in the city is that it is fairly small and intimate, and intends to stay that way, with workers focusing on honing skills and presenting new services. The salon now handles about 30 customers a day, six days a week. There are six styling stations, two skin-care and massage rooms, two manicure/pedicure stations and a retail area that has hair-, skin- and body-care products, gift baskets and novelty gift items. Salon and spa services are integrated on the same floor, but the 2,000-square-foot second floor of the building, which now is dormant, may soon see activity as the business separates the two types of services.

"We do have plans to put the spa upstairs, hopefully within the next year," Morales says. "It's our vision. We hope to have more body treatments and more different types of massage, and more specialized services. Right now, we're just limited with the space." There are no plans, however, to open a second location, opting instead to spend its time on personalized service, teaching customers about proper skin and hair care, and heightening awareness of wellness issues within its neighborhood.

To make these things easier, Eclipse has a computerized tracking system that lets all employees know what customers have requested, recommendations of the hair-care specialists and cosmetologists on staff, how products and services have worked for individual customers and other information. The system cuts down on confusion and makes it easier for employees to deliver the best service possible, Morales says.

The salon and spa offer a full range of hair services, massages, aromatherapy, relaxation therapies, sea-salt body wraps, exfoliation, hydro-active body gel mask, body bronzing, manicures, pedicures, facials, special masks and more. Eclipse is the exclusive retailer for Vagheggi, an Italian line of skin and body care. It also offers Aveda, Wella and MOP for the hair and body. To make things simple for customers, the salon offers validated parking at the Hotel Monteleone and discounted parking at the W Hotel on Chartres Street.

Perhaps best of all, she says, Eclipse is a refuge where customers can enjoy some relaxation.

"It's a relaxing atmosphere," Morales says. "A lot of salons are very busy, but when you come in here it's an escape from what's going on the street. We want to make locals realize that we're here. It's a taste of New Orleans built on the way locals live."

click to enlarge Stylist Russell White caters to a customer at Eclipse Hair and Body Salon. - EILEEN LOH HARRIST
  • Eileen Loh Harrist
  • Stylist Russell White caters to a customer at Eclipse Hair and Body Salon.
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