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My Spa By The Park 

click to enlarge My Spa By The Park is a calm oasis adjacent to bustling Harrison Avenue. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER

My Spa By The Park (6312 Argonne Blvd., 482-2219; www.myspabythepark.com) is a neat, two-story structure blocks from City Park and the Orleans Avenue canal. Its stucco storefront is emblazoned with the company's motto: "relax, renew, reconnect." Situated near the end of a bustling, landscaped avenue lined with new drugstores, restaurants and banks, the spa seems a logical endpoint, its slogan an invitation to rest from the responsibilities of everyday life. However, when owner Katie Callia opened her business in August 2007, the contrast between the spa and the surrounding area was marked, and the slogan held a different implication: It was an impetus for a neighborhood on the brink of recovery.

  "When I first opened, (Lakeview) was very desolate. There were very few places here," Callia says. "Now, the neighborhood is really growing, and our biggest challenge is parking. It's amazing. You go down that street, and sometimes it's hard to remember that there was a Katrina."   Formerly a vice president of marketing and account management living in Los Angeles, Callia returned to New Orleans to help her family deal with the hurricane's aftermath. She decided to stay for the long haul, and with the help of her sister Susan, she opened My Spa By The Park.   "(Susan) was a spa director at the Ritz-Carlton," Callia says. "She'd go around the world opening up spas and training local people. I asked if she'd help me, and she said yes."   The 4,800-square-foot facility now boasts 15 employees, a full-service hair salon and nail spa, and it offers facials, waxing, massage and yoga classes. Hair products include Paul Mitchell and Pureology; nails are painted with OPI, Essie and Spa Rituals products, and Cuccio and Obagi are the featured skin care lines. A boutique area near the front desk displays products from these lines, as well as candles, nightgowns and other gifts. "We wanted the boutique area to have a European-type feel," Callia says of the ceramic-tiled space. "There's one tile in the entrance way that has a fleur de lis. Just a little touch, but it's amazing how many people notice that one tile."   The spa initially was marketed toward individuals in the Lakeview area, but it pulls customers from as far away as Luling and Covington. "The folks of the region have been very supportive of us," Callia says. "I heard one of our guests tell us they love our place because they aren't just a number, they're a person. Another guest said, 'It's like the Cheers bar. Everyone knows your name, and people genuinely care about each other.'"   Mother's Day packages are available, as is a special that offers a mini-facial and massage for $60.

  "We want you to come and relax," Callia says. "You can go with your mom and have your massage or facial. ... We're dedicated to providing the people of New Orleans a place to ... reconnect with themselves and friends."

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