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A Cut Above 

First-time customers to H2O Salon and Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377) may think they're coming to the business for a quick haircut, manicure or massage, but what they'll leave with is a rejuvenating experience, one that has kept some customers coming back for more than 15 years.

In the salon, a team of trained hair specialists can color your hair, cut and style it or provide special Kerastase hair cleansing and scalp treatments. Upstairs is a full-service spa that offers manicures, pedicures, body treatments, facials and specialty packages that include makeup application and hair styling with a facial, massage, nail treatments and lunch. Another part of the H2O complex houses the Institute Dermed Skin Clinic that provides anti-aging and antioxidant treatments, microdermabrasion, peels, laser hair removal, eyebrow arching and waxing.

"It's about the experience, that's the key word," says Michael John Gaspard, chief executive officer and husband of Holly Gaspard, who started H2O with her twin sister Heather Mahoney a decade and a half ago. "What makes us above average is striving to create an extraordinary guest experience."

That and offering top-of-the-line services and products. To ensure that H20's services are consistently above average, the owners constantly educate and train their employees on the newest techniques and the best ways to incorporate them.

"Holly and Heather lead the artistic team," Michael John Gaspard says. "We are especially known for our color. We do haircuts and styling, of course, but we're really superb in our color. That's where we really excel." To illustrate, he says 70 percent of H2O's salon customers have some type of specialty technique performed on their hair. The business also hires a diverse staff to match the needs of their customers. "We have stylists in their 20s, 30s and 40s, so we're addressing all those age groups for our guests," he says.

Regardless of their age, customers seem to like H2O's cleansing and treatment room, where hair is shampooed, the head is massaged, and scalp and hair treatments are delivered. Located just off the main salon, the room is made serene with dim lighting, calming music and an escape from the lively sounds of the salon outside.

It's also where customers are introduced to Kerastase products, an upscale celebrity line made in France that is available at only a few selected salons in the country. H2O was the first to win approval to stock the line in Louisiana. "The integrity of this product is exceptional," Gaspard says. "It's for the people who want the best."

The skin clinic at H2O is the state's exclusive retailer of Somme products, developed by a team of research dermatologists who found that wrapping vitamins inside protein helped them to be absorbed into the dermis, thus rejuvenating the skin. "The estheticians used it on their skin (before we decided to carry it) and clients were asking them what they were using," Gaspard says. "Listening to the clients say, 'Your skin looks great,' [made me realize] there was something to it."

Another exclusive product is Cargo makeup, which is represented by Robin Seigel, the lead makeup artist for the cast of Friends TV show. Seigel recently visited H2O for several days to introduce customers to the line and teach them about its application.

"It's always about keeping our clients on the cutting edge of what's out there," Gaspard says. "We want our clients to have the best."

A Ride in the Park

Treat your family to New Orleans' only Grand Prix horse competition, an afternoon and evening of fun events that help support the building and endowment fund for City Park at the "Tails but No Black Tie" event from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 20 at Equest Farm (1001 Filmore Ave., City Park).

The event starts with family fun time from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by a Grand Prix jumping competition from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There also will be food, pony rides, face painting, a space walk, games and lots of time to observe beautiful horses and world-class riders.

Grandstand tickets, which include a catered dinner, open bar, reserved seating and betting, are $100 each. General admission is $10, $5 for children under 10. Call Jessica Salter at 283-3272 or 483-9398 for more information.

Equest Farm, which has held riding classes and boarded horses for generations, has been totally renovated and serves as a full-service riding academy for all age and experience levels. It owns about two dozen horses used in the classes. The facility also is home to show horses that train at Equest and compete in horse shows around the country. In addition, the farm also holds horse shows at City Park; the next one is scheduled in April.

The stables provide an affordable arena in which youngsters and adults can learn to ride on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Equest also holds horse camps for children during summer and holiday breaks from school.

click to enlarge Twins Heather Mahoney (left) and Holly Gaspard stand in - front of a counter of Cargo makeup, a line carried - exclusively at their H2O salon in Old Metairie.
  • Twins Heather Mahoney (left) and Holly Gaspard stand in front of a counter of Cargo makeup, a line carried exclusively at their H2O salon in Old Metairie.


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