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Melissa Ferst: The journey of wellness and entrepreneurship behind International Orange Spa

An orangish, reddish hue sweeps across the evening sky on the surface of the Golden Gate Bridge. The setting sun is framed by the bustling city and the color of the bridge is breathtaking, the color International Orange. Nationally, not only is this color known for the Golden Gate Bridge, but also locally for a successful, elegant spa. Owner and co-founder of the Larkspur International Orange Spa, Melissa Ferst, initially sought to and has since created a cherished local spa.

“When we originally came up with the name for our business, we wanted something that was not spa-ish. We wanted it to spark curiosity when people were looking at our business, like ‘Huh, what is that?’ We also wanted to connect to something local. The bridge is so iconic, and it’s representing San Francisco and Marin because it connects the two,” Ferst said.

Along with co-founders Amy Darland and Kary Chendo, Ferst originally opened International Orange in the spring of 2002 in San Francisco. Currently, Ferst is the sole owner of the Larkspur Spa and has been managing it since 2012. 

In the beginning, International Orange was both a yoga studio and a spa. 

“What I was really passionate about was yoga, so when we originally started our business in the city, we had a yoga studio, … but with the two businesses together, [yoga and a spa,] they were still very different. We decided to shut down the yoga because it was too hard to manage both,” Ferst said.

Amidst the two thriving spa locations, there were some obstacles, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say COVID-19 was a huge challenge because we had to shut down for seven months. Being in this industry, the service industry, just like food, we couldn’t operate,” Ferst said.

Later, after the global pandemic had lessened and the service industry was slowly returning to normalcy, Ferst decided to close the San Francisco location for good. It was a bittersweet moment to close the spa on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, but Ferst feels content with where she is now. 

Currently, the International Orange Spa is solely located in the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, where the vision to “create a space that [is] simple, modern and timeless” has been achieved. The spa displays numerous facial and massage rooms, a luxurious lounge and an elegant shop in the lobby.

“A lot of what we sell is skincare, and we like products that have a luxury feel, so their price points are going to be a little bit higher. We like products that are clean; they don’t have to be 100 percent organic, but we don’t want them to be toxic. We also want the packaging to go with our aesthetic of this simple, modern and luxurious feel,” Ferst said.

International Orange also has a brand featuring body wash, shampoo, conditioner and, more recently, a natural deodorant and face and body mist in their product line. These products are set out for use in the spa’s locker rooms.

Additionally, Ferst is an active member of the community and contributes donations from International Orange to local charities and schools.

“We donate services to fundraising auctions for schools and different charities, and we probably donate to 150 to 175 schools and charities in the Bay Area,” Ferst said. 

With two children currently enrolled at Redwood, Ferst is also a member of Redwood’s community. With her leadership, the spa continues to have an interest in supporting local teachers and parents with International Orange spa services.

A fellow manager of the spa, Jennifer Gallegos, enjoys working with the community at the business, too.

“[Ferst is] super supportive and she gives me a lot of freedom. She trusts me, which is really important. I don’t feel micromanaged or anything,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos takes on the tasks of managing the schedules of the esthetics team, managing the retail store by completing all the ordering and buying and sending out newsletters to clients. 

“For what I do, I could work from home … but I am somebody who likes to be part of a team. I find myself coming into the office, being in this space [and] being able to stay inspired,” Gallegos said.

International Orange Spa holds a special place in the hearts of Ferst and her employees and gives Ferst a way to provide comfort and leisure for her clients. 

“I love the fact that when people come here, they get a minute to just relax and unwind from life,” Ferst said. “Being able to create a [local] place where people can escape, even if it’s only for an hour and a half, [is something] I love to be able to provide for people.”

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About the Contributors
Kate Barker is a sophomore at Redwood High School and in the Nonfiction writing class. In her free time, she enjoys playing volleyball and spending time with family and friends.
Abby Willian is a sophomore at Redwood and is taking the nonfiction class. Abby enjoys playing volleyball and hanging out with friends and family.