Interview 24 Magazine

Rhoni Epstein: A Boston native. “After graduate school, I took a three month long road trip across country. I fell in love with the West and decided to stay in Los Angeles, a very horizontal and visually open city compared to Boston, it felt like a good place to create. Applying my degree in counseling and my passion for Art, I became an established photographers’ agent /consultant, assistant professor at Art Center College of Design, and hotelier.”

Cristina Pestana: An Italian from Brazil, who Arrived in US in 1989. “I was formerly a marketing director at Alcoa and left it all to pursue my childhood dream to be in America. With my masters in marketing/language from USP in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I landed in America without English. I delivered pizzas in a broken down car, it was challenging but it was all part of achieving my dream. I became a student and then a partner in a small massage school. Applying myself, embracing English and the culture, I helped to grow the school into one of the largest accredited and respected institution in California.

Why/How did you get into the boutique spa business?

Rhoni: Like Goldilocks, I couldn’t find a bed — a place in the desert that felt just right. I love warm mineral spring water and had experienced the benefits while traveling cross country! DHS has some of the best! Cristina, had explored the mineral water while traveling throughout Brazil.

Describe the sense of personal risk you felt and how you countered it. Learning curve?

We had absolutely no experience in the hotel business, simply a passion to create and follow the process. The remodel took a year, designing as we went along. We embraced our instincts and did what felt right.

Any Big Breaks?

Our very first guest, an English writer from Travel & Leisure magazine, arrived with a cold, I greeted her with a pot of tea, honey and lemon. We landed on the cover of the hotels issue ( because of the photography ) The rest is history!

Design aesthetic. Tell us everything about your vision.

We created a space where people are not burdened by our aesthetics.
We embrace simplicity, cleanliness, elegance and modernism, comfort and warmth. Sagewater Spa invites every guest to make it their own.

Tell us a little about the building/renovation process. What major challenges did you face?

We bought the hotel “AS IS.” Sagewater Spa’s roof virtually did not exist, the hotel needed a new pool, deck, windows, paint and electrical – everything! Because of our high standards we’ve already replaced the pool and decking for a second time.

How did you choose your amenities?

Sagewater Spa is an internal and external reflection of our vision based completely on instinct, aesthetic and creative exploration. The linens and towels were an important choice – hand-pressed Frette linens, towels and robes – in the desert! All comforters and pillows are either non-allergic down or non-down. Aveda had never authorized their products for a boutique hotel but with all the press they just couldn’t say no.
All rooms have perfectly appointed kitchenette with Organic Fair Roasted European coffee, milk, pitchers of chilled cucumber/lemon water (made from our purest and best-tasting drinking water in the country). We freshly bake my famous Gramma B’s coffee cake, defatted for the health conscious, but not de-flavored.

Any funny stories?

One weekend, two film directors checked in, at different times. Believe it or not, each one had been nominated for an Academy Award in the same year! They didn’t discover each other until they had experienced one of our amazing massage treatments. Meeting up at the mineral pool, these colleagues, in surprise and wonderment, both discovered that they shared in the same private getaway! They had a good laugh about each others good taste.

What is it about the desert?

You have to look to see! It’s quiet, the silky warm water, views of Mt. San Jacinto, fresh air, blue skies the spaciousness. The desert flowers subtle beauty, that without warning, springs forth so brilliantly and at night the clear majestic starry sky.

What is it about the spring water?

The magic waters are odorless, soothing, and rejuvenating. They heal physical strains and cleanse the body and mind. We like to think of it as the fountain of vibrancy and youth. Even weekend guests feel as if they have been away for a week!