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Spas for guys pop up all over St. Petersburg

Top: At the Shave Cave at Sundial in St. Pete, master barber Christian Vargas, left, prepares to give Panos Diamantakos a haircut. Above, Master barber Aje Lew employs a straight razor for a close shave on Brian Oliver.
Top: At the Shave Cave at Sundial in St. Pete, master barber Christian Vargas, left, prepares to give Panos Diamantakos a haircut. Above, Master barber Aje Lew employs a straight razor for a close shave on Brian Oliver.
Published Jun. 18, 2015

On any given day, surrounded by dark wood flooring, sitting on black leather chairs, customers engage in lively banter around the 65-inch flat screen television permanently tuned to ESPN at The Shave Cave in St. Petersburg. But it wasn't the free local craft beer (St. Petersburg Brewing Company drafts that change bi-weekly) or the basketball game that brought these guys through the door. They're all there to be pampered.

"We're like Cheers," says Christian Vargas, one of expert barbers at The Shave Cave, while lathering a customer's hair with finishing product. "It's a place where men can bond with other men, just talk about sports, have a beer — and get a really nice shave while they're at it."

The bro-centric approach works. Most days the place can't fit a walk-in appointment, though it is not the only establishment in St. Petersburg offering services catering specially to men. A handful of man spas have sprung up in St. Pete, not to mention the existing spas that have adapted to serve an evolving male clientele.

"We have a number of executives that work downtown that come in regularly," explains Nancy Wehrman, owner of Tranquility Wellness Spa. "They're very comfortable."

Tranquility has been offering services geared toward men since 2009.

"Then we have men in their 40s and 50s who are starting to worry about their aging and maybe are getting a facial for the first time," Wehrman said. "Those are not as comfortable."

To ease the discomfort, the spa treatments have a macho twist. The Executive Manicure, for example, is not a frilly indulgence — it's a treatment for "tired, over-worked hands."

At Pure Natural Nail Lounge, men get a MANicure: no nail polish, and the treatment happens in a separate room where they have authority over the remote control.

And at Just For Men Spa, the facial is known as the Sportman's Treatment and products are specially designed to remove oil and dirt from men's skin. Shave brushes, razors that come in a box so nice it looks like a collector's item and shampoo with the masculine brand name Dreadnought are available for purchase. That way, the grooming can continue guilt-free at home.

"I like the atmosphere," says Joe Farren, 35, who was scolded by his hair stylist sister-in-law for usually going to a chain to get his hair cut, as he enjoyed his first scalp massage before his trim. "I'm getting a new haircut, so I want to do it right."

According to the International Spa Association, Farren is not alone. In the last 10 years, the percentage of men frequenting spas has increased by 16 percent as men have been given a welcoming environment to relax and take care of themselves. Some of them are even turning it into a social activity.

"Every Saturday we have groomsmen parties booked where the groom and his boys just come in and get ready for the day," says Max Glazer, owner of the Shave Cave. "The bride is happy because no one that came from out of town and spent the day on a plane looks scruffy, the guys get to hang out and they take the shave brush as a souvenir of the experience."

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And sure the places cater to men, but women whose husbands, boyfriends or fathers haven't quite joined the vain train yet have no problem stopping by.

"Women come in all the time and make appointments for their men, buy gift cards," says Glazer. "They want them to take care of themselves too."

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