There’s a serene, pastoral beauty to Ste. Anne’s Spa.
Tall floral grasses line the walkways, hammocks lazily sway in the breeze, horses thud the earth in the stables and the sun warms the aged stone of the Main Inn. From the trails, Lake Ontario glistens on the horizon and the listless Northumberland Hills seem endless.
It’s an unforgettable sight Breanne Bench came across in 2012 when her sister, who lives near Ste. Anne’s, suggested she visit the historic grounds north of Grafton, Ontario.
“I fell in love with it,” said Bench. “It’s more of a wellness spa. It’s a relaxed, high-class environment. It’s all about healing and focusing on bettering yourself, as opposed to the cosmetic side some spas gravitate toward.”
When Bench visited Ste. Anne’s she was studying Esthetics and Spa Management at Loyalist College, seeking a work placement to finish her studies. Having experienced one of the most talked about destination spas in Canada – a unique, nourishing environment quite unlike any place she had ever visited – she knew Ste. Anne’s was where she wanted to begin her career.
After graduation in 2012, her placement turned into employment and she was hired as an esthetician and spa technician.
“Depending on the length of the treatments, I can have anywhere from four to nine a day,” she said.
Bench specializes in facials, hand and foot treatments, body wraps, relaxation massages and water treatments. Focused on enhancing her skills, she studied reflexology and Ste. Anne’s covered the cost of her training.
“I’d like to study lymphatic drainage next,” she said. “It’s a bit of a lighter touch. You focus on the lymphatic system to remove toxins to the appropriate place so they have an outlet.”
Having worked at Ste. Anne’s for three years – an environment where staff appreciate the calming silence of the resort and only engage in conversation at the request of the guests – Bench has mastered the art of professionalism and customer service.
“You train yourself,” she said. “I get into the mindset of focusing on them. Everything is about your client. If you’re having a bad day, you focus on that treatment. You do what you can to make them more comfortable.”
The rewards of the job, although not always immediate, come from the kindness of the clients and the stories they tell.
“When you have clients who are very relaxed and thankful for a small treatment, when you make them feel a little bit better, it’s rewarding,” she said. “Life gets busy, it gets stressful. You don’t always realize how much you need human touch.”
From where Bench stands, human touch is extremely powerful. Often forgotten or taken for granted, she sees how healing a treatment can be through myriad clients.
“Some people – for example, those who have been widows for years – don’t realize how much they miss that connection, that touch,” she said. “When you have someone who hasn’t had something like that for so long and they finally get to experience human touch, they’re very grateful.”
Ste. Anne’s is an all-inclusive resort with eight spa cottages and a Main Inn. It’s known to local residents as “the Grafton Castle.” The original wing of the Inn was built in 1858 by Samuel Massey and it maintains much of its original charm.
Loyalist Esthetics and Spa Management students train in a full range of spa services to help people look and feel their best. They put those skills to work, both in our on-campus, student-run day spa and during two field placements. Apply now for part-time or full-time studies in January or September. Visit loyalistcollege.com for more information.