Dritan Azemi’s parents wanted him to become a doctor or an engineer. But he had his own ideas about how he could best help people. Feeling a calling in the world of aesthetics, Azemi dropped out of college and moved with his family from his native Albania to southern California. One day while out walking, he happened by a beauty school and stopped in to speak with the director about enrolling. Though Azemi had planned to heal people as a massage therapist, the more he worked on the school's styling floor, the more inspired he was by the happiness his clients felt after a great haircut. On his 20th birthday, Azemi celebrated by speeding down Interstate 15—an act that got him pulled over, right at the exit leading to the Ontario Mills mall. There, he discovered what was then Allen Edwards salon, where he quickly worked up to senior stylist and educator. When industry legend and ceramic-tools innovator Adam Shuman took over, Azemi learned many of his signature styling techniques and eventually became the company's junior art director.
Azemi's parents soon announced that they were moving to Pittsburgh, and he had to give up his glamorous fashion shows and photo shoots. He retained his sunny California mentality, however, and felt he could use this to enhance salon-goers' experience in the Pittsburgh area. The accomplished stylist opened Azemi Salons in 2008, naming the business not only after himself, but after a root word in several Eastern languages that means “power” and “moving forward.” To continue forward in its client-empowering mission, his team now offers spa treatments alongside hair services, performing skin-specific facials, relaxing mani-pedis, and massages to leave muscles as relaxed as the dress code at a Halloween parade.
If a struggling client ever wonders where certified health coach Heather Hosilyk gets her empathy, the answer lies in her past, which was defined by a poor diet and an extra 100 pounds. To lose the weight, Heather completely overhauled her diet to include no- or low-glycemic foods void of grains, gluten, and the gloomy fortune-cookie predictions that often trigger emotional eating. Today at The Natural Center for Health, Heather helps clients plagued with food addiction or stubborn weight do the same. She asks her charges to implement three basic lifestyle changes: nix processed foods, eat only heart-healthy fats, and use only ancient grains such as wild rice and quinoa. She uses one-on-one counseling and six-week group sessions as a platform for touting local, nutritious food as the basis of healthy diets. Apart from lending a hand to local farms and reducing emissions and superfluous packing materials, buying and eating locally ensures meals are fresh, tasty, and free of additives, Heather says, much like money still hot from the US Mint’s stovetop
The stresses of everyday life dissipate at the hands of Tranquillité Massage Therapy’s licensed staff members, who ply muscles within the softly lit confines of its private treatment rooms. The therapists target chronic aches and pains across the body, digging into or gliding across soft tissue with massage modalities including Swedish, deep-tissue, and soothing hot-stone. Specialty massages administered by highly trained therapists target overworked muscles that impair the body’s performance, and paraffin wax treatments enhance any massage with skin-softening warmth.
A visit to Tranquillité Massage Therapy shows that it takes the implications of its name seriously. Nearly every facet of the center contributes to an optimally relaxing experience, from plush massage beds to a policy that allows clients to prepare for massages at their own pace—time spent undressing, relaxing, and rehearsing groans of relief never counts toward massages.
Large silver letters spelling Aveda march down a patterned wall, announcing the spa’s dedication to natural ingredients and aromatic botanicals. Multihued walls and verdant plants surround chairs as the staff performs hair coloring, nailcare, and spa treatments. The spa also offers off-site wellness coaching, proven more effective than hearing an ear-piercing whistle every time one reaches for a donut. Stylists and aestheticians stretch their hours until 8 p.m. on weekdays to accommodate busy clients, who also get incentives, such as 15% off Aveda products in return for donating haircare items to charity.
Retta Flagg was introduced to the reparative benefits of massage while recovering from a back injury. Once she was back in tip-top shape, Retta decided to pursue a career in massage therapy, focusing her initial training on styles designed to treat injuries and chronic pain. Only a few years after completing massage school in 1986, she started a 10-year career teaching neuromuscular technique at the very same institution she attended—the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy.
Retta now owns and operates The Healing Touch, a place that clients frequent for stress-relieving treatments ranging from Swedish and pregnancy massages to paraffin therapy baths and onsite corporate chair massages. All the wellness center's therapists are graduates of accredited schools, boast more than 600 hours of training, and actively improve their skills through continuing education and thumb-wrestling tournaments.
In the midst of rustic woods, there sits a three-story building. Upon opening its front door, visitors unleash a gentle wave of aromatherapy scents and warm air. They step inside, where therapists lead them past wood accents and into private treatment rooms. World of Serenity’s spa atmosphere recalls the calm of the surrounding wilderness, and inside its walls, therapists adopt a holistic approach; they educate guests in wellness basics, such as why humans don’t eat sand, and perform a range of customized spa services. They soften faces, deep-cleanse pores, and slough of dead cells during customized facials; sometimes scouring or soothing the skin with an additional enzyme deep cleanse, warm stones, or anti-aging collagen. They also ease muscle tension with six massage modalities such as deep tissue, warm stone, and reflexology; and scrub clients from head to toe using salt and sugar rubs, and wraps made from natural dead sea mud or Paradisius—a blend of ground fruit and flower extracts.