An artist's rendering of what the Marilyn Monroe Spas "glamour… (Marilyn Monroe Spas )
In working on a story for Sunday's Image section about how Marilyn Monroe's brand continues to march on a half-century after her untimely death I ran across all kinds of licensed products and properties bearing her name and likeness, many of which appear in a companion piece running in the same issue.
Photo Gallery: Marilyn Monroe Merchandise
But two of the more ambitious are the separate projects underway to open both a chain of Marilyn Monroe cafes and Marilyn Monroe nail salon-day spas -- both of which are being done in cooperation with (and licensed through) the company that owns the bulk of the Marilyn Monroe estate.
First out of the gate is expected to be the first Marilyn Monroe Café, which a company representative says will open its doors north of the border in the Toronto, Canada, suburb of Oakville the second weekend in September to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival. (Toronto also happens to be where the cafe franchise's parent company is headquartered.)
Press materials describes the concept as "designed to be a place Marilyn would be comfortable in, not a shrine, featuring a relaxed but elevated design experience with lush menu options." Which means
patrons shouldn't expect to be greeted by a skirt-billowing blast of air from a subway grate at the front door. (Though to be fair, the slogan at the website does say: "When you step into the Marilyn Monroe
Café, you step into the spotlight.")
The spa concept sounds a bit more ambitious -- not to mention a bit better suited to leverage the Monroe legend. Orlando, Fla.-based Marilyn Monroe Spas, founded by Niki Bryan (founder of an spa management company of the same name) and Al Weiss (immediate past president of worldwide operations at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts), has plans to open not one but three concepts under the Marilyn Monroe banner. In a recent interview, Bryan and Weiss shared their vision with me.
"The first concept will be a nail boutique, which will be a small- to medium-sized facilty that will specialize in manicures and pedicures as well as offer some other minor services," Bryan said.
"The second one will be the Marilyn Monroe 'glamour rooms,' which will combine all the services of a traditional salon, with an emphasis on the hair and makeup for styling, for photos -- a real celebration and revival of that notion of beauty that fits in with the Marilyn Monroe brand."
Weiss added that the glamour room concept would also offer manicures and pedicures and include a few rooms for eyebrow shaping, waxing and facials. "But," he said, "the point we want to emphasize there is the glamour."
Bryan said the third concept will be a luxury spa. "It's going to be the kind of high-glamour, high-elegance, high-touch environment that we believe will represent the relaxed, pampering side of her personality. Those will typically go into big resort luxury hotels, cruise ships and places like that."
Weiss said that the first stores of each concept opened in 2012 and 2013 will be company-owned and operated before the business is opened up to franchise opportunities. “We don't have an exact opening date," Weiss said, "But we’re looking to open the first one in Orlando in November or December. ... We believe, on a conservative basis, that within five or six years we’ll have several hundred [franchised] locations."
So, what exactly constitutes a Marilyn Monroe-themed spa? I asked Bryan and Weiss if that meant they'd be creating a spa menu that included things like a "Seven Year Itch" salt scrub or a "Some Like It Hot" hot stone massage.
"I doubt we’d go as kitschy as that," Weiss said with a chuckle. "We want this to be a fairly elegant, high-quality product with a distinctive design that has an old Hollywood feel. When people walk in they're going to see her red lips, they’re going to see things that they’ll recognize very quickly from an iconic standpoint and they'll know they've walked into a world of Marilyn."
The company is also developing three lines of Marilyn Monroe branded beauty products; nail lacquers, a line of cosmetics and a selection of skincare and body-care products.