With no warning given to dozens of employees and thousands of clients, Avia Spa suddenly shut its doors July 30. The popular downtown retreat on lower Chapala Street — which, for all eight years of its existence, was voted top day spa in The Santa Barbara Independent‘s annual Best Of poll — sits empty with changed locks and dark windows, its remaining signage torn down Tuesday.
Unable to reach the owners and out their checks from the last two pay periods, about 20 former employees have organized themselves into a group that’s been in contact with National Labor Relations Board, examining their options to recoup lost earnings.
Troy Medore and business partner Spencer Cooper took over Avia Spa from building owner Suzanne Seed last summer. While operations seemed to run smoothly for the next few months, employees started having issues with incomplete and bounced pay checks as soon as February of this year. According to four massage therapists — who were employed by Avia Spa as independent contractors and who spoke to The Independent this week — things only got worse from there.
The sources leveled accusations against Medore and Cooper that range from “gross mismanagement” to “blatant fraud,” citing specific examples of illegal activity they purportedly witnessed firsthand. They’re not sure what to tell their clients, they went on, who have been calling them with questions about now-worthless gift cards and pre-paid appointments.
Attempts to reach Medore and Cooper have been unsuccessful and Seed, through a representative, declined to comment on the situation because of “legal considerations.” A lingerie designer and former wife of Depeche Mode guitarist Martin Gore, Seed had owned Avia Spa since its inception.
While rumors have surfaced that Evolutions Medical Spa is slated to move into the former Avia Spa space, Evolutions managing partner Brian Perkins clarified this week that the medical spa is in fact relocating to the commercial condo directly next to it. There’s no business relationship between Avia and Evolutions, he went on, stating Evolutions has outgrown its current State Street digs and is expecting to open its new location October 31.