Nineteen ninety-three was a breakdown year for me. Richard Strozzi Heckler says, “When life breaks down, break through.” It’s his twist on, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The year before, two friends of mine, lovers David Arpin and Mikel Reper, and myself opened a business. Mikel dreamed of opening an aromatherapy gift store. In those days, aromatherapy—the use of essential plant oils—was bursting into popularity.
I dreamed of a massage clinic and day spa, a center where all my fascinations converged: hands-on healing, face and body care, exotic baths and muds, meditation and tai chi combined with aromatherapy. We agreed that a little vegetarian sandwich shop would be a nice addition to the mix. The vegetarian food would accent the healing arts and attract people to our business.
We rented a grand old house on West Alabama in Houston’s Museum District. Never mind that the building had seen a series of failed restaurants and bars. Our friend Craig (Ms. Craig Ann we called him) joined us as kitchen manager. Mikel and I consulted a Buddhist psychic and feng shui master, who made suggestions on color schemes, which doors to use, and blessed our business to insure its success. After twelve years of bartending to the fabulous, I resigned to build a career in the healing arts, confident in our venture.
The Enchanted Garden opened in March of 1992. The aromatherapy store was a big hit, and my private massage practice flourished. People loved the vegetarian restaurant, too, but it was expensive to operate. The spa, however, with seven treatment rooms, never succeeded well enough to keep all the therapists busy. And conflict began even before our opening. Mikel and David’s relationship was unraveling, and they were soon in divorce court—or as close as two gay lovers could get. It wasn’t long before David and I spent as much time and energy managing Mikel as we spent running The Enchanted Garden itself. David and I, willing to be fair and generous, cut Mikel ample slack, but after a year tolerating his alcohol and drug problems, an intervention, and rehab, we finally cut Mikel loose.
Unfortunately, by then our enthusiasm, momentum and finances had suffered permanent damage. Ms. Craig Ann, bored with the conflict and politics, quit. David, a health-care consultant, was on the road during the week and returned to the Garden to work weekends. That left me to supervise the spa, the restaurant and the aromatherapy store through the week. By October1993 The Enchanted Garden was insolvent, the victim of our own poor management and under-funding, and David and I, exhausted, closed the business. We lost our investment and then some, and I was saddled with more debt than I could have imagined. (David says ours is the most expensive friendship he’s ever had.)
The Garden was a success on other levels, however. I did have a solid massage practice that supported me well. When the Garden closed I moved the remnants of the spa to an office building on Richmond Avenue near Greenway Plaza. Essential Touch, like a phoenix, rose from the ashes of The Enchanted Garden. I had learned many hard and valuable lessons on how to run a profitable and professional business.
Love your way,
Alan Davidson, founder of
and author of Body Brilliance:
Mastering Your Five Vital
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Dedicated to our healthy, happy, and prosperous world through the full enlightenment of every human being.
Through Your Body
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