Go Big or Go Home

The Largest Freestanding Day Spa in Texas Is in Friendswood

After a $6.5 million, post-Harvey rebuild, the 22,000-square-foot Bergamos Retreat is back, bigger and better than ever.

By Abby Ledoux February 8, 2019

Bergamos Retreat's Therme water circuit

Hurricane Harvey didn’t stand a chance against Bergamos Retreat. Sure, it decimated the Friendswood spa, which had opened in 2001 and was already undergoing a renovation and expansion when the storm hit. But in its wreckage, Marylyn Reed saw an opportunity.

The Bergamos owner, after all, had a legacy to uphold: She is the great-granddaughter of Mary Kay, as in the Mary Kay, of pink Cadillac fame. When it comes to making decisions, be it in business or life, Reed says, she asks herself: WWMKD? The answer, invariably, is keep going.

Marylyn Reed

Reed wasted no time. One week after flood waters ravaged her spa, she put together 300 care bags for displaced families and moved her whole operation to a temporary location while she committed the gutted space along Mary’s Creek to a complete rebuild, determined to make Bergamos bigger and better than ever before.

At 22,000 square feet, she went big, and—11 months and $6.5 million later—it was finally time to go home. Last July, Reed held a soft re-opening on Friday the 13th, the same day Mary Kay launched her pioneering cosmetics company back in 1963.

Now Bergamos is the largest freestanding day spa in all of Texas. The two-story mega-retreat is inspired by (and named for) the Italian city of Bergamo near Milan, and a healthy dose of country-chic contextualizes its aesthetic. It is tranquil, elegant, and positively sprawling with its 21 treatment rooms, wine bar, cafe, apothecary, blow dry bar, nail salon, yoga studio, salt cave, and water therapy circuit. Last month saw its official grand opening, but finishing touches are still underway (not that you’d ever know). Reed says she essentially timed the whole thing around Valentine’s Day, arguably a spa’s most critical time of year.

Even with its massive scale, it’s the treatments—and, by extension, the equipment—that really set Bergamos apart. Reed has invested heavily in spa equipment from Gharieni, a German company, and she’s confident Bergamos might just have the most extensive collection of the high-tech products in the entire country.

The Libra

There’s the Libra, a horizontal Vichy shower with choreographed color and water therapy and a steam cocoon, and the Limber, a futuristic-looking, highly flexible massage table free from the motion restrictions of a traditional setup. There are zero-gravity pedicure chairs, radio frequency facial devices, and another table called, yes, the “Amphibia,” designed for “quantum harmonic sound therapy”—when’s the last time you got an “acoustic stimulation massage,” we ask?

Pedicures are vastly improved by zero-gravity chairs.

But the piece de resistance, we’re inclined to think, is Gharieni’s crystal amethyst quartz massage table, which employs a modern version of ancient Egyptian hot sand therapy. At first, it feels like laying in a sandbox—albeit a pretty one, and with the protective layer of a sheet—that moves up and down at the push of a button. Much like you might during a beachfront sunbathing session, you’ll soon sink right in the warm sands as they mold to your body shape. By the time a massage therapist gently pushes the quartz up and around your limbs to envelop your hands, arms, legs, and feet—a deliciously warm, heavy kind of comfort—you’ll begin to wonder why you’ve ever had massages on anything but a crystal amethyst quartz table.

Later, you’ll feel similarly relaxed on another (non-sand) table under the care of Donna Savelle, the exceptionally likable lead esthetician who’s been with Bergamos from the beginning. Savelle, who Reed declares the best facialist in America, turns 58 next month but looks at least 20 years younger, a shining endorsement of her aptitude in this department.

Savelle is all about going natural, especially when it comes to skincare—no fillers, lifts, or chemical peels here. “Even with all the new bells and whistles, the spa’s philosophy is always to find a balance of high-tech and high-touch,” she says. Take the radio frequency facial with ultrasound and LED: It may sound more like a med-spa treatment, but it’s really just a facial massage (that feels divine) to plump and firm the skin, no nip-tuck required.

Lead esthetician Donna Savelle gives "high-tech, high-touch" facials.

You could easily spend all day in this cavernous retreat, wandering from sauna to wine bar to salt cave, and you probably should. Open seven days a week and as late as 10 p.m. on weekends, the new-and-improved Bergamos is well on its way to becoming a destination for bachelorette parties, date nights, corporate retreats, and everything in-between, tapping into its longtime loyal following—70 percent of business comes from repeat clientele, Savelle says—and enticing new patrons looking to escape.

And, at the end of the day, Reed is still asking: WWMKD? “I’ve blazed my own trail,” she says. “But my great-grandmother’s customer service philosophy inspires me every day.”

Bergamos Spa Retreat, 313 E Edgewood Dr., Friendswood.

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