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Spa owners reinvent themselves with family, church

Posted at 7:14 AM, Nov 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-16 07:23:39-05

From the moment you walk into the Sanibel Skin Spa, the idea is for you to feel a wave of peace and relaxation. 

To create an atmosphere where you can experience that feeling, the owners had to travel a path of turmoil. But they had a relentless faith on their side. 
"We have been through times of having everything and having nothing,” Holly Torres says. “But the most important thing is having each other."

Be it blood or church, family is a theme that runs through this story. Every Friday we spotlight “against-all-odds” success stories, where people have completely remade themselves, or their businesses, in our Southwest Florida Reinvented series. 

In 2001, Holly and Joel Torres opened up a spa in New York. 
"We were very good at it,” Holly says. “And the spa was growing in New York, [it was the ] West Hampton Day Spa. It was number one in the Hamptons. But unfortunately, we put our business number one."

9/11 and the years of security and safety concerns that followed, changed their perspective. As their two children got older, the Torres decided to change their priorities. 


"We just needed to get a fresh start. And focus on our kids and family and our marriage,” Holly says. 

"[We] wanted to change the atmosphere a little bit and move south,” Joel says. 


Southwest Florida greeted the Torres’ with sunny skies and a booming real estate market. They chose land in Estero and basked in the bright possibilities of their new life. 

"The house was gorgeous. It was beautiful,” Holly says. 

"It was kind of a dream house,” Joel says. “Pretty large home. We probably didn't need all the bedrooms and bathrooms, but we thought, why not?"

They got their answer two years later. The bottom fell out of the economy and crashed into their neighborhood. 

"So a lot of the families, one by one, you'd see a moving truck just leaving. So all my sons' friends were leaving,” Joel says.

Joel is an engineer, and when the construction work went away, the Torres couldn't keep up with their dream life. 

"We decided to get a lawyer and foreclose on the house,” Holly says. "It was hard. I felt like a failure."

And sadly, it got worse. At times both Holly and Joel worked 2 or 3 jobs to keep their families going. 

"And here I am, like a high school student working in a department store again,” Holly says. 

"I couldn't see my wife, my kids, all I did was work. And it just kept going. It didn't stop,” Joel says. “Our faith and our church family just kept us together."

That support helped them fight just to keep their heads above water. And it was like that for several years, until the Torres felt strong enough, not just to survive, but to thrive. They decided to try and open a new spa business. 

"Holly had gone into Sanibel and basically she was just knocking on doors, trying to get some space,” Joel says. 

In 2015, the opened Sanibel Skin Spa on Rabbit Rd. And even more than positive reviews or the bottom line, a true sign of their success is what’s coming next. The Torres will own a spa in the new Margaritaville Resort on Fort Myers Beach. 

Their now-adult children will manage the new location. And they will also serve a reminder about how far the Torres have come. 

"Without a strong faith, a higher power, as some people call it, Holly says, “I don't know what it would look like."
"You just have to go with the punches. If you fall down, you need to get back up."