Jeff Beard knows the inside of beauty salons. For years he marched into girly salons with his head held high, fingers outstretched for a manicure. If the ladies didn't like it, well, they could talk to the bosses.
These days he goes to the Difference, a new all-male spa on Henderson Boulevard. Attractive women dressed in black greet him at the door, offer bottled water and escort him to a nail station. Every Friday, he gets a massage.
Beard, 43, compares the pampering to having a stiff martini or fat cigar.
"It's a nice way to end your week," he says. "You kind of get addicted to it."
THAT'S WHAT owner Tait Kwentt is hoping. When he opened in November, he didn't know what to expect. The term "metrosexual" - a straight guy who likes a little special treatment - was on everyone's tongue, but would it stick? Would men really strip down for a mud wrap or algae scrub?
You bet, he says.
Three months later, the spa has logged about 550 clients, from Jesuit High School students to South Tampa retirees. Some, like Tom Billinge, come in twice a week. At $75 a massage, don't do the math. He doesn't care.
IT'S WORTH IT, he says. Spoken like a L'Oreal spokesperson.
Billinge, 53, prefers the man-friendly atmosphere, with its gray walls, black leather furniture and TVs at every vantage point. No women staring him down or giggling at his toes. The only women are the employees and those coming in for gift certificates - quite a few around Valentine's Day. Aside from nails and massages, the spa does facials, waxing, spray tanning and shoe shining. Less than a month ago - at customer request - it added haircuts.
Tait figured hair might get skeptics through the door. A few puffs on the free stogies or dip in the patio spa might entice them to stay for more. Deep pore cleansing, anyone?
For many guys, regular trips to the spa are their "Calgon take me away" moments.
Business owner Scott Strady, 40, repossesses houses for a living. You can imagine the stress. People crying, dodging his process servers and refusing to leave.
After a long day in the office, he's ready for some rubbing, buffing and exfoliating. Then it's home to his wife and 18-month-old son, refreshed, relaxed and ready to deal.
Kwentt hopes to re-create the Difference in North Tampa, possibly Carrollwood or New Tampa. The demand is there, he says. It's just a matter of getting the word out. A smooth chest is a good thing, by gosh. So are tidy eyebrows.