TOMS RIVER – When a local spa closed its doors, it left former customers in the lurch. Some claimed that they were swindled, still holding gift cards, but the owner said that the company is another victim of COVID-19.
There is a Facebook group where people still left holding gift cards to Simply Skin have found each other. Some of them have hundreds of dollars worth of gift certificates and gift cards. They share what news they get from the owner and inform each other about where the employees are now working.
Since the salons and barbershops are now reopening, they wanted their shop to be open again and wanted an answer to whether Simply Skin was always planning to close and was just using the coronavirus as an excuse.
“Simply Skin Day spa, formerly located in Downtown Toms River, while planning to shut their doors anyways used COVID-19 as a cover-up to close their store and screw 20-plus people out of hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards/gift certificates,” one writer said. “The owners have been completely negligent on responding to phone calls and emails. They shut down their Facebook, phone number and had a generic email stating they would not be answering emails after the 15th. There is now a Facebook group with all the people who they screwed over trying to get to the bottom of this and trying to get their money back.”
Initially, they were greeted by a generic response: “COVID-19 has managed to close the doors of Simply Skin permanently. We certainly appreciate your loyal business for the past 26 years in this location. We will not be able to respond to this email address. Again thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m sure our technicians will be in touch as they begin a new journey.” The message was signed from JoAnn, the owner.
Since that initial contact, some members of the Facebook group said that the owner had been in touch with them personally. She also responded to questions from this newspaper.
“I want to be totally transparent about this,” JoAnn said. “I am very blessed to have been an integral part of Ocean County’s business community.
“I built Simply Skin 30 years ago. Ocean County’s first day spa. We grew to an amazing staff of 23 women. We served Ocean County with spa services for the past 26 years. We love what we do and it showed,” she said. “It was a stressful business to make sure everything ran well and people were pleased. We were successful and proud. All of us.”
However, things took a turn in 2015, when her husband was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He had wanted her to sell the business. She put a manager in place while she became his caregiver. Business continued as close to normal as possible. Unfortunately, he passed away in April of 2019.
“I realized business was not healthy and attempted to make some changes to stay afloat. I had several inquiries to purchase my business but never received an actual offer. Meanwhile my staff was offered a new opportunity,” she said.
“Now COVID-19 hits us. Bills are being paid for two months but absolutely nothing (no money) is coming in,” she said. “I have a serious decision to make. Either I apply for loans, regroup and spend (money in Centers for Disease Control) regulation changes and hope clients return to the spa OR I do not reopen the spa at all. I am not 30 years old. Life altering events have changed my mindset forever.
“I chose to close. It was NEVER my intention to go out of business this way. It’s actually heart-wrenching. The rumors are ugly and hurtful.
“After closing, while searching for a tenant for our space, I found a buyer for this building. This is retirement for me.
“Closing a business of this magnitude takes time. My accountant and I are working tirelessly to figure it all out,” she said. “The gift cards for any business that goes under, is a loss. We all know many businesses have folded under COVID.
“I am not ignoring emails. There are hundreds of them. I asked for people to be patient. In the climate of our world today, it seems patience is nonexistent,” she said. “Businesses do not go under because they have a great cash flow. They go under because expenses far outweighed the income. Again, this was never my intention. I promise to do the best I can to make this right. It’s a work in progress.”
Toms River police and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office were both contacted to see if there were any charges or an investigation into this matter and neither responded after several days.