Maria Bevins’ clients are avid followers of pop culture. The owner of Sorella Day Spa in Hamilton, New Jersey, says her nail stations are hotbeds of celebrity gossip, TV predictions and Us Weekly-inspired speculation. But last September, the facility became a bona fide embassy for reality TV fans. That’s because one Sunday afternoon, Bevins hosted a meet and greet event for Teresa Giudice, who’s best known for her starring role on Bravo-TV’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey. The hot-blooded native came to sign copies of her New York Times bestselling cookbook, Skinny Italian.
Bevins got the idea to invite Giudice in from overhearing client chatter. “Between the local connection and the high drama, Real Housewives comes up in conversation a lot,” she says. And when she heard that one of her clients had waited four hours to meet Giudice at a Barnes & Noble, Bevins joined the sudden celebrity’s Facebook fan page. “It was there I saw that she was making appearances at various small businesses. It got me thinking.”
So the industrious owner emailed Giudice’s publicist with her idea. When she found out that she would need to fork over a hefty fee and supply a driver for the star, Bevins conducted an experiment to determine whether hosting Giudice would be profitable. “I put a mock status announcing the event on our Facebook page, just to see if I’d get a reaction out of people,” she says. “When I got almost a hundred comments, I knew we could sell enough tickets to cover the costs.”
So Bevins and her staff started publicizing the book signing and selling party passes to spa patrons for $45. They ran press releases in the local newspaper and sought donations from local restaurants. Giudice also advertised the appearance on her website. “We only had a few weeks to plan, so we got busy inviting fellow businesses to participate, and preparing spa tours and brochures about our services to distribute,” Bevins says.
The event was an overwhelming success. “Dozens of local women showed up, we invited a photographer from the local news, made our signature sangria, brought in a DJ, and Teresa sold 100 books,” Bevins says. “She was so nice in person too. She stopped to have a real conversation with every single person.”
In addition, attendees entered raffles for spa packages and retail products. Bevins also seized an opportunity to make an announcement about the importance of microdermabrasion. “It was the perfect time to tell a large group of women that come fall, it’s time for a lift,” she says. “And it paid off; we booked plenty of treatments that day.”
Has your spa ever become a celebrity hotspot? Have you hosted any unusual events? Tell us about it at [email protected].—Katie O’Reilly