Brian Lam has always liked the look and feel of downtown Culpeper.
Now, as a local businessman, he is part of it.
On Wednesday, Lam opened Skin+Touch Therapy Spa on East Davis Street, kitty-corner from downtown’s distinctive LOVE sculpture and historic railroad depot.
The skin care, massage and therapy enterprise is at 254 East Davis, a two-story brick building that Lam purchased. Moving Meadows Farm’s bakery and farm-fresh food store occupies the ground floor.
“I have always admired downtown Culpeper and its independent shops,” Lam said. “The shop owners here have really curated and cultivated a unique experience. Being on Davis Street is a dream.”
Working with Abby Construction of Fredericksburg, Lam has spent the past two months renovating the building’s second floor, which had been a commercial office suite, for the boutique spa.
The result is a beautiful, airy space with soothing wall colors, filled with sunlight from many large windows on the building’s front and back sides. Its five therapy rooms are fully outfitted with licensed, well-trained therapists and modern equipment to provide locals and visitors with skin care and massage therapy.
“We exposed the original brick walls and opened the ceiling to show the original wooden beams of the roof structure,” Lam said. “We embraced the building’s unique, original features because they make a warm, inviting space, not like a generic office building. We take extra steps to keep the elements that make our locations unique, authentic and local.”
Lam, who is the spa’s lead therapist, has owned Skin+Touch Therapy Spa’s first location at 714 Caroline St. in downtown Fredericksburg for five years. It offers a full range of day spa services, including massage, skin care, nail services and infrared saunas.
He renovated the circa-1839 William Cox Building, constructed by a clockmaker and silversmith, to create unique spaces that retain the historic structure’s charms and quirks.
During an interview Tuesday, Lam said he is proud that his staff does good work and has built up a loyal clientele in the area.
“Some clients come here strictly to relax,” he said of the Fredericksburg spa. “But I’m results-oriented, and I also want to help people with their goals. It’s not all just fluffy.”
Lam said he is excited to expand his business into another historic building in another historic downtown, just in time for National Spa Week.
The Davis Street building adjoins the parking lot next to St. Stephens Episcopal Church that houses the community’s weekend Farmer’s Market.
In both communities, each with an appealing downtown, charm and history combine for a memorable boutique-spa experience, Lam said.
In Culpeper and Fredericksburg, Lam is a big believer in the ability of the local Main Street programs to enliven and improve the experiences shared by shoppers, visitors and business owners who depend on their historic downtowns.
“For me, the worst thing is seeing an empty storefront,” he said. “When a business is thriving, that means it is employing local people and the owner’s dream is succeeding. The circle feeds itself. That’s why people should ‘shop local.’ People who enjoy and shop on a good main street support small, independent businesses.”
That’s what drew him to first visit Culpeper years ago, just as it does many people each year: great restaurants, a handsome and historic setting, unique shops, and a distinctive sense of place.
Lam holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Parsons School of Design in New York City, an associate’s degree from Swedish Institute for massage therapy, and certificates for esthetics and yoga.
Raised in Huntington, Long Island, he was educated in design and marketing and worked for years in New York City’s fashion industry. Lam worked with Yeohlee Teng, a fashion designer whose work has earned a spot in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.
But after years in the hugely competitive, highly demanding fashion trade, he felt stressed and burned out. So, Lam grew interested in the wellness industry, which he saw as a growing trend that was more “Amazon-proof” than fashion.
He entered the healing arts and worked his way up from the bottom, starting at a spa’s front desk, attending night school and being trained in massage therapy and Aveda skin care.
When his husband, Will Mackintosh, joined the University of Mary Washington faculty, they moved to Fredericksburg in 2010 and Lam began offering massages in rented space before finding a permanent site.
“It’s nice to be here on Caroline Street, and to feel a part of this community,” he said. “The business has connected me with lots of fine people, and this is our home now.”
Wanting to give back, Lam has served on the board of directors at the Fredericksburg Main Street Initiative, and encourages people to volunteer there and with Culpeper Renaissance Inc.
To learn more about downtown revitalization, he has even attended a couple of the national Main Street conferences held in different communities around the country each year.
“We are excited to see Brian’s business grow,” Ann Glave, executive director of Fredericksburg Main Street, said late Wednesday. “Brian was involved from the very start with Main Street with our newsletter and moved on to the board of directors, most recently chairing the Economic Vitality Committee. I don’t think it’s by chance that Brian picked another Main Street community to expand his business.”
Lam said the Skin+Touch team plans to hold ribbon cutting on April 30 and open-house and “sip and see” events to help people become acquainted with the Culpeper business.