While popular resort and destination spas typically generate the most accolades, there are many independently run spas, just as worthy of buzz, that often fall below our radar. These more intimate spas run by devoted proprietors who essentially do it all can create a lasting impact on the communities in which they’re located. I recently had an opportunity to spend a couple of nights at La Belle Auberge, a charming bed and breakfast set in a grand Victorian house built in 1907. Ideally situated on gas-lit Main Street in the heart of Wellsboro, PA, the guesthouse is the perfect home base for exploring the inviting town and scenic Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, also known as Pine Creek Gorge, located nearby.
Owned and operated by Jesse and Laura Lee Robinson, La Belle Auberge was first opened by Laura Lee’s grandmother, Nelle Rounsaville, in 2002. Later in 2007, while managing the inn, Laura Lee introduced massage services. In 2012, she and Jesse founded Emerge Healing Arts & Spa, which offers a host of services, including massage, body treatments, facials, a hair and nail salon, and a boutique featuring local artists as well as Laura Lee’s own hand-thrown pottery.
Jesse and Laura tied the knot a year later on the stairs of La Belle Auberge, and in 2016, they jumped at the opportunity to restore La Belle as a bed & breakfast. Today, they live on premises although most of the house is devoted to guests of the inn and spa. While there, I was fortunate to experience treatments from both Laura Lee and Jesse. The warmth with which they shower guests makes a visit to La Belle Auberge and Emerge a healing escape.
What We Love:
- The complimentary in-room breakfast
- The proximity to restaurants, shops, and all Wellsboro has to offer
- The local hospitality
- Emerge Botanicals, the spa’s wildcrafted signature products
- Innkeeper Laura Lee’s passion for wellbeing
What Not to Miss:
- A visit to Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon
- The Botanical Facial (starting at 30 minutes; starting at $70)
- Emerge Signature Massage (starting at $90, 60 minutes)
- A biking adventure along the 61-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail
- Cherry Springs Dark Sky Park
A stay at La Belle Auberge is like stepping back in time. The three guest rooms—The Pyrenees Room, The Paris Room, and The Jardins Room, feature a cozy B&B feel with Victorian-style lamps and furnishings, plush pillows, and decorative accents. Each comes with a queen-sized bed and a private bath and shower. My partner, Bruce, and I stayed in The Jardins Room, which also came with a private balcony.
Blissfully quiet throughout the day, the room was the perfect place to get some remote work done. With Bruce off exploring the town, I took advantage of the complimentary wi-fi and got to work. All in all, we felt right at home in the cozy room.
Emerge Healing Arts & Spa has become a true haven for locals and visitors alike. It currently has four treatment rooms, one of which is a couples room, and an Aveda Salon. The Robinsons are in the process of adding an additional treatment room, a salt cave, and an infrared sauna. With a broad treatment menu, the spa focuses on the essentials, such as massages, facials, body treatments, and more. Laura Lee, an artist, yogi, massage therapist, esthetician, and birth doula, spent six months studying yoga in India. Wanting to empower guests with the tools for holistic health, she continues to evolve the offerings at Emerge. “We are also adding the ionic foot bath cleanse and cupping to our menu,” says Laura Lee.
When Laura Lee first created the menu, her goal was to introduce a full spa experience while also offering individualized therapeutic treatments. As a result, the staff is trained to be able to customize each service. “A hot stone massage, for example, can be just a relaxing Swedish massage with integrated hot stones and various pressures to help melt the connective tissue, or it can be a more customized experience as a deep therapeutic trigger-point tool for relief for our clients with chronic pain,” she says. “No two services or providers are the same.”
The spa carries after-care products for microneedling from Procell Therapies along with Aveda haircare products and Jane Iredale makeup. Most of the spa’s treatments, however, rely on the Emerge Botanicals line, which Laura Lee was inspired to create thanks to a friend in the green products industry. Before becoming an esthetician, Laura Lee used her friend’s products for the spa’s relaxing massage facials. It wasn’t until she attended esthetics school and sampled various mainstream products that Laura Lee couldn’t imagine using anything other than fresh-made organic products. “My skin was so unhappy in esthetics school, so we collaborated and grew our skincare product line and branded it Emerge Botanicals,” she says. “I created the labels and all.” She later realized the need for more individualized treatment products for acneic, sensitive, and mature skin. Now, seven years later, the Robinsons are building an in-house lab where they will soon take over production of the line.
While visiting the spa, I experienced the Emerge Signature Massage (starting at $90, 60 minutes), which incorporates hot stones, myofascial release, and lymphatic drainage. I also had a Full Botanical Facial (starting at $110, 75 minutes) with Laura Lee herself. Both treatments were a journey into bliss. It’s no surprise this charming B&B spa is bringing a much-needed dose of wellness to Wellsboro.