Sisters run successful spa, still remain close
Karen and Tinamarie Lungari are not just business partners. They’re also sisters, which might explain why they don’t go more than an hour without talking to each other.
That communication, both sisters agree, is one key to their success. The Lungaris own and operate Meridians Spa and Wellness Center on Route 3A in Weymouth.
“The best thing about working with my sister is we understand each other. We know each other so well. I know what she’s going to say,” said Tinamarie Lungari, 52, of Weymouth.
Before she finishes her thought, Karen Lungari offers: “The business will come and go, but we’re sisters first.”
Says Tinamarie Lungari: “That’s pretty much what I was going to say.”
“Yeah, we finish each other’s sentences,” says her sister, laughing.
Growing up, the women were typical sisters. They fought about clothes, did each other’s hair and nails, and Tinamarie Lungari gave Karen Lungari her first haircut.
“We were always into hair and makeup,” said Karen Lungari. “She even did my hair and makeup for my prom.”
Coming from a close-knit Italian family might have something to do with their bond.
“If I don’t talk to my mother five times a day, it’s a problem,” said Karen Lungari, 49, of Quincy.
Their mother, Tina, lives with Tinamarie Lungari and helps out around the spa, running errands, making tea and lighting candles. And, before their father, Leo, former assistant superintendent of Quincy Housing’s maintenance department, died in 2005, he helped his daughters, doing handy-man jobs.
“Dad hung all the photos and shelves in here. He’s very much with us,” Karen Lungari said.
Adds her sister: “Yeah, it’s been a real family affair.”
With money borrowed from her parents, Karen Lungari opened her first spa and salon, Embellish, on Hancock Street in Quincy.
“It was 1986 and there was nothing like it on the South Shore,” she said. Her focus was on massage, hair, facials and personal touches not found elsewhere. She modeled Embellish on spas she studied in Europe.
“I went to England and the salons were like someone’s home.”
Since it was the 1980s, everything was bright, modern and sleek. That’s why Karen Lungari said she decided to take a risk and do the opposite.
“So I thought, I’m going back to the ’50s. I dug out my mom’s bone China collection, decorated in a Queen Anne style, served cookies, tea and home-baked scones,” Karen Lungari said.
And women loved it.
“People would call to ask, ‘Is this the place that serves the tea in real China cups?”' Karen Lungari said. “We all do it now, but back in the ’80s it was a novelty.”
Karen Lungari started with two employees and topped out at 30. “We were busy. We were rocking and rolling,” she said.
But, after 10 years in the salon and spa business, she wanted to downsize and to focus more on wellness treatments like massage and Reiki. In 1997 she sold Embellish and teamed up with her sister to open Meridians, a smaller spa with a warm, home-like ambience.
“I decided to drop the hair and go for tranquility. We wanted to do more massage, acupuncture and Reiki, too, and get more personalized,” Karen Lungari said.
Their mission for Meridians became “where tranquility meets wellness” and the focus was on massage. Every treatment – wraps, scrubs, facials, manicures and pedicures – include an aspect of massage.
In 1997 – way before massage rubbed its way into the mainstream, Karen Lungari again forged a new trail. She even worked with the city of Quincy to develop massage regulatory guidelines because there were none.
“Karen is like Midas; everything she touches turns to gold,” Tinamarie Lungari said.
In 1999 the sisters moved the spa to its current location in Weymouth.
“I believe we set the tone. We were trying to mainstream massage,” Karen Lungari said. “We had whole families coming to us and grew by word of mouth.”
At Meridians, the experience begins when a client walks in the door. He or she relaxes for a moment with a glass of water or tea while soft instrumental music plays in the back and the aroma of scented candles flows through the air.
The Lungaris are fanatics about professionalism and quality and today their roster still includes clients from when they first started out.
“One man came to me the first day we opened and has since come every week,” Karen Lungari said, adding they count doctors, chiropractors, nurses and other health care professionals as clients.
That retention speaks to their reputation.
“It means more to us than the paycheck,” Karen Lungari said.
Says massage therapist Renee Hicks: “They’re here all the time. Even if they’re not here, they’re doing something for Meridians. They are women we trust who live their work. They take care of everyone else first.”
Though they both do it all, Karen Lungari tends to specialize in massage while Tinamarie Lungari focuses on pedicures, facials, manicures and body waxing. In fact, clients call her the “Wax Queen.”
“It’s funny, because I taught her how to wax. Now she does a full leg wax in 20 minutes,” Karen Lungari said.
The sisters agree: It all goes back to their roots. They wouldn’t be successful if they couldn’t trust one another.
Do they fight?
“We have disagreements,” says Tinamarie Lungari.
Karen Lungari laughs.
“Sometimes we we have a discussion that happens to get loud. We’re Italian. In the end, you have to remember that you love each other.”
Reach Patriot Ledger writer Dana Barbuto at email@example.com.