When Ruth Kraushar was a little girl, growing up on a grain farm in Saskatchewan, she dreamed of a future that involved working with hair. The founder of the Interlude Spa empire says she began styling hair even before she went to beauty school.
“If I could get a hold of a head, I would style it or dye it. I especially loved brushing my mother’s hair, but she wouldn’t let me cut it,” laughs Kraushar.
Kraushar’s mother raised Ruth on her own, as her father passed away when she was just a year old. This instilled an independent spirit in young Kraushar, who took a job at a flower shop as a teenager until she raised the funds to pay for tuition to the Marvel International Beauty School. In 1959, she graduated at the top of her class, at the age of 17.
“I got hired right away as a stylist, then I was promoted to assistant manager within the year.”
Kraushar was busy over the next several years, in the shop and in life. She got married, had a baby, got divorced and, by 1964, she was ready for a change of scenery. Kraushar caught wind of a job opening in Nova Scotia, then drove her young daughter more than 4000 km to work in the hotel now known as the Westin. Kraushar was soon promoted to a management position on the Dartmouth side, where she built up a significant client base. Eventually, Kraushar says she knew it was time to venture out on her own.
Two photos from Kraushar's personal scrapbook. Left: her first salon on Dawson Street; Right: Kraushar styling a client in 1969
“I remember meeting with the bank manager and he expressed concern that I was a single mother with two children by then. Even though I only had a photo of my 1955 Volvo for collateral, he saw something in me and agreed to the $3000 loan that I requested.”
In 1969, Kraushar opened a tiny salon on Dawson Street, not far from the MacDonald Bridge. Business was brisk and she soon outgrew the space. She says she wanted to expand in downtown Dartmouth and found the ideal spot for sale at 58 Ochterloney Street, the former manse of Grace United Church.
“I often say, the property was blessed. How can I go wrong?”
58 Ochterloney Street when Kraushar purchased the property in 1976
Exterior of Interlude Spa in 1976
Kraushar recruited family and friends to help her tear things down and set things up to convert the old house into a salon. Four days later, on May 6, 1976, downtown Dartmouth’s newest salon was open for business: Interlude Spa.
“I chose the name over a glass of wine. My friend has a music background and suggested the idea of a musical interlude, meaning a break or pause. It made think of time at a salon as taking a pause in your life to feel good. It worked,” says Kraushar.
The term “spa” was an intentional choice as well, as Kraushar knew she wanted to expand beyond hair styling to meet a growing demand for esthetic services. Interlude spa began offering nail services, then massage. Eventually, the building was bursting to accommodate nearly two dozen staff who were struggling to keep up with the growth of the business.
Interior of Interlude Spa in 1976
“I’d have a dozen women in my chair every day and I would listen to them. I heard that they wanted more spa services. Plus, so many told me they wanted to exercise more, but had children running around at home. That's when the idea of a women’s fitness club was born.”
Kraushar was ready to go for it, but she needed more than a used Volvo to convince folks to lend her the funds to put an 8000 square foot addition on a 2000 square foot historic building, complete with an indoor swimming pool. Once the money was secured (at record high interest rates), the construction company she was using went belly up. Kraushar convinced her daughter Rae to put her life on hold in Vancouver and come back to Dartmouth to help her save the project. Her son Brent also pitched in while working overnights in the airline industry. Together, the family created their own contracting company and finished the addition.
Photos of the construction of the addition to Interlude Spa in 1987
“In 1987, Interlude Spa became the first spa in Eastern Canada to offer fitness, a spa membership and all the spa services under one roof,” says Kraushar.
Information sheet for fitness programs at Interlude Spa circa the late 80s - note the Parking Tips
The bank manager who loaned her the money for the expansion bought the very first membership to the new facility, then thousands more followed. Kraushar continued to listen to her clients and adjusted the business to accommodate their changing needs. Over the past 45 years, Interlude Spa has shifted away from fitness to focus on offering more esthetics services, to more people. A second location opened in Halifax in 2002 and is soon moving into a larger space in the new Queens Marque complex.
Recently renovated "elevate" resting space at Interlude Spa Dartmouth
Krausher retired from overseeing operations at age 75, and still consults on the business. Interlude Spas now employ 70 people, including four of her closest family members.
“My son Brent and daughter-in-law Kim helped grow the business to what it is today. My grandson Kai is now in charge of managing and marketing and his brother Eli helps out when he’s not on the basketball court.”
Portrait above: James Arthur MacLean Photography