‘Warmth And Belonging’ at a Kingston Spa
When Dr. Aba Mortley first arrived in Kingston in 1998, it was to pursue an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Queen’s University. Coming from Trinidad, she knew moving to Canada would already represent a big culture shock and she didn’t want to also be inundated with a big city. So instead of heading to McGill in Montreal like most of her family had before her, she chose Queen’s in Kingston — a perfect-sized city with a small-town feel. Little did she know at the time that Kingston would soon become home; a place where she would start her business, raise her family and inspire a whole city with her dedication to community building.
In our first conversation, I ask Aba a question she doesn’t like answering: what is your favourite product? For the owner of Cher-Mère Day Spa in Kingston, asking her to choose her favourite product is like asking her to pick her favourite child. “I can’t choose just one,” she laughs.
I can see her dilemma. All the products used at Cher-Mère spas come from a line developed by Aba’s own mother, using natural ingredients native to Trinidad. It is a line of products Aba grew up using, and one that represents her mother’s passion and the warmth of the Caribbean where Aba grew up. The products are designed to be used by everyone — a sense of belonging that Aba carries through to the ambiance of her Canadian spas.
“I think the thing about our spas that people really like, that resonates with them, is the warmth,” she says. “We try to make it so people feel really welcome. I think my goal in these spas is that regardless of who you are, where you’re at, I want people to be able to come in and feel like they had a moment and really enjoyed the spa. We want the spa to embody warmth and belonging.”
In the end, Aba picks four favourites (coincidentally, she also has four children): INatural Moisture Hair Therapy (“my hair loves it”), Splendour Body Oil (“it is light but really moisturizing”), Facial Oil (“it’s so good”) and the Moringa Facial Wash (“I really love it”).
Aba’s resume is impressive: after earning her degree from Queen’s University, she went on to pursue a Masters and PhD in Materials and Chemical Engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada. She runs two successful Day Spas. She was the Chair of the Tourism Kingston Board and is a board member of the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area. She is co-chair of Queen’s University Council of Anti-Racism and Equity and founded the Let’s Talk Kingston series aimed at promoting discussions about racism, inclusion and equity. She has been involved for many years with Youth Diversion, a Kingston-based youth-at-risk program. Recently, Aba was awarded the Kingston Civic Award for Honourable Achievement.
At the heart of Aba’s many commitments is community, something that is very important to her, her family and her business. Whether it comes to volunteer work, the charities she supports through her business or the environmentally friendly packaging on her products, Aba lives by the philosophy that community is everything.
“We are part of a community so we have to give back to that community, be involved in it,” she says. “If we are asking people to come to us, we also have to go to them, to reach out…We are all part of a whole.”
Kingston Is A Perfect Wellness Getaway
Aba lives in Downtown Kingston with her husband and their four children. On weekends, they enjoy walking along the waterfront, playing at the park and eating at their favourite spots.
For anyone looking for a wellness retreat, Aba believes Kingston fits the bill. “When I think of ‘wellness’ I think of a moment of reprieve from your life, a moment to indulge a little more than you might normally in your everyday life,” she says.
From the eclectic mix of shops and historic feel of the downtown core to the beautiful waterfront and amazing restaurants, the city has something to please everyone.
‘You can get a little bit of everything you want in a small, walkable area and leave feeling rejuvenated.”
This post was first published in October 2021 and updated in January 2023.