LITTLE CURRENT—From the moment you step over the threshold of Island Oasis you find yourself embraced in a warm blanket of calm. Not surprising, since the interior designed by owner Marilee Harasym has been walked through in her dreams for 10 years.
Along with her partner (and now employee) Joey Nahwegabow, the couple stands ready to make your stay at Island Oasis a truly memorable experience. “Everything here was designed by Marilee,” said Mr. Nahwegabow. “It was fun doing it,” admitted Ms. Harasym, who said that having worked for others for over a decade in the industry helped inform her layout.
“I have been working in spas pretty much since I graduated from esthetics college in 2012,” said Ms. Harasym. But for a lot of that time she found herself working part-time, having to supplement her income by working as a waitress at local restaurants. “When the pandemic hit there was nowhere to work in esthetics on the Island.”
Working from home or visiting other people’s homes was one solution, but eventually Ms. Harasym decided she needed a steady space to best meet the needs of her customers. “I got a tiny space above the Island Jar at first,” she said, “that was about a year ago now. Then I moved into a larger space down the hall. It was fine, everything was good there, I was situated. I didn’t plan on moving anywhere.”
“Then I heard about this place coming available,” said Ms. Harasym. “Joey kept after me to come and have a look.”
From the moment she walked in the door, she was hooked. “It was perfect,” she said. “Now I am in my forever spot.”
“When I opened here, I started fresh,” she said. “I had never really thought about started my own business. About a month before I opened, I thought I could never get it off the ground. There was so much stuff to do. But I started out small and built up from that.”
Then she met Mr. Nahwehgabo, who had moved back to Birch Island from Nova Scotia following a year under lockdown during the pandemic. “I had nobody there; all my family is here,” he said. “So, I came back to Manitoulin.” Soon after they met, Ms. Harasym had him trained in nail extensions. Himself an artist, he swiftly became adept at the craft and has even started to create his own designs inspired by his Indigenous culture. “When the powwows start up again, women will be looking for something distinctive that will complement their regalia,” he said. “I will be ready for them.”
Her business has skyrocketed, and Ms. Harasym now finds herself needing another esthetician. “We have two pedicure chairs, but I am the only one who does pedicures,” she said. “Joey just does nail extensions.”
The list of services offered by Island Oasis is extensive and decidedly co-ed, from manicure, pedicures (express, regular, spa in each), waxing (soon full body as well), henna and massage (including foot/leg, back/scalp, full body, aromatherapy, hot stone and exfoliation), the business is truly an oasis for the body and soul.
Ms. Harasym has also reached out to other businesses on the Island to provide cross-promotion and she offers a winter special where customers can enjoy an in-house meal while receiving their pedicure catered by Elliott’s Restaurant. “Joey delivers the food and they get to eat while they get to eat it with their pedicure,” she said. E’s Flowers in Mindemoya provides the rose petals for the glass bowls, her aunt Shirley Harasym’s Sunflower Boutiques supplies clothes that are on display, and We Have the Wood coasters and platters provide the trays for the meals. “I am always looking for other business to work with,” she said.
So when the winter blahs start getting you down, reserve your spot at the Island Oasis by calling 705-603-0770 and treat yourself to a relaxing bit of heaven.