The Berkshires Beckons You: SEVEN

by David Perry

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 25, 2013

You may not have heard of Mark Johnson, but if the names Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington ring a few bells, you know his work. Having legendary supermodels on your CV lends you what the world calls gravitas.

But far be it from Johnson to restrict himself to the runway. Bringing couture sophistication and rarified luxury to the mortal realm is his stock and trade at SEVEN in the picturesque Berkshires.

"Mark was working in New York and wanted his own salon," Maurice Peterson, Johnson's partner of 23 years (and husband for two), told EDGE. Rather than open a space in the high-priced New York market, the two set their sights on Stockbridge, Mass., the picture-perfect town made famous by Norman Rockwell where Johnson and Peterson had a second home. They now live there full time.

The two-level, 35,000-square-foot salon, nestled in a candy-yellow house in downtown Stockbridge, is devoted entirely to aesthetics and relaxation. Guests enjoy an experience that would keep even Campbell’s high-velocity cell phone pacifically tucked away. The services include 13 kinds of hair treatments, 14 forms of waxing and 11 massage treatments drawing from different modalities, but "The Heaven Package" is highlighted as a signature service.

"It’s a full day of relaxation and luxuriating -- pure indulgence," Peterson said. Guests are pampered with a Deep Cleansing Facial (80 minutes), a Vitamin Infusion Body Treatment (another 80 minutes), a 50-minute massage and a private steam bath. It’s all topped off with a manicure.

Johnson makes even the simplest trim an excuse to pamper, believing that hair should be "natural and free, a sexy expression of one’s self." Using only top-end products (Davines and Schwarzkopf for hair color and Environ and Comfort Zone for facials), he applies the same skill to salon patrons as he does to the famous faces gracing Essence and Glamour magazines.

"We do a great job, and we have the best team available in the Berkshires," Peterson said.

Yet nothing wilts faster than the laurels on which one rests. Not content to coast on past accolades, Johnson and Peterson maintain exacting standards for their staff to keep the outstanding reviews coming. Beauty-school graduates must apprentice under Johnson’s watchful eye for two years before they get anywhere near a pair of scissors.

The rigor is an essential part of the spa’s brand. "We have a very cosmopolitan feel in the county," Peterson said. "We wanted to bring sophistication in to a country location."

The hard work shows. Long a darling of the local society pages, SEVEN officially "made it" in 2007, when Boston Magazine rated it the best day spa in Berkshire County. The salon remains the titleholder.

While "country" can put off some in the LGBT community, Stockbridge disabuses them of that notion. Marking its seventh anniversary, the business is a valued facet of the Berkshires community and so well-regarded that word-of-mouth is doing a better job than any advertising campaign. In addition to their business savvy, Peterson and Johnson make a point to give back by supporting a variety of local charities, including The Berkshires Stonewall Community Coalition.

"They love us here," Peterson said. "We were totally welcomed here, and we’ve never had any problems that we were a gay couple owning a business."

With Valentine’s Day approaching, Johnson and Peterson have fashioned SEVEN to be enjoyed by couples, gay and straight alike.

"Our couples massages are very romantic," Peterson said. "And two girls or two guys is totally exciting for us."

Not bad for two fellows who met at the YMCA swimming pool.

The Seven
7 South St.
Stockbridge MA 01262
(413) 298-0117

David Perry is a freelance travel and news journalist. In addition to EDGE, his work has appeared on ChinaTopix, Thrillist, and in Next Magazine and Steele Luxury Travel among others. Follow him on Twitter at @GhastEald.