Meet Your Merchant: Dottie Lively’s Penn Valley spa has been a local favorite for more than two decades |

Meet Your Merchant: Dottie Lively’s Penn Valley spa has been a local favorite for more than two decades

Head to Heal day spa owner Dottie Lively shows off one of the massage rooms at her Penn Valley location.
Elias Funez/ |

Head to Heal Day Spa

17325 Penn Valley Dr., Penn Valley

Hours: By appointment only, Monday through Saturday and occasionally Sundays

Phone: 530-432-4777

Born in the rolling hills of Kentucky, Dottie Lively took the long route to Penn Valley. While still a child, she left her southern home to travel to faraway places she couldn’t have imagined.

A self-described “service brat,” Dottie’s military father took the family of six to live in 18-month stints all over the U.S., as well as Europe and Asia. Her lifestyle gave her a certain resilience — for example, she would make a new best friend in France one year only to move to Taiwan the next.

Dottie’s children were born in the San Francisco Bay Area before the young family moved to Nevada County. Dottie worked the lunch shift at a local restaurant so she could be home in time for her kids after school. Once they were grown and gone, she was ready for a change. She took classes in health, anatomy and physiology at Sierra College and landed an internship as a tech at a Grass Valley physical therapist’s office. She loved it, and she was good at it. The owner hired her and she stayed for the next 13 years, until she became a certified massage therapist.

Slowly she began weaning herself from the physical therapist’s office and building up a list of her own massage clients.

Out on her own

Eventually she rented a treatment room at Head to Heal Day Spa in Penn Valley, then owned by Valerie Leggett. It was a good fit, so when Valerie was ready to retire, it seemed like a natural transition for Dottie to take over. She was officially handed the keys to the Head to Heal in 2005, and in 2012 relocated the spa from Spenceville Road to a small shopping center on Penn Valley Drive. Due to the increase in foot traffic and visibility, business quickly picked up and Dottie’s never looked back.

This summer will mark her 13th year of owning the day spa. Not only does she have an extensive list of loyal, longtime clients, she said her knowledgeable and professional staff makes coming to work a pleasant, easy experience.

The crew at Head to Heal Day Spa consists of massage therapists Myrrah Freeman and Sonata Nunes, skin care therapist Carol Casey and nail technician Ranee Monroe Lawson. Despite a “family feel” among coworkers, each employee is an independent contractor and each has decorated her own room in warm, healing hues. Dottie herself has scaled back on massages and mostly oversees daily operations, however she is known for her “facelift massage,” which includes aromatherapy oils combined with steamed towels and acupressure, tapping, contouring strokes and lymph drainage designed to rejuvenate and tone the muscles and skin of the face.

“We don’t do hair here and we don’t do acrylic nails,” said Dottie. “I think people appreciate the fact that we don’t have those fumes coming through the vents.”

Pampered patrons

Certified massage therapists Myrrah and Sonata offer several modalities, including therapeutic massage, hot stone therapy, warm oil massage with cupping, Reiki, reflexology, acupressure massage, sports massage and more.

Skin care services include a European facial using fruit enzymes, a “deluxe spa facial” that includes a neck and shoulder massage, a “clinical facial” that is designed to help the effects of Rosacea, a clear skin peel, an Acai berry lactic acid peel, a blueberry scrub, waxing and more. Men’s facials “retreat packages” are also available.

Ranee, a licensed manicurist, offers natural shellac nails that “combine the ease of polish with the permanence of gels, boasting a 14-day high gloss shine. Popular treatments are the “Citrus Spa Manicure with zesty citrus oils,” the “Earth Spa Pedicure with minerals” and the “Marine Spa Pedicure” with marine botanicals, quartz crystals, menthol and sea salts.

“The best part of this work is seeing people feel good and getting pampered,” said Dottie. “I love seeing them smile as they walk out the door.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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