“We live in a world where it’s just about the almighty dollar, and everybody’s just a number, and that’s just not the case here,” said Mary Jane Bates, owner of the Desert Rose Salon in Moriarty.
The salon, once a simple modular home, has bloomed into a 10,000 square foot, multi-room spa, salon, gift shop, and equestrian center. The salon is located at 17 Stillwater in Moriarty, off Lexco Road.
Bates, who is medi-spa certified and the only hydrotherapist in the state, is the creative force and personality behind this faith-based wellness destination.
Born and raised in Albuquerque, Bates said she’d always wanted to live in the country. After running several businesses in Red River, including a bridal boutique, she decided to buy rural land somewhere to raise her daughter peacefully.
She discussed with her father locations she was looking at, like Los Lunas, Corrales, Belen, and Bosque. Bates’ father told her, “No, ‘jita, you need to go to the East Mountains.” She took his advice.
As her daughter was attending school, Bates struck out to find a booth somewhere in Moriarty she could rent as a massage therapist to meet clients and make some money. The first place she went, a “Pepto Bismol-pink” home of just 300 square feet, she said, had one literal broom closet to rent.
So she went to work and put mirrors all over the walls, and brought in a chair that would serve as her massage chair, manicure table, and hairdressing chair.
“Three months later,” said Bates, “there was a line out the door.” The owners of the property suggested she go ahead and buy the establishment from them since she clearly needed to expand. And thus, the tiny pink stucco building blossomed into the Desert Rose Salon.
Bates began to construct her vision, but only five years into her journey, the salon suffered a devastating fire. “The place was gutted,” she said.
She said she was young and woefully underinsured, leaving her with “nothing but the shirt on [her] back.” She and her daughter had to start over from scratch.
But Bates’ faith in her mission was never shaken. In fact, amidst the smoky wreckage of her former home, one of the firefighters asked how she could be so calm.
She told him, “[T]here’s no lives in there. You can always make more stuff.” She proved this by completing the rebuild of her home and spa, and not a moment too soon.
As her daughter went off to college at the University of New Mexico, and as Bates contemplated commuting to various hotels and casinos in Albuquerque that she was already affiliated with, her mother showed up and said she was moving in.
Bates said that she figured out pretty quickly that she, as well as much of the nation, was “not prepared for elder care.” Suddenly, daily trips to the city would become infeasible. So Bates focused on making the Desert Rose a destination location so she could be available to aid her mother and continue working.
Bates’ now 94-year old mother has been living on the premises for the past 12 years, and Bates said “40% of my clientele is [coming] from the west side.”
The Desert Rose Salon has the largest menu of services available in the state, said Bates, with 250 options available. In addition to expected salon treatments like hair, nails, massages, and facials, Bates also offers treatments like body wraps and scrubs, light therapy, teeth whitening, permanent cosmetics, and tattoo removal.
The Desert Rose is more than a traditional salon and spa. In addition to aesthetic and physical services, the salon also features a gift boutique loaded with imported goodies and treats, which Bates uses to make customized gift baskets. There’s also jewelry, pottery, and turquoise-inlaid carved wooden bowls available for purchase. And horse stables.
Bates has been breeding Pomeranians and horses for 25 years, and many of her animals are trained therapy animals. She spoke of times when both species have helped clients.
On one occasion, a man was referred to the salon because he just wasn’t feeling right, said Bates. He was experiencing issues with his family at home. Bates and the man walked and talked, discussing communication and how it can be constructive in many forms.
The man had said he didn’t feel like he was communicating effectively at home, said Bates. So she took him to the horses.
“What would you do if you had to move that horse to that area without touching him?” she asked the man, pointing across the enclosure.
The man balked and said he was sure the horse wouldn’t listen to him, much like his family at home. Bates said they discussed some nonverbal, non-physical forms of communication, the man listened, and when he went toward the therapy-trained horse, the two began instinctively communicating, and the man was able to lead the horse. This, said Bates, brought the man to tears.
On another occasion, she was contacted by a woman who wanted to give her son, who was just getting out of the military, a very specifically-colored Pomeranian. The picture the woman showed Bates was of a beautiful but dark Pomeranian, and Bates was only breeding a lighter, more rare coloration. She told the woman that it was genetically unlikely, but that she’d pray on it.
When the next litter was born, there, for only the second time in 25 years, said Bates, was one darkly-colored puppy in the mix. And it was virtually identical to the photo the mom had sent—but that’s not all.
During a phone conversation between that mother and Bates, the woman told Bates that the dog kept licking one spot on her chest repeatedly. Bates asked if there were any rashes or lesions on the area, but the woman said there weren’t. Bates suggested she visit her doctor.
Upon that visit, the woman found out she had a cancerous tumor in that very spot on her chest, and she exclaimed to Bates that the puppy “saved her life.”
Talking to Mary Jane Bates, it becomes clear that she is a woman of faith who wants, more than anything, to help. “When there’s a need, it is my desire to fill it,” she said.
One of the only things that had been missing from the salon, she said, was a way for guests to stay overnight. So many people drive to the salon from fair distances, and then proceed to get a series of relaxing treatments that turn them into “a wet noodle,” said Bates. But as much space as the salon occupies now, there just isn’t room for guests to stay comfortably and privately, she said.
Bates knew she wanted to expand further. She purchased, refurbished, and rebuilt no less than three properties with the intent of making those spaces into overnight accommodations for salon guests.
Now, with one large, plush RV on the premises just about ready, and another camper coming shortly, the Desert Rose is ready to start adding an overnight package—complete with prepared meals and full use of the spa’s amenities—to existing treatment packages.
The salon should be able to take bookings for those accommodations “within two to three weeks,” said Bates.
If the thinking is that one would have to save up for months to be able to afford some self-care at the Desert Rose, think again. Bates doesn’t list prices for any of the services offered at the salon for a very specific reason. “I never want anyone to look on the website and think ‘I really need that,’ and be intimidated and think they can’t afford it,” she said. She creates a personalized package for each guest or group based on their budget.
“I customize the packages with each individual. Basically they call me or they come in … and then I start talking to them, and it becomes very clear very quickly what they need and what they want.”
If you want to swim against a 6 MPH current in a massive Michael Phelps swim spa, no problem. If you’d like to try chromotherapy—bathing in varying colors of lights to bring about different results—you can do it here.
If you’re more interested in soaking in a hot tub with your sweetheart while dipping strawberries into a chocolate fountain, the Desert Rose has got your back, too.
Whatever your ailment or concern, it’s entirely possible that Mary Jane Bates at the Desert Rose can help.
“The money will always come,” said Bates. “I truly will live out the dreams of Jesus, and he truly will always take care of mine. I’ve seen this time and time again.”
Bookings can be done through the website, desertrosenm.com, or by calling the salon at 505-832-2010. The website features a full list of services offered, but don’t hesitate to call with any questions, said Bates.
The Desert Rose does not allow multiple bookings simultaneously, so guests are sure to be comfortable and unencumbered.
“We want to offer an experience as well as great memories,” said Bates. After 14 expansions in 25 years, and no signs of slowing down, residents of the East Mountains are able to treat themselves in a variety of wonderful ways without even having to set foot in the city.