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The Queen's former florist opens new beauty salon in Bishop's Stortford

A former florist to the Queen has opened a salon where clients are treated like royalty.

Kelly Dowden, 42, retrained in reflexology and beauty after ill health forced her to give up her highly successful floristry career, part of which she spent working at Moyses Stevens in Sloane Street, which is London's oldest florist and holder of the Royal Warrant.

She is now the owner of Bishop's Stortford's newest salon, Hideaway Retreat, which offers a range of luxurious facials, manicures, pedicures and more for those who enjoy the VIP treatment.

From left, Melissa, Kelly, Leah and Alison at Hideaway Retreat. Picture: Vikki Lince
From left, Melissa, Kelly, Leah and Alison at Hideaway Retreat. Picture: Vikki Lince

The married mum-of-two said: "What I've tried to create is a lovely little hub where people can come and relax, get away from it all and just enjoy a lovely treatment without any rush."

Having worked for Moyses Stevens and others for almost 10 years, Kelly then set up her own flower shop, The Village Florist, in Highams Park, before being advised to quit the floristry industry by doctors after unexpectedly suffering a collapsed lung back in 2002.

"The collapsed lung just happened completely out of the blue one day and I was quite poorly for a long time," she said. "I had to have a major operation and then a very long recovery, and basically they advised me that I shouldn't really continue in the floristry industry because it's physical work and was too much for my body. But I've always been a hard worker and don't like to sit still so really, for me, there wasn't any other option but to retrain."

Kelly Dowden. Picture: Vikki Lince
Kelly Dowden. Picture: Vikki Lince

Having found reflexology beneficial during her recovery, she decided to go back to college to train in the alternative therapy, initially working as a mobile reflexologist before going on to study beauty and most recently working as a skin spa specialist for Clarins based in Cambridge.

"I studied anatomy and physiology at college and decided to specialise in reflexology because it's what returned me to good health," she said. "I did that successfully as a mobile therapist for about a year but found it quite lonely, so decided to do the beauty course as well. I really enjoyed working for Clarins but more and more kept thinking to myself that I could set up on my own."

It was while having her hair cut at M Salon in South Street that she heard the premises above were empty and, after making some enquiries, she decided it would make the ideal location to set up her own spa-inspired retreat

"It's small and snug, which I really like as it feels cosy and intimate," Kelly said. "It's got a lovely spa-feel and what's great is that people can have their hair done downstairs and then come up to us for a treatment or two. They can make a day of it and really unwind."

Kelly Dowden doing reflexology. Picture: Vikki Lince
Kelly Dowden doing reflexology. Picture: Vikki Lince

Kelly said the feedback from clients had so far been incredibly positive, adding: "Every client we've seen has rebooked, so that's great. I love having treatments myself, so I have really high expectations of the level of service I want to offer, and I also absolutely believe in what it can do for your health and wellbeing."

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