Back then there were other “spas” scattered around the area. They were mostly small, old style, neighborhood convenience stores.
What originally distinguished a spa from a neighborhood shop was that a spa had a soda fountain. Most of the remaining spas gave up their soda fountains many years ago but the “spa” names live on. This meaning of “spa” is a uniquely New England thing. In fact I think its primarily just eastern Massachusetts. Somehow, I’d guess there’s some connection between “spa” and the name for what they served there – “tonic”. “Tonic” was the common eastern MA word for soda years ago, though that has mostly faded away … like the spas.
I always wondered whether there was some Puritan connection in all this. In other parts of the country, people would treat themselves to a delicious and sweet soda at the soda fountain. In MA we would go to the spa for a tonic – which sounds much more like an unpleasant medical necessity than a frivolous treat.
These days the Oakley Spa still lives on. The soda fountain’s long gone and they mostly sell convenience store items, beer and wine. You can still get a tonic there but you’ll have to take it in a bottle or can.