Husband and wife duo Steve and Stacey Hitezmann have brought one-on-one assisted stretching to the region with the opening of Stretch Lab in the Strawberry Hill Shopping Center at the corner of Providence and Sardis roads.
And the couple plans on opening more locations in the near future, with a second store opening in Dilworth this August and future locations planned in Lake Norman, Ballantyne and Fort Mill, S.C.
So what exactly is Stretch Lab?
Assisted stretching is a concept that began quite recently, popping up around California in 2015. It has gained popularity ever since. Within the past year or so, it has picked up even more steam after studies have been released on the health benefits of assisted stretching which include increases in circulation, sports performances and injury recovery, increases in flexibility and range of motion, reduced pain and muscle joint discomfort, improved posture.
“We’re excited to introduce people to assisted stretching,” Steve said. “It’s for the athletes who need recovery or injury prevention, older people who are staying active, to the UNC Wilmington soccer player who is getting stretched in here right now, and really everyone in between. It really is for anybody.”
Steve got interested in stretching on his own a few years ago. He said like a lot of others after he turned 40, he started feeling stiffer, less mobile and flexible.
Steve said he went to chiropractors who would give him temporary relief but they usually advised him to stretch on his own, which he did in his home for nearly two years.
One day while reading the newspaper, Steve saw an article penned on the benefits of assisted stretching in general. He was hooked on the concept from then on and talked with Stacey about maybe opening a business.
“He talked about stretching a lot,” said Stacey with a laugh. “I would have to stop him at parties because he was so excited about it. Now, since opening this, we talk about stretching even more.”
Steve took a leap and opened a Stretch Lab franchise. The headquarters are based in California and there aren’t more than 30 locations in total yet, but the Hitezmanns plan on changing that soon.
What can you expect at Stretch Lab?
I was contacted by a public relations professional about possibly doing a story on this new assisted stretching concept coming to our area. I remember glancing at the email and thinking to myself that I was interested but there were so many questions going through my head.
I saved the email, but still wasn’t really sure what it was. Plus, there were about four or five people getting simultaneous stretches in a picture on their website and I thought that may be strange.
When the PR pro contacted me again, I said what the heck.
After all, I’m in Steve’s camp. I’m in my 40s and have horrible posture. I also sit most of the day typing on a laptop at my desk which makes my back hurt most of the time. Worse, since my cancer recovery in early 2018 I have done very little physical activity after being an avid runner before that.
Anyway, I wanted to check it out.
I walked in and was greeted by Steve, his general manager and my flexologist, Chris Fernandez, a former physical therapist who moved to the area from New York.
The first thing I noticed was how clean and bright the inside was. And it was busy, even at 9:30 on a Friday morning.
Fernandez sat down with me at first and explained what he was going to do and made it a very personalized experience by asking for my injury history, where I had any pain or areas of concern and was more than friendly.
Personally, I’m not allowed to get my neck area massaged or worked on, and he was more than cognizant on the stretches that have the capability to even remotely involve that part of my body.
The goal is to get to a seven on a 1-10 scale of pressure – but never pain – on the lower-body stretches and a five on the same scale on the upper-body ones.
But there is never pain. And Fernandez and the other flexologists can sense when it reaches that point before I could anyway.
Even though there were probably three other people occupying the six custom-made stretch tables inside the business, it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The first thing I had to do was stretch and try to touch my toes from a seated position.
Sadly I couldn’t do it, falling about a hands-length short.
Fernandez worked me through a 25-minute session focusing mostly on my legs, back and shoulders. During each stretch, flexologists make sure you are comfortable and spell out each step of the process.
Each new stretch seemed to feel better than the last and when my session ended, I could totally feel a difference.
Steve commented that I looked taller, and I certainly felt it. Aching areas no longer hurt and, after just one 25-minute session, I could now not only touch my toes, but go about a hands-length past.
“One-on-one stretch is kind of the sweet spot for us because it’s one on one and you can kind of customize it to fit your needs,” Steve said. “That’s where you can really have it customizable.”
How does it work?
Stacey said there has been a lot of foot traffic coming through the door since they opened the SouthPark location on May 30.
“It’s a totally new concept in Charlotte, so there is a lot of curiosity surrounding this place,” she said.
Stacey is a licensed dietitian by trade. All of the flexologists are either physical therapists, athletic trainers, yoga instructors and/or stretch therapists. All must have accredited licenses and flexologists go through 70 hours of training specific to Stretch Lab and an additional 20 hours of going through the routines to totally master them.
People may come for their first stretch out of curiosity, but both of the Hitezmanns said most come back due to the benefits of the trained staff.
The one-on-one stretches are offered in 25- and 50-minute sessions. You can customize your experience by picking your flexologist online beforehand and scheduling a time and day to come. All of that can be accomplished on their website.
The Hitezmanns are also getting into group classes where up to six people can stretch with one flexologist, but bands and other props are used more in the group setting. There is also one-on-one yoga stretching that is very popular.
What’s the future?
The future in now for Stretch Lab, which has gained much support in the short time they’ve opened.
Steve said word-of-mouth advertising was spread with pop-up stations around town while waiting a few months on their SouthPark store to open after bad weather and rain delayed construction for several months. He said many people approached him about opening in the Lake Norman, Fort Mill and Ballantyne areas, each heavily populated centers the thinks the concept will work in.
“I think if people come once they can already start to see the benefits,” Steve said. “But once they get on a plan and come once or twice a week, they can really, really see the benefits. But it’s a help to anyone because it’s a compliment to any workout routine that’s out there. It really is for everyone and it can help anyone. I think we’re just starting to pick up our momentum here.”
Want to go?
The SouthPark location is in a brand-new strip near the Fresh Market at Strawberry Hill. The address is 4914 Old Sardis Road, Unit C3. Call 704-585-8941 or visit the website at https://local.stretchlab.com/location/south park. Their new location, opening in August, is in Kenilworth Commons, 1235 East Blvd.