MATTHEWS – After a three-decade career at ADT Security Services, Joe O’Connell was burnt out and ready for a change. He wanted more work-life balance and something he and his wife, Jen, could do together.
The Ballantyne couple spent the last year researching health and lifestyle business opportunities and eventually landed on Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, a franchise with more than 450 locations across the country.
They plan to open in the Matthews Corners Shopping Center at 2304 Matthews Township Pkwy., next month with a grand opening planned for Oct. 17. The location marks the 21st Hand & Stone in North Carolina.
“It was a natural draw for both of us and a little less hectic than the corporate world,” Joe O’Connell said.
Part of that draw was Hand & Stone’s brand experience and its mission to bring quality spa and wellness practices to the masses. That includes the level of training required for owners, spa associates, massage therapists and licensed estheticians, Joe O’Connell said.
Hand & Stone offers a variety of massages – Swedish, deep tissue, sports, hot stone, trigger point, prenatal, couples – as well as facials and full body hair removal. There are also special treatments like an anti-aging collagen facial, rosacea facial, lactic peel, salicylic peel, microdermabrasion and a peppermint scalp massage.
Nicole Alburger, senior director of franchise development for Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, works directly with potential franchisees from the moment they call for information to the day they open their own location.
“It’s really rewarding to see people able to fulfill what for most is a lifelong dream of being an independent business owner,” she said.
At Hand & Stone, Alburger said the ideal franchisee is a hands-on operator that’s going to be immersed in the business.
“We want them to be a people person. We want them to be able to manage and motivate their staff and at the end of the day, happy staff makes happy customers,” Alburger said. “We want to find the best people, which is what we found in Joe and Jen – they are going to be great operators – and then we want to match them with the best real estate in the market.”
Jen O’Connell said the location in Matthews Corners has good traffic with stores like Hobby Lobby, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Ollie’s and Marshalls, as well as restaurants like Five Guys and Jersey Mike’s.
“It’s a pretty busy part of Matthews,” Jen O’Connell said.
The startup process has also been busy for the O’Connells, but Jen said the most exciting part has been watching the space evolve during the build. The spa features soft and soothing colors, a stone water wall, stone front counter and a lobby with seating and refreshments.
There are three facial rooms and six massage rooms, one of which is for couples. Each room has its own sound, lighting and temperature controls that can be customized during a session.
“The idea behind any good massage is that the customer is in control,” Joe O’Connell said. “They should be directing their therapist in how much pressure they want and how they want the room to be. It’s their experience and their therapist should be working toward making their experience terrific.”
Of course, the O’Connells did not plan to become new business owners in the middle of a pandemic, but they’re doing everything they can to make it work. This means adhering to state safety rules, mask mandates for staff and customers and heightened sanitization procedures.
Jen O’Connell said all customers will be emailed a questionnaire about their health, as well as a COVID-19 form the day before their appointment. They must call when they arrive, wait in their car and get their temperature taken at the door.
Staff also get their temperature taken every day and must wear masks while working. Estheticians wear a mask and face shield.
Rooms are wiped down after every service and high-touch surfaces are cleaned regularly. All staff are required to pass a spa sanitation and illness prevention course, which includes a practical exam.
Although not ideal, Jen O’Connell said opening a massage spa during a pandemic could actually be a blessing. She said many people are home-schooling their children and craving an hour of peace. Others are experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety and need to relax, or just get out of the house.
On top of that, there are those who canceled their vacations this year, but still want an escape.
“The hope is that we are actually opening at a good time,” Jen said.
As a corporate man, Joe O’Connell thinks about all the people now working from home. He said homes are not ergonomically designed like offices are, which means back and neck problems from hunching over a laptop at the kitchen table.
Joe said his first massage helped him recover from back pain.
“It really is a way to heal your body from a lot of different problems from sitting funny or pulling a muscle, whatever it may be,” he said. “It’s about taking care of yourself.”
Want to go?
A grand opening for Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa at 2304 Matthews Township Pkwy., is scheduled for Oct. 17. Visit www.handandstonematthews.com for a list of services and follow @handandstonemat thews on Facebook to be the first to know about upcoming specials.