Melissa and Brian Long, of Asheville’s Wake Foot Sanctuary, are expanding their unique day spa vision to the franchise milieu.
The words “foot” and “sanctuary” might seem to be unlikely pairings. But we are talking Asheville, where “unlikely pairings” is more than a mental exercise—it has become an imprimatur.
So: Wake Foot Sanctuary, formed by Melissa and Brian Long in late 2011, with the sole—pun intended—purpose of giving customers a foot-soaking/pampering experience that would live up to their own high standards of inducing comfort and reducing stress. Located in the historic Grove Arcade, the spa opened its doors in May of 2013.
“Wake Foot Sanctuary is, at its core, born out of a love to serve others and to see that immediate response of enjoyment and satisfaction in people’s faces,” says Melissa. “I have always been a spa junkie, so this simple and unique take on a spa experience felt right in line with spa trends for shorter duration services, unique offerings, and something that could be enjoyed alone or with friends/loved ones.
“I think we stay true to a very simple model, which is quite uncommon within the larger spa industry. We specialize in luxurious foot soaks with massage services across three core body areas: head, neck, and shoulder; hand and lower arm; and foot and lower leg. No manicures, no pedicures, no facials, no full body massage. People not only love the uniqueness of the communal spa experience, they love that the service offers less time commitment than traditional spa services and they only have to remove socks and shoes to get totally blissed out for an hour!”
This fresh concept for spa-going has been a success, to say the least, in Asheville—so much so, that without making reservations, it is increasingly difficult for weekend walk-ins, and often on weekdays as well. One obvious response for the Longs has been to increase staffing, although as Melissa is quick to note, “Like many service based businesses, staffing is often the greatest challenge. We are in a city with a pretty impressive number of spas per capita, so we are competing with many employers to try to get and retain high quality employees. Over the years, we have developed a hiring process to procure the best talent.”
And with success comes outside curiosity. Clients, and no doubt other spa owners, took note of Wake’s inroads within the day spa industry, and inquiries about franchising the business followed.
“[People] told us it was because we seemed to be really polished—from branding to our build out,” explains Melissa. “We also have our own Wake retail apothecary line. In the summer of 2016, we completed a viability study to benchmark ourselves against the leading spa franchises, and the results definitely showed us that we were at a point where we were ready to take that next step into franchising.”
Enter Wake Franchising Systems, and several months of building out legal and internal documentation, plus assembling real estate, architectural, marketing, and sales teams, to support the larger franchise goals. Adds Melissa, “Franchising has also required us to view big picture goals about growing our staff, not just in the number of people we are hiring, but in providing training and leadership to promote our staff from within to realize greater responsibility.”
Currently, Wake’s goal is open three to six new franchises by next year, with a long-term target of 30 or more sold by 2021. For the time being, the emphasis will be on the Southeast. “Within a few minutes of launching our newsletter for franchise offering,” recalls Melissa, “we started to field [inquiries], but there have been several that we have had to decline or put on pause due to distance. It’s very important to us to grow in a sustainable way, so that our franchisees feel that they are supported fully and that we set them up for a very successful future. As one of our wise franchise team members told us, ‘It’s not a sprint—it’s a marathon, when you franchise the right way.’
“With a service-based model, our strategy to grow by franchising is to ensure that we are finding the right owners, that possess a great leadership talent, to grow a business with a legacy of service for themselves. An owner-based model helps to ensure that there is more skin in the game and that business execution follows that investment both in time and money. After all, our mission statement is to provide service excellence through a strong leadership culture, and we are lucky to have a core leadership team that we view like our family, who hunger for the success of both Wake Asheville and future Wake Foot Sanctuaries as we do.”
Information about Wake Foot Sanctuary online: www.Wakespa.com
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