Harvey and Schumacher purchased Kneaded Relief knowing they’d have to make some fast changes: The previous owner had established a strictly clinical setting, used independent contractors and hired no front desk staff—choices that didn’t match the couple’s notion of what a day spa should be. They immediately set to work, expanding the esthetics side of the business and adding nail-care services. Harvey established personal training services. The pair also made cosmetic changes, overhauling the dated interior with new paint and carpet.
In the early weeks, robust gift certificate sales seemed to indicate that the new owners of Kneaded Relief had plenty of cash to spare, but by March, “We hit a wall,” Schumacher recalls. “We had to go back to the bank and ask for more remodeling money because we’d tapped into our gift certificate account. After that, we learned to not treat gift certificates as cash in the bank!”
Gift certificates also posed a challenge during a promotional push that went awry. Kneaded Relief sold gift certificates at 10-year-old prices on the 10th of every month—meaning that a one-hour massage cost $48. This was long before the days of Groupon, back when $48 massages were almost unheard of. With so many customers redeeming the certificates at such a deep discount, the spa quickly experienced a slump. “With our huge staff—all of whom receive a guaranteed hourly wage—we couldn’t maintain that popular deal,” Schumacher says. “That was a big lesson learned.”