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Robert and Maurita Elias can be choosy in their hiring. The owners of the Woodhouse Day Spa pride themselves on catering to their customers’ every need. So when there is an opening for the front-desk staff, they want to make sure they hire the right person for the job, even though the position lacks a true job description.
Robert and Maurita Elias had prior experience with a franchise. . ‘We decided it was time for us to do something different,’ said Robert Elias.
It’s a bit receptionist, scheduler and greeter.
What sounds like a corporate slogan is really a commitment to customer service that has earned the Eliases national recognition.
The husband and wife can take some credit for the award. They got aboard early as franchise owners and partners in the business with Woodhouse founder Jeni Garrett. She opened the first Woodhouse Day Spa in Victoria, Texas, in 2001.
Laura Flanagan, director of franchisee relations for Woodhouse, said the Eliases participate actively in the company and described them as extremely valuable to the operation. “They were our first franchise location,” she said.
The Eliases brought the Woodhouse name east in November 2003, the same year they met Garrett at a franchise show in Washington, D.C.
“We hit it off with her,” Robert Elias, 50, explained.
The Eliases, Garrett and her husband, Derrick, became partners in the privately held business with the aim of expanding. Each partner brought a different set of skills to the table – Robert Elias, a practicing attorney with Lenahan & Dempsey; Maurita, retail and marketing experience from operating Party City franchises; Derrick Garrett, an anesthesiologist; and Jeni Garrett, an entrepreneur. They’ve set a goal of 100 spas nationwide by 2012, and there’s a possibility the company one day could become publicly owned. The company’s financial data is confidential.
“We decided it was time for us to do something different,” Robert Elias said of the switch to opening the day spa.
What better way to educate people about personal health and wellness than through the spa, added 47-year-old Maurita Elias. The enterprise is more than making money, it’s also about “making a difference in lives,” she said.
Elias and her husband, both Wilkes-Barre area natives, restored a three-story, Tudor-style house built in 1911 on Wyoming Avenue. The uppermost floor houses their offices, with the lower floors sectioned into various rooms where the staff of 24 performs manicures and pedicures, massages and provides other skin and body treatments. The spa, like the 23 other across the country bearing the Woodhouse name and the six soon to open, adheres to a set of principles that ensure consistency of treatment and experience with each visit.
What they saw and heard from Garrett in Texas attracted the Eliases to become franchise owners and allayed their fears of failure.
“If we do it the same way, it will work here, and it has,” said Robert Elias.
Not all of the spas locations are in properties like those in Kingston or Victoria. Many are in lifestyle centers, said Robert Elias. The spas range between 3,500 and 7,000 square feet.
The men and women who pass through the doors enter a haven where the sights, sounds and smells transport them far away from the daily grind. “They’re not just customers to us, they’re guests in our house,” Maurita Elias said.
Inside they can choose to undergo a detoxifying seaweed wrap at $85 for an hour and 15 minutes, a volcanic stone massage at $80 for an hour, or go for the full treatment at a cost of $385 for six hours and 15 minutes. The time element distinguishes the Woodhouse from destination spas that offer longer getaways.
The spa will likely be the only Woodhouse franchise locally and the couple intend to focus on its operation and the future of the company. Without disclosing specific numbers, Maurita Elias said business has been increasing every year at the Kingston franchise and that she and her husband are very happy with the spa’s performance. “This is where we want to be,” she said.
Get away for a day
The Woodhouse Day Spa is located at 387 Wyoming Ave., Kingston PA.