Colleen Bennett - Sotheby's International Realty

Successful La Verne Business Owner Is Strictly Hands-On

May 12, 2009
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From left, Massage Envy's Amber Bartucca, Alison Ramirez, Rick Diebold and Jennifer Blaz are ready to help you enjoy all the health benefits of massage therapy.

From left, Massage Envy's Amber Bartucca, Alison Ramirez, Rick Diebold and Jennifer Blaz are ready to help you enjoy all the health benefits of massage therapy.

Take your first step into Massage Envy, and you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore … or even La Verne. From head to toe, Massage Envy’s design and décor are divine — a peaceful, professional place accented in purple and maize that welcomes you to the endless therapeutic and stress-relieving benefits of massage therapy.

Massage Envy, now with 580 franchises across the country and counting, pioneered the concept of providing people with affordable and convenient massage therapy as a critical component of personal wellness as important as eating, exercising and sleeping well.

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For Jennifer Blaz, a busy mom, business woman and perpetual exerciser, the benefits of buying and building her own Massage Envy in La Verne couldn’t have been clearer or more compelling. Consumers spend between $5 billion and $7 billion annually on massage therapy, with the number of Americans using massage therapists doubling since 1997.

Plus, Jennifer had the inside scoop. As a bookkeeper, she kept the books for her friends Tim and Pam who owned a Massage Envy in Arizona and saw how well it was doing. When the couple suggested they be partners on another Massage Envy in California, Jennifer was beside herself with delight.

“They made it sound all very wonderful; I was really excited,” Jennifer said. “I was bored with bookkeeping. I was always behind a desk. I had remarried, with two children from my previous marriage and two children from my new marriage. My husband Mark and I both knew we wanted to get into something.”

Then their friends had to pull out because they were opening a Massage Envy in La Jolla, Calif., and didn’t have the funds to help finance the La Verne venture. Plus, the La Verne enterprise had languished for almost three years due to strict, regulatory oversight of massage-type businesses. When Jennifer was initially scouting locations and leases in Glendora, she met a dead-end.

“The city wouldn’t have it. They made it very difficult,” Jennifer said.

So Jennifer and her husband were faced with a dilemma. “Do they back out and lose their investment or do they go it alone?”

“I said no way, we’ve come too far.”

Jennifer scrambled for a Small Business Administration loan, but not even her bookkeeping and accounting experience could prepare her for how slowly the bureaucracy moved.

“Obtaining our SBA loan was a full-time job in itself,” Jennifer recalled. “I’m very organized, so I had everything at my fingertips. The trouble is, you submit something, a month goes by, you wait, and then you have to resubmit everything again.”

Despite Massage Envy’s excellent national reputation for providing guests a clean, safe and professional environment, Jennifer also had to contend with city rules precluding a massage-only business that did not offer complementary services, such as facials or other spa treatments. Fortunately, Massage Envy also had contracted with Murad, Inc., the best-selling clinical skincare brand in leading salon and spa locations worldwide, so clearing this other hurdle was just one more business challenge she was prepared to overcome.

Although her timing for opening Massage Envy couldn’t have been worse — last November in the depths of the recession — Jennifer was at least able to use the unleased site next to her (another sign of the dicey economic times) as convenient storage for her massage tables and other equipment while workers put the finishing touches on her 4,100-square foot purple and tan spa. Besides her husband whose flexible work schedule let him assume more of the daily household responsibilities, Rick Diebold, a friend and former Federal Express manager, assisted Jennifer with interviewing therapist candidates and setting everything up.

“Everything fell into place,” Jennifer said.

Until just recently, Jennifer’s second home has been Massage Envy, which is open 88 hours a week for customer convenience. Hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“In the beginning I was here open to close,” Jennifer admitted. “Thank goodness for my husband who pretty much picked up the slack at home.”

She also has a wonderful manager, Alison Ramirez, who helps her with just about everything. “She’s been a lifesaver,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer is probably the perfect candidate for her own services, of which, she said she had availed herself only a day earlier. Like many of her clients and members, she uses massage therapy to reduce stress and restore a healthy balance to her often hectic and frantic lifestyle.  “I get a lot of stress across my shoulder blades and kinks throughout my neck. The staff really helps work out the knots,” she said.

Jennifer’s members, now more than 400, use Massage Envy for a variety of reasons. “Therapeutic massage is the manipulation of the muscles and tissues of the body to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort and stress,” Jennifer explained. “It’s a real key for unlocking a healthier, more energetic and stress-free lifestyle.”

The many styles and types of massage therapy offered by Massage Envy in La Verne include trigger point, Swedish, deep-tissue, sports, reflexology, cranial sacral and hot stone.

Helping Jennifer’s business develop are the media’s and the public’s growing recognition of the many health benefits associated with receiving massage therapy on a regular basis. Health-oriented magazines and medical journals regularly report how massage therapy can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, relieve headaches, strengthen the immune system and improve a host other medical conditions from allergies and arthritis to insomnia.

“It’s been said that 90% of all diseases are caused by stress,” Jennifer noted.

Massage Envy’s monthly membership dues for its Wellness Program are $59, for which members receive a customized one-hour facial or massage session with a professional esthetician or massage therapist every month. Unlimited additional one-hour facials and massage sessions cost just $49 a month, the same rate as Massage Envy’s one-hour introductory special. If members miss a monthly session, the skipped session is added to their account. “It rolls over, you never lose it, as long as your account is in good standing,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer’s Wellness Program also includes discounts on retail products, and family add-on discounts so spouses and other family members can take advantage of Massage Envy’s special member discount rate. Moreover, because of Massage Envy’s national reach, members can enjoy massage benefits at any of its clinics throughout the country.

“We never do any up-selling,” Jennifer added. “If you need a deep tissue massage or some other customized massage, there’s never an additional fee.”

Massage Envy offers corporate discounts and reduced memberships for city agencies and nonprofit organizations. Jennifer and her team have also been very active in the community supporting a wide range of commmunity events.

“Our mission,” Jennifer said, “is to make the benefits of massage therapy affordable and convenient for everyone.”

The Massage Envy Spa in La Verne is located at 1369-A Foothill Blvd. in La Verne on the northwest corner of Wheeler and Foothill Avenues. (909) 596-ENVY (3689).

One Response to “Successful La Verne Business Owner Is Strictly Hands-On”

  1. I would like to request an appointment with Amber Bartucca!

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