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Hamilton-based spa chain expands for business clients

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As companies expand wellness programs as part of their benefit packages, Hamilton-based Hand & Stone spas is adding franchises rapidly and encouraging human resource teams to include massage therapy when considering employee resources.

President and CEO Todd Leff joined Hand & Stone in 2009, working with founder John Marco to develop expanded franchising plans for New Jersey’s middle market. The company has focused on developing locations in major retail centers, mostly in “bedroom communities,” with extended hours in order to make the company’s services more convenient for professionals.

Hand & Stone offers corporate memberships, which entitle employees to receive discounts, and do one-off “massage day” programs on location for many of their corporate clients.

“About a year ago, a major bank chain in the area had a problem with their Internet site … they had a real rough couple of days,” Leff said. “They reached out to us to set up an onsite corporate massage event … for their call-center staff that was handling all of this stress.”

Leff said the one-time events are driving traffic to the locations, and “massage has become really well adopted by mainstream medical community, and it’s giving credibility to the service … because of that, corporations are more willing to use it as a benefit for their employees. We’re definitely seeing increased interest and increased use.”

Umesh Bhatia opened an East Windsor Hand & Stone location Nov. 25, and already is planning a second location based on the early success of their franchise. The focus on wellness was a key reason they decided to open a franchise.

Bhatia said he and his wife have received a lot of positive feedback for their “resort in the mall.” The location has been visited by township Mayor Janice Mironov and members of the local chamber of commerce.

“We found the demographics very suitable for the kind of services we offer,” Bhatia said, adding that the store has 10 employees.

Leff said Hand & Stone will be focusing on growth in North Jersey in 2012, with an established base of 20 locations in the state mostly located in the central and southern regions. Other regions for expansion include Philadelphia, Central Florida and North Carolina.

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