Temple Studio

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In small town Indiana, a medical spa corners the market and grows into a prosperous business by staying innovative and expanding when opportunity strikes.

Wal-mart became a retail colossus because its business plan stated that it could prosper in small towns when the department store rule was that a medium-size town or city was needed to drive enough foot traffic to be profitable. While Temple Studio LLC, a medical spa in Terre Haute, IN, isn't Wal-Mart, in some ways the belief in small towns by its founder and owner, Theresa Rennick, has had a lot to do with its success.

Above: A hydro-mineral treatment bath in a room evoking a desert oasis. Right: A multipurpose treatment room for body wraps, facials, and hand-and-foot treatments. Far Right: A sauna for client relaxation.
Above: A hydro-mineral treatment bath in a room evoking a desert oasis. Right: A multipurpose treatment room for body wraps, facials, and hand-and-foot treatments. Far Right: A sauna for client relaxation.

Temple Studio opened its doors in 1995 in a tiny storefront in Clinton, IN, a town with a population of 15,000. Four years later, Rennick moved the spa to a larger space in a former Pontiac showroom a few blocks away. This was during a period when spa services were all but unknown in this part of southwest Indiana. The lack of competition helped grow the business, but a lot of education was needed to reach local residents, many of whom associated massage with houses of ill repute. "[People in this area] were very much in the dark ages when we began," says Rennick.

The focus on education has served her business well. Although annual revenues were only $170,000 through 2004, Rennick has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about her customer base in nine years—knowledge she has applied to recently catapult her business to a new level.

More importantly, Rennick learned that even in a semirural town such as Clinton, people have a strong interest in improving not only how they feel but also how they look and are willing to pay for those results. From the beginning, Rennick has always been interested in offering a broad mix of services. At first, Temple offered only massage and body wraps, but Rennick realized she could gain an advantage by offering skincare treatments as well. In 1999, she became the first licensed esthetician in the Wabash Valley, the area encompassing Clinton and stretching south to Terre Haute.

Left: Retail items are prominently displayed and easily accessible. Above: Spa-goers are served lunch in the cozy Queens Chamber dining nook as part of a full-day package.
Left: Retail items are prominently displayed and easily accessible. Above: Spa-goers are served lunch in the cozy Queens Chamber dining nook as part of a full-day package.

She got her license at a propitious time. New skincare technologies, such as microdermabrasion, were becoming available, and Rennick was determined to be the first to offer them in her area. She found a willing clientele, some of whom even traveled one-and-a-half hours to Clinton from as far away as Indianapolis. But when the chance arose to relocate her business to Terre Haute, a town of 55,000, Rennick decided to move. "It was a larger opportunity for us. A majority of our customers were located in southern Terre Haute anyway, and it was better for us to be centrally located," she says. In addition, there were no medical spas in Terre Haute.

Last August, Temple moved into a 4,700-square-foot space on the top floor of an office building that houses Union Hospital, the city's largest medical facility. The proximity of the hospital adds credibility and brings referrals to the medical spa, which has a full-time physician on staff. An independent fitness center located next door has prompted the transformation of the entire floor into a kind of health center.

Rennick spent $1 million to build the medical spa. She decorated using an Egyptian theme, with the idea that the atmosphere should be relaxed, not clinical. To get the word out, she advertises on local TV with the hospital sharing the expense.

Top: The massage area is framed by sheer curtains and backlit with candles to offset the medical spas clinical treatments. Above left and right: Coco Moka Cafe serves customers from Union Hospital as well as the spa.
Top: The massage area is framed by sheer curtains and backlit with candles to offset the medical spas clinical treatments. Above left and right: Coco Moka Cafe serves customers from Union Hospital as well as the spa.

Temple offers a broad array of medical spa services including laser treatments and a new treatment using a machine called Medilift, which provides nonsurgical facelifts. The medical spa was the first in the Midwest to offer the treatment. "Our female clients want an alternative to Botox and Restylane, and I always try to stay on the cutting edge," says Rennick. "They don't want to have plastic surgery. They want to have something topical, a treatment where they can see the results without having to go through the trauma." In addition to medical spa treatments and spa and salon services, Rennick shrewdly added the Coco Moka Cafe. In a building with 1,000 employees, it's the only place to have lunch, and it has quickly added to Temple's rapidly growing customer base, which now numbers around 2,400. Monthly revenues, which averaged $15,000 in 2004, have grown at a correspondingly rapid clip. Since January, Temple has banked $100,000 a month in sales, and Rennick expects to hit $1 million this year.

With these business numbers spurring her on, Rennick's ambitions have become more expansive. Her plans for 2006 include franchising Temple Studio in Indiana and around the Midwest. Rennick's penchant for choosing the right setting, being the first to introduce new technologies, and knowing her heartland clientele will likely steer her straight.