Opening its doors in a strip mall in 2006 with only five employees, Prodigo Day Spa (Harleysville, PA) survived some difficult times in its early years, as the economy took a downturn. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but somehow, we managed to hold our own and continued to grow, mostly by word-of-mouth,” says owner Tara Lieberher. “We increased our sales slowly in the beginning and barely made the high rent each month.” Despite the difficulties, Lieberher took a risk in 2007 and expanded the spa into the empty space next door, doubling its square footage. The spa continued to grow its business, and in 2012, a salon was added to the mix. Recently, Prodigo Day Spa made the move into a charming Victorian home built in 1889. The six-treatment-room spa now employs 18 staff members. The move has proved to be yet another successful step in the spa’s evolution. “We have noticed a huge increase in sales and services since moving,” says Lieberher. “Our gift card sales doubled from the previous year, and the number of new clients is far exceeding our expectations. We had no idea that moving only two miles down the road could make such a huge difference in the amount of exposure we now have. We are projecting a 20 percent increase this year just from being in a better location.” Here, Lieberher shares her spa’s journey.
To what do you attribute Prodigo Day Spa’s success?
A. I believe great customer service is hard to find these days. We always make sure to go above and beyond to make our clients feel comfortable. We take their coats to hang for them and put their coats on them before they leave. We make sure to offer something warm or cold to drink, and we truly love talking to our clients and getting to know them. I feel it is very important for the owner to be at the spa as much as possible. Knowing my clients personally is a big part of my business, but my staff is the reason people come back. They are the greatest group of women. They are all well educated, knowledgeable, and amazing at what they do. Prodigo wouldn’t be where it is today without each and every one of them.
What prompted you to move to the new location?
A. Because we were in a strip mall at the start of our business, it was always a goal of mine to move to a place where we could settle into forever. To own a place instead of paying rent to someone was important to us. However, we didn’t think it would happen so fast. When something is put in front of you, sometimes you have to take a risk to get ahead. We are excited to see the growth of Prodigo in our new home. We have a large barn out back that we hope to turn into a women’s retreat, offering yoga and different classes along with adding a healthy cafe and maybe a women’s boutique. We hope to make this property one where women can come and escape their daily routines.
What did you do to transform the new space?
A. I grew up just a few doors down from our new location, and it was a building that I always admired. I thought it would be a perfect place for the spa. It came on the market, and within a few days, we put in an offer that was accepted. We knew we had a busy summer ahead of us and wasted no time getting to work. The building was in great condition structurally, but the interior and exterior needed a lot of work. We had to fix a lot of electrical and furnace issues before we could change it to be what we needed. To open up the space, we took down a few separating walls. We also transformed the fireplace, which is the first thing you see when you enter the building. We removed a non-working chimney and used the old bricks on the face of the fireplace. We then purchased a large local barn beam for the mantle. It is now the centerpiece of the spa. We repainted the interiors, and we saved many of the original wood floors by refinishing them. We used old doors that we found in the barn to make our hair stations and beverage area. We also took out 28 fluorescent lights and replaced them with beautiful chandeliers. We then designed a new style of pedicure baths, so there is no worry of cross contamination.
Outside, we focused on new landscaping, removing a few rotting trees, repairing the slate roof, adding more parking, repainting the shutters and gingerbread trim, and doing a few other things here and there to clean it up. My husband and I tried to do a lot of the work ourselves, as I love to be hands-on, and we brought in a few great contractors to help us along the way. We did the renovations in four months and moved the spa this past September.
What has been the response to the new location?
A. The response to our new location has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone really seems to enjoy our new home. Many have said that this is the most fitting building for our type of business. It is cozy and has a much better atmosphere than our first location. We had a little trouble with hearing things through the walls at our old location, and here we are able to separate our busier salon atmosphere from our relaxing spa services, which is a much more functional layout. The community really seems to appreciate having us, and most are saying that we really improved Main Street. There isn’t anything like the spa we’ve created in the area.
How do you attract new and repeat clients and encourage them to visit?
A. We keep up with the latest trends to keep clients interested and bring in new clients.
How do you use digital marketing and social media to boost business?
A. Honestly, paying for advertising is not something we do. Besides Facebook and Constant Contact, we do not do any other marketing. We rely mostly on word of mouth, and it has worked. You attract the type of client you want that way. As long as you make sure you have a happy client walking out your door, that is the best form of marketing you can do. We do have inside deals we market to clients who sign up for our newsletters and Facebook page. We like to keep our clients informed and educated about the latest trends and techniques through Facebook and Constant Contact, using social media in this way, rather than running discounts all the time, is much more beneficial.
How do you keep the menu fresh and relevant?
A. We are always adding new services to our menu. We follow the latest spa and travel magazines to try and do our best to make our clients feel like they are away from the real world while still in their hometown. We are inspired by spa menus from around the world that our clients gather as they travel. They are always bringing us menus from spas they visit while on vacation.
What have you learned from surviving the recent recession, and how do you plan to incorporate those lessons in the future?
A. I have learned that you really need to appreciate the good times, because things can change in a heartbeat. I feel that making the best of a situation that is out of your control is a hard thing to face. Getting down on yourself will only lower the morale of your staff. By keeping your head up and staying positive, you can relay that into your business, and good things will happen. Hard times will come and go, and the only thing you can do is keep a positive attitude and work through it.