The Founding Fathers Of Port St. Lucie, Fl, could not have imagined that by the final decade of the twentieth century the area formerly known as Mosquito County would become one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Anyone who regularly vacationed in the area during that time could observe the explosive growth up close, and the most professionally astute among them developed plans to establish business beachheads there.
For Mike Lubeck, one such entrepreneur, the leap from construction worker to business owner of the Palace Spa in Port St. Lucie was a progression that melded his experience with his interests. While living in North Carolina and working in commercial construction from 1999 to 2001, Lubeck traveled often and was in need of a way to relax. Because his girlfriend was an esthetician, he became interested in the world of day spas, initially as a client and later as a businessperson. "I enjoyed going to spas because I found them relaxing," he says. It soon occurred to him that other hard-charging professionals would enjoy them, too.
Palace Spa's entrance exudes high-end elegance with its color scheme and choice of furnishings.
Lubeck's future became clear to him when a friend mentioned the availability of some prime commercial real estate in Port St. Lucie. Lubeck leaped at the chance to explore a business opportunity outside of the construction industry. "I opened Palace Spa at a time when the Florida spa boom was in its infancy and growing at a rate of 20 percent each year," he says. And there is no end in sight to the region's population growth trend. The Florida Office of Economic Development claims the area grew by almost 19 percent during the past five years and will expand at an even more rapid rate through 2009.
Lubeck planned for growth when he opened his spa in 2002. He established 14 treatment rooms right from the start, knowing that large spas typically take about five years to reach maximum capacity. But that growth target is already in sight; business at Palace Spa doubled from January 2004 to January 2005, and Lubeck expects to reach 100 percent capacity within the next 12 to 18 months. How does he explain such rapid growth? "We're the only true day spa within a 50-mile radius," he says. "We provide a relaxation experience as well as salon services. That's a combination that's unique in this area. Other spas offer one or the other, but not both because they don't have the space we do."
Above, left to right: Clients spend time in the relaxation room between treatments or enjoy the lunch that is a part of some spa packages; a variety of massage techniques are employed in the couples room; a client takes a meditative pause after a service.
Palace Spa's size has made it capable of hosting parties for up to 40 people. "No one else in the area comes close to being able to handle groups that size," says Lubeck. The spa specializes in bridal and baby showers as well as family get-togethers, and they work with clients to develop special treatment menus. "That's one of the things that separates us from everyone else," he adds. Last year, a local dentist hosted a Christmas party for his staff at the spa. Employees enjoyed massages and other services while indulging in a catered meal.
In a business equivalent of "right place, right time," Lubeck's bookings soared shortly after a series of devastating hurricanes came ashore last fall. After being forced to close for two weeks in September, the spa came roaring back to life with a smart marketing plan: Lubeck offered any 30-minute service for $25. Stressed homeowners and weary rescue workers crowded into the facility looking for relief from achy backs and tension headaches. "I felt like the Forrest Gump of the spa industry," says Lubeck, referring to the fictional film character who always managed to make the most of difficult situations and helped people in unique ways. His other rationale for reopening the spa so soon after the storms was his desire to keep his staff busy. "Everyone needed to get back into the swing of things," he says. "Resuming a familiar routine was essential to our healing."
Lubeck credits the Cosmopro Group for helping to organize the launch of his spa. Because his professional background was not in the spa industry, he welcomed the company's guidance and advice in a wide variety of areas, including pricing and services based on research and demographics. He and Cosmopro Group worked together as a team, he says, and continue to do so today.
Although Lubeck readily admits that he came to the spa industry by an unusual path, he shares an operational theory with successful business owners in many fields: Take care of your employees. "Your staff is the key to your success," he says. "When I was in the project-management end of the construction business, I learned that you can't be successful if your employees don't respect you or you don't respect them. It has to be mutual. The right staff can make your business soar, and the wrong staff can make it sink. I may have been the one who put Palace Spa together, but my staff has the ability to make or break me. My success is literally in their hands. If a client has a bad experience here, they can tell a hundred people before I even know what has happened. But if they have a good experience, that's the best marketing anyone could hope for."