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Plenty of foot traffic at this new franchise


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Services like its 50-minute foot soak in tea tree, lavender and clary sage are all about relaxation and stress relief.

The eyes may be the window to our souls, but our feet have souls as well. In the Indian culture touching an elder’s foot is a sign of respect and deference. Foot-binding in the Chinese culture was not only a way for women to show off their family’s wealth and thus marry better, but the tiny, deformed feet were seen by some as erotic. And, foot-washing in the Bible, especially when done by Jesus, is sacred.

So in light of these footnotes to history, a franchise dedicated just to feet isn’t all that farfetched. “I’ve always been a spa lover,” says Melissa Long, who along with her husband, Brian, is franchising Wake Foot Sanctuary. And while there’s no such thing as a bad spa service, the foot massage was her favorite. “It’s a reverent act to wash someone’s feet,” she adds.

The difference between this spa and others is that while hand and neck massages are available, the feet are the stars—and even more ironically, there are no pedicures. It’s all about relaxation, stress-relief and leaving your to-do lists behind as a distant memory. “It’s a unique set-up,” Melissa says. “You’re facing your therapist, not lying face down.”

Plus there’s no disrobing. “You just take off your socks and shoes,” Melissa points out.

A 50-minute foot soak in tea tree, lavender and clary sage, including a massage is $75 in the Asheville, South Carolina, spa. Foot soaks using apothecary products run around $25. Herbal tea is served to deepen the tranquility. Sign up for the Jet Setter package and you get a personal pot of tea, plus truffles.

Another service is Thai Reflexology, where a small dowel is gently pressed into pressure points on the sole of the foot to release tension in other parts of the body. Several studies have found that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and enhance relaxation and sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Relieving stress through pampering is the objective at this spa. “We like to do things in a nontraditional way,” Brian says. “The simplicity of the model is the secret to our success.”

Melissa Long, Wake Foot Sanctuary

Melissa Long is franchising Wake Foot Sanctuary along with her husband, Brian.

Neither of the Longs had spa experience before opening Wake Foot Sanctuary. Brian was a homebuilder in California’s hot real estate market, and Melissa has a master’s in marketing.

“Wake was born out of a push from a really dark place,” Melissa says. “I worked in the corporate world, traveling all over. I was pregnant and I hit the wall.”

She quit her job, with Brian’s blessing, and was originally looking to become a franchisee, “but we couldn’t find anything we were passionate about,” she says.

The service industry with the spiritual leanings of foot washing was something they were passionate about. They opened the first spa in 2013 in a historic building in quaint, touristy Asheville, and the rave reviews started populating social media. “There’s not a lot of foot traffic,” Brian says about their location. “We knew we’d have to be a destination location.”

An additional profit center is the retail, which includes local artisans’ jewelry and personal care products, plus candles, soaps and proprietary bath salts, lotions and body wash.

They decided to franchise the model due to the numerous requests they were receiving from customers who were visiting the area. “The owner-based model is the best strategy,” Brian says, adding it’s because they have “a lot of skin in the game.”

Perhaps even more unorthodox than starting a foot-based spa is naming it after a dog. But Wake was their beloved pet, the Longs say, and the epitome of kindness and love.

“If we could all treat each other like Wake did, we’d all be better off,” Melinda says.

While foot soaks are relaxing on their own, perhaps the true reason customers are able to forget their problems for 30 minutes to an hour is that the Longs have designated it a no judgment space. “We have an explicit rule about no politics,” Melissa says.

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