South Charlotte

After losing his job, he moved to Plan B

As the regional sales manager for a global financial services firm, Chad Foster, 47, "saw the writing on the wall." He knew that his 20-year corporate career was dwindling, thanks to a downturn in the economy, and that he needed to come up with Plan B.

Many folks facing similar career upheaval would get a massage to relieve the stress of starting over. For Foster, who now owns and runs Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in the Blakeney area, along with four other locations throughout North Carolina, a massage was his start over.

"I wanted to be associated with something that was growing, and something that was local and added value to the community," Foster said of his choice to open a day spa.

Of equal appeal was the fact that Foster could combine his "strong customer services background" with a business that "has become part of people's wellness routines."

He also appreciated the franchise's price structure and accessibility.

"We offer an upscale spa experience without upscale spa prices, making our services available to a wider array of people," Foster said.

Foster joined forces with Mark Reisinger, 37, a fellow mortgage broker, to open the day spas, with another north Charlotte location slated to open soon. The spas are located in shopping centers, like the one at Blakeney Crossing Shopping Center, so that they are more convenient and accessible to the communities they are near.

Despite their unassuming storefronts, however, the Hand & Stone spas promise an oasis of tranquility. The reception area has calming waterfalls, soothing music and muted lighting and artwork to help customers escape from the rat race outside.

There are nine rooms available for massages along with one couples room. The Blakeney location has 15 masseuses on staff, all licensed, certified and insured with the state, as well as three estheticians who specialize in facials.

Each room is set up with hot towels and heated river stones that are used in the spa's signature massage, a hot-stone massage. The smooth, heated river stones are used in combination with massage strokes and warm up the muscles to allow for deeper penetration. Or customers can opt for a hot-towel, cold-stone face massage, a hot-towel foot exfoliation massage or face and body waxing services.

A 50-minute massage is available to new customers for an introductory price of $49.95. That price is also offered to members of the Hand & Stone Lifetime Membership program, who pay $49.95 per month and receive their choice of either a 50-minute massage or a signature facial.

"A one-time massage makes you feel better initially, but your muscles go right back to their sore spots once the massage wears off," Foster said. Regular massages help with stress relief, injury recovery and sleep disorder.

Foster says the biggest thrill for him has been providing something of value to the community and his employees. His change of jobs has also added something of value to his own life.

"My quality of life is so much better now," Foster said. "I don't miss my sons' ballgames anymore."