In 2005, I, Lacey Welsh (at the time 24 year old) was working as a Massage Therapist in Wisconsin Dells at a well-known destination spa. My previous position in the same facility was Front of the house manager for the food and beverage department. A girlfriend who I worked with continually mentioned starting a day spa on our own. Was she crazy? Everyone knows that small business owners work their butts off and make no money! Plus we had no money!
One evening, after one too many vodka sodas, I agreed to put my house on the market and if it sold I would have the money I needed to start a day spa (remember I am still 24 years old). In the next few months, my house sold, we found this charming building in Downtown Baraboo, and my future business partner moved away to get married! So there I was young, foolish, and determined, to be a small business owner who works her butt off and makes no money!What!?!
Here goes nothing,… One April 23, 2006 (we get to celebrate our 10 year anniversary next year!) Spa Serenity opened its doors at 137 3rd Street in Downtown Baraboo. Those first years were tough; we struggled. Some day just ask me about the year we got our electricity turned off on the day before Valentine’s Day, not my proudest moment, but one I will never forget.
Somewhere around year #4, I started to feel our space growing tight and started conversations about a larger spa, but where would that be? My staff and I loved Downtown Baraboo, but there were not many buildings bigger than ours that were available or were ever going to be available. We literally looked high and low. Expand into the basement? The ceilings were too low. Build an extra story? The footings were not deep enough. Move to the river front? Ugh that was a long haul. So many options, and none of them seemed quite right.
Early in 2014 we, (“we” being my now very supportive business partner and husband of 8 years Steve. The same Steve, who was not part of this circus until 6 months after spa serenity opened) were about to make a desperate business decision to expand Spa Serenity to the Baraboo Riverfront with an another investor. In hindsight this decision would have been financially devastating to a still micro business like ours. Over coffee with an older wiser friend, I realized there had to be another option or I would do nothing.
I realized that in all my life, my only regrets were- realizing that I have options, only after I have entered a one way street. Today was the day, the day I looked at all my options and made a turn done a path that was not in my plan. After all I had a thriving day spa where it was difficult to book an appointment, not the worst thing in the world. I realized I was not prepared to sacrifice my family, my freedom and the financial security that Steve and I had worked so hard for: there had to be another option.
My next move, was to share this revelation with Steve, especially since I had spent the last 4 years convincing him that we should move to the Baraboo Riverfront and build a new fancy building (turns out all we could afford was a pole shed!) So the next day…. I remember it was a Sunday, we were lying in bed and I blurted it out (no time like the present right) “so I don’t think I want to do that thing, k”. He may have though I was talking about what I was making for brunch or what color I was going to get my hair done. “Hunh?” he replied, and then it spilled out. “I want to go to Nashville. I want to put a patio door in. I want to take the kids to Disney… all of which will have to be postponed if we move the spa and build a new building. I don’t want to build a new building or the spa.” The room was silent, and then just like amazing supportive husbands do, Steve replied with “ok”. Here we were at the intersection, where to go now? Let’s talk to the owner of the vacant building next door? We had looked at 139 3rd Street, the Mexican Grocery Store-our neighbor as an option for expansion a few years earlier, but at that point I had bright and shiny new building in my head and could not see past the odd flooring and drop ceilings.
Fate and common sense smiled on us however, and on July 3, 2014 we signed the deal. The Mexican Grocery Store was going to become Spa Serenity’s new addition. The days and night between July 3rd and October 10th were very blurry. Spa Serenity was fully operational for all but 4 days in September. Yes, we provided day spa services to guests (regular and travelers) while tearing down walls, constructing walls, cutting through brick walls, tearing off the front of both our building and putting it all back together. Looking back, I still have some PTSD, that 3 months tested all our strengths to the brink.
Looking back at process of our expansion from beginning to end, it was a path, a path that we had to follow to get to the right decision. A test in patience and endurance; a test that I am glad we passed and am happy to never have to take again!