On Saturdays, Klein, the general manager of the Rehoboth Beach Massage Envy franchise on Coastal Highway, says she could have 11 massage rooms booked from opening at 9 a.m. to closing at 6 p.m., if she had the staff.
Down the road in Lewes, at The Yoga Studio 24, owner Andrea Winward Kennedy recently added more beginner classes, a massage room and classes in meditation. Business has really changed in the last three years, said Kennedy.
Kathi Kaier, a stylist at Stephan and Co. in Rehoboth, works 12-hour days to make sure her clients have enough openings to be able to get in for their haircuts.
[caption id="attachment_165700" align="alignright" width="342"] Dimitra Kotanides, owner of Dimitra Yoga in Lewes and Rehoboth. Photo by Rob LaMantia[/caption]
That is life in the growing cosmetic and restorative services industry in eastern Sussex County. It used to be a feast-or-famine economy based around the summer tourist industry, but as more people leave the cities to retire in southern Delaware, the work opportunities have become year-round. The new Sussex Countians want people who can fix their hair, paint their nails, massage their bodies and help keep them fit.
“It’s a very different clientele here,” said Klein, who also manages the Massage Envy in Salisbury, Maryland. “Because we draw from so many areas, it has less of a local feel.”
Sussex County is driving the growth in population for Delaware, having added nearly 30,000 people in the last 10 years according to census data. More people means more needs for services.
Kaier has cut and colored hair at the beach area for more than 20 years. She’s seen the changes. Business used to drop off after Labor Day when the tourists went home. Now it drops off a little in the middle of winter when some of her clients go to their Florida homes.
In general, though, she works four 12-hour days a week in order to provide services for her retired clientele and those who work during the day. “It’s definitely grown over the years.”
Dimitra Kotanides, owner of Dimitra Yoga in Lewes and Rehoboth, appreciates the all-year business. When she started offering yoga in the area in 2007, everyone worked every day in the summer and could only take off in the winter, if they wanted to make it financially. Now she says she and her family can take a vacation whenever they want.
“It doesn’t slow down,” said Kotanides after checking in students for one of the 40 yoga classes offered at her studio every week. There is still a bit of a seasonal bump in her business, she said. In summer, she offers classes outside every day at local parks and on the beach which tends to bring in the transient tourist crowd.
Kennedy has seen the same trend at her yoga studio. When she opened in 1997, hers was the only yoga place at the beach. She started with a small local regular group with new people showing up as walk-ins during the summer. Today she runs two rooms with yoga classes and people show up a half-hour early to make sure they have a place for her stretch classes. Her students are a mix of old and young, and while she generally has a steady audience of clients, a recent special class offered on July 4 was packed with locals and visitors.
The market is good at the beach, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can open a massage studio or salon and expect instant success. Eastern Sussex still has some small-town qualities. Reputation is important in a place where everyone talks to everyone else, said Michael Maybroda, co-owner of Stephan and Co. salon. You have to be part of the community if you want to make it in the year-round business.
“This area is getting bigger, but it’s still small,” said Maybroda.
Maybroda sits on several charity boards and members of his company help with local charities and events throughout the year.
Klein agrees. Because Massage Envy is part of a national franchise it does bring in members from other areas who are vacationing at the beach, but she still works hard to align therapists’ styles with the needs and desires of her clients.
“Not every therapist is a good fit with every client,” she said. Her work has paid off. The Rehoboth location is ranked No. 90 out of the 1,400 Massage Envy franchises around the country. “Every therapist is booked every day … fully booked.”