Maggie Valley Wellness Candra Smith

MAKING IT WORK — Candra Smith, who owns Maggie Valley Wellness, says the pandemic “lit a fire” with regard to changing how the spa does business. In 2021, clients can expect virtual offerings like classes and wellness tips.

MAGGIE VALLEY — For Candra Smith, who will celebrate the seventh anniversary of her business, Maggie Valley Wellness Center this year, 2021 has her starting off the New Year hopeful and with gratitude.

Grateful because Smith said she’s discovered a theme to the day-to-day of the pandemic.

“I’ve been in this event that feels so isolating and you feel so alone,” she said. “I have had some connections with people who have really lifted me up in my business or in my personal life, and I’ve learned that for everything we do, there is a reaction to it. Our decisions matter. I’ve really needed that support and I’m trying to pay it forward and offer that to others.”

Gratitude plays into Smith’s story in another way, as well, in the form of a government PPP loan she was able to secure for her business.

The funds she received in late May enabled her to pay staff, cover rent and make some improvements that helped secure bookings.

“In a typical summer we would have employed four massage therapists, this year we only had two and I was one of them,” Smith said, adding that her aesthetician didn’t come back.

“For a facial, you have to take your mask off; for massages, we found a way where we could drape the face cradle so it acts like a mask and when people turn over they put their masks on,” she explained. “Even with air purifiers and the sliding door to the deck keeping fresh air circulating, there is no way to get around taking off your mask. So, we lost a lot of money with that modality.”

In addition, Smith said that the majority of her client base is people 60 years old and over.

“We definitely lost a lot over their concern over their risk factor,” she said.

But then a funny thing happened.

While business suffered in the middle of the year, when Smith had to shut the doors for March, April and most of May, appointments started to come back in the summer as new faces began to discover the spa.

“I saw a shift in our client base when young, local professionals started to come in. And it’s always nice to see new faces,” she said.

That group, Smith explained, seemingly replaced the customers the spa regularly welcomes in the form of visitors who make Maggie Valley their summertime retreat.

In October, the spa saw even more business than it did for the same month last year.

“I think it was based more on understanding the virus and how to navigate it, and maybe a little bit of fear about the winter. People thinking, ‘Oh, I have to get out now or I won’t be able to get out,’” Smith said.

Now, with January almost over, Smith said she’s looking at applying for a second PPP loan.

Any money she would receive would help with making much-needed investments to help push the business forward.

“I’m feeling better than I did nine months ago. I feel there’s going to be a big learning curve for us — putting some content online and creating some shifts in the business that we can offer remotely,” she said.

“I feel like we have to have some sort of online presence at this point. With Ayurveda we can do so much — we can offer cooking classes and provide simple tips. Ayurveda is all about digestive health. We can offer weekly support if we offer that model. We can look at lifestyle and help improve overall health,” she added.

After all, Smith said, success is about adapting.

“I like deadlines and strong reasons for making business plans and the pandemic definitely lit a fire for me.”

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