CHANCE HARBOUR – A Montreal businessman says he’s looking to sell his New Brunswick nature spa after eight years.
But that’s not because the business has been struggling says Michel Racine, the owner of Spa Chance Harbour, a nature spa that focuses on thermal therapy. He says the business needs a locally-based owner to reach its full potential.
When Racine purchased the land in Chance Harbour in 2010, he didn’t intend to open a spa. But around 2013, he says others helped him notice the potential.
“It’s never been an intention for me or my family to be operating a spa there. It was just a place where we’d have a little sauna and pool that we enjoyed when we came down to the Maritimes,” says Racine. “But some neighbours, some locals and some friends began to come with us and all of a sudden they asked us to open it up and offer the place to the public and that’s how it happened.”
Today Spa Chance Harbour is open three days a week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and offers a sauna, hot pool, a beach, a waterfall, massages, a cafe and overnight accommodations. With Racine based in Montreal, the spas’ day-to-day operations are overseen by one full-time manager and five to six part-time staffers.
Though this system is working, if the business is going to grow Racine says there needs to be more time and resources invested into the spa. That’s why he’s looking to sell.
“We’re interested to sell because there is a lot more to do, a lot more business, a lot more requests. People are requesting that we be open more often during the week,” says Racine. “But for me, it’s a challenge to have employees when you’re away. We’re doing our best right now and talking with a few people.”
Racine says the spa brings in around 100 guests a week. He says there were approximately 5,000 guests in 2017, with revenue doubling every year since it first opened.
Even with these numbers, Racine says the spa is turning down dozens of massage services every weekend. He says a new owner would be able to accommodate the growing demand.
He says he’s invested around $2 million into the five-acre property, but is realistic about the chances of someone buying outright.
“What we’ve been doing is we’ve been talking the last few months with some people who would buy the operation,” he says. “They would buy Spa Chance Harbour Inc. and they would pay a rent for the building and the property.”
He says he is also open to partnering with someone who could simply run and grow the business in the short-term.
“If somebody is in the area and is already in business and says, ‘Hey, I might not have the $2 million, but I could operate that type of business. I can take care of the employees. I can work on weekends and invest a bit of money.’ That would be something we’d be looking at,” says Racine. “But long-term, we will want to sell, because we’re not from there.”
Racine says the nature spa industry is popular in Quebec, and he sees it eventually growing in New Brunswick too. With Spa Chance Harbour charging $46 for a day pass, it’s about the equivalent of the cost of an evening out on the town.
“I would say [our customers] come from the budget of restaurants or bars, because they want to meet people, they want to relax,” he says. “But what we’re offering is that they do this in nature. They’re able to come to Spa Chance Harbour, spend two, three or four hours enjoying the place and feeling really good the day after.”
With news of a Nordic Spa opening in Moncton, Racine says the growth of the industry is underway. Though the new Moncton spa will technically be competition, he’s excited about what it means for the market. It will help people become more aware about what nature spas are and will more inclined to try one.
“When I was first coming down to Saint John in 2010, there was only one sushi restaurant, Sense of Tokyo. Now there’s maybe seven or eight of them, including in Quispamsis and Rothesay,” he says. “It’s the same thing with this. When people learn what the activity is about, they get excited. I think that what they’re doing in Moncton will help us a lot with getting more people knowing [about these kinds of spas].”
At 57, Rancine says the he’s too old to fully invest in the spa full-time, but says it would be great investment for a younger person in the region.
“Right now, if I were 25-years-old, 30-years-old, even 40-years-old, if I were looking for a place to invest, it would be down there. But I’m 57, and I’m not from the Maritimes,” he says. “It is a sexy business. It’s something exciting. It’s something people are getting very excited about when they’re visiting us.”