Massage Heights Details Plans for Naperville, Illinois Retreat

Naperville, Illinois, looks like a good place to operate a business. After all, its inhabitants are well-educated (two-thirds have at least a bachelor's degree), have a high median household income ($109,500) and are numerous (population 146,128). Then again, you won't be the only one chasing their dollars. The smart thing would be to diversify, say, franchising multiple concepts to cover as many bases as possible.

Meet the Hari Group, a multi-brand franchisee based in the affluent Chicago suburb. It has been employing that strategy since 2011. The family-run business operates Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Tide Dry Cleaners, McAlister's Deli, Buffalo Wings and Rings and Tilted Kilt. So far, its 26 Dunkin' locations significantly outnumber the other concepts.

This year, the group added Massage Heights, a San Antonio-based brand, by agreeing to operate and develop 25 "retreats" in the Chicago area. "We're going to stick to Naperville, Overland Park and Oswego," noted Raj Patel, who along with his father, Bud, own the company. He added it was too early to predict how many the Hari Group would sub-franchise in other parts of Chicagoland.

Raj, 28, conceded while there are many rival massage concepts none has gained any momentum in his area save for Massage Envy, the largest among them (1,000-plus outlets). Yet Massage Envy, Patel claimed, has "zero community involvement" despite three Naperville outlets.

Massage Heights, moreover, had territory available in the Patels' backyard. Plus, Raj believes the concept is trendier than rivals and features finer (if costlier) sheets on massage tables. "If you educate the consumer, they love it and appreciate it," Raj insists.

Ideally, the love should turn into regular customers, driving volume. Raj thinks Hari's Massage Heights will generate about $1 million in sales on a $400,000 investment (minus training and fees). He boasted the group's other franchised brands are producing sales above system averages.

Naperville and surrounding communities easily fit the Massage Heights demographic profile. The first Massage Heights opened in a leased property across the street from the Hari Group's first Tide Dry Cleaners, a concept with similar demographics.

"We don't build to flip. We have no exit strategy. Our strategy is to build a brand," Raj declared.

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