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Growth in Lehigh attracting attention from franchises

By Staff | Nov 20, 2019

Growth in Lehigh Acres is attracting attention from franchises looking to expand their businesses.

Hand & Stone Director of Franchise Development Nicole Alburger said they have more than 450 locations throughout the United States and Canada since launching in 2014.

They are opening anywhere between 50 to 60 new locations a year – about one location a week -and are currently looking to gain franchises in the Lehigh Acres marketplace, she said.

“We want to fill out the markets around the existing locations,” Alburger said. “We have some pockets that we can drive those customers to.”

There is a franchise in Fort Myers, which opened a year ago.

Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa’s model is based on memberships, which can be used at any one of its locations.

“If the are full-time in Florida, or a snowbird out of New Jersey, they can use their membership throughout the entire U.S,” she said.

Currently there are more than 50 locations in Florida, with a large emphasis on facial services, as well as full body hair removal, which are well received in warmer climates.

“We are continuing to expand our product and what we offer to our customers to draw in different demographics to our locations. We cater to our customer base,” Alburger said.

“We continue to focus on areas that fit our demographic and what we are looking to achieve,” she said. “It’s still a target market and we are looking for the right franchisee – a husband and wife duo . . . one person that takes on more of the operational side of the business.”

A good number of franchisees are Hand & Stone members as well as former CEOs, accountants, teachers and a former air traffic controller, she said.

Alburger said when an individual shows their interest they look at their background and for someone to take on the market and make it their own. She said they are looking for someone who wants to work the business full-time to grow it and become a part of the community.

“We want our owners to become part of the community. We like them to be connected and be the face of the business,” Alburger said. “We are also looking to develop in some other locations, North Fort Myers, Cape Coral, East Naples and Port Charlotte . . . five more locations in and around the marketplace.”

Those interested in learning more about the business and opening their own franchise can visit handandstonefranchise.com. She said individuals would talk to her and learn about the brand and see if they are a good fit for Hand & Stone and for them.

“Our whole process is about 60 to 90 days. We have a full real estate team who go out and source those sites,” Alburger said. “We have to find great people and put them into great real estate markets.”

When looking for a target market, such as Lehigh Acres, they look at population density, services and a draw for the consumer, as well as duplication in services.

“As a brand we are looking to bring the luxury of affordable services to the community. We really fit the customer base is a middle market price point. Around $60 a month our customers can come in and get a massage and facial. We want to make sure we fit that middle price point,” she said. “When that customer comes in our front door they are going to get that spa experience and not have to break the bank for it.”

Another business looking to expand its franchises to the Lehigh Acres area is Hounds Town USA, which began in 2001. The business was founded by Hounds Town USA President Jackie Bondanza’s husband, a retired New York Police Department canine handler and commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department. She said with his extensive long history of dogs and dog management he wanted to open a pet care facility, which they never intended to franchise.

“It grew over the years. Currently we have seven locations in Long Island. It’s a sold out market,” Bondanza said, adding that they have some in New Jersey, Detroit and another 20 in five or six states. “We have three units opening in the Orlando area with the first to open in the spring 2020.”

Bondanza said they are a fully interactive doggy day care. She said dogs that come to their facility are placed into play groups, natural packs of dogs of similar size, temperament and personality, so they come out of their shell and interact in their natural pack as much as possible.

“We strive for a place for them to be natural dogs,” Bondanza said. “We do a vetting process and temperament evaluation. We keep the packs specialized. We really curate the groups carefully, so we are not placing a shy, not-so-confident dog, with a more dominant more intense play style. We focus on behavior and needs of the dog to help that dictate formulating the group.”

The service also provides overnight boarding, spa services, grooming, bathing and a pet taxi.

When opening a new franchise location, she explained that they do a lot of research in those territories and communities before considering to make it a good area for a pet care facility. Bondanza said their facilities do really well in areas where people are moving to, especially the younger families.

“People in New Jersey and New York are moving to places like Fort Myers and the Carolinas,” she said, adding that Southwest Florida has been a hot spot on their radar for the last year. “The younger people are getting out of the higher price areas.”

Hounds Town USA is an accessible and approachable facility with reasonable prices.

Those interested in learning about franchise opportunities can visit houndstownfranchise.com.

Bondanza said from the first inquiry to the time the franchise is awarded takes about three months. She said after the candidate signs an agreement, it typically takes 12 to 18 months for site selection to opening the doors.

“It’s really fun to see that growing across the country,” she said of the business.

Another franchise looking to expand to the area is a newer brand with a great deal of corporate help.

Home Clean Heroes President Joe Delatte said they are part of Buzz Franchise Brands, which currently owns Pool Scouts, which has locations in Lehigh Acres and Naples, Home Clean Heroes and British Swim School.

Home Clean Heroes, an emerging brand, is a residential cleaning service based out of Virginia.

“It’s a strong new brand with a lot of corporate support for entrepreneurs that want to develop a franchise on a fairly low level,” Delatte said. “We set ourselves apart from other typical maid business. You wont find maid, or the color pink in our color palette. We take Home Clean Heroes to heart. It’s a bold brand that people like to resonate with, every home needs a hero.”

Lehigh Acres, he said could be the first location in the state of Florida to have Home Clean Heroes.

There are two major targets, Delatte explained, for the consumer groups to really benefit. He said 70 percent of homeowners use a cleaning service, which are independent companies, or individuals cleaning homes.

“The service is somewhat unreliable and unpredictable. We bring a level of professionalism,” Delatte said. “In Florida we have two demographics . . . more affluent older households, as well as younger, busy families that demand our service.”

Home Clean Heroes is attractive, in terms of business opportunities for a franchise, he said, because it is a predictable, recurring revenue service.

Those who would like to find out more information can visit homecleanheroesfranchise.com/ or call 844-949-4376.

“We have had a handful of people from the market that have shown some interest, but hasn’t been the right fit,” he said.

The new franchise agreement fee is typically $30,000, but for the next four new franchisees the fee is $10,000.

“Anyone who is interested in looking and talking right now can be part of the entry level pricing,” Delatte said. “The franchise business is really a pathway that we go down, a discovery process to really understand what it is the candidate wants out of business ownership. We get to know them and what we can do.”

The process to get started takes anywhere from two to four months, and an additional 30 days before opening.

“It usually operates from a small warehouse office operation and it starts with two cleaning teams,” Delatte said, adding that there are two vehicles and two people in each vehicle. “We not only plan, but help execute the marketing. We take them through the planning to make sure the phone rings with the franchisee. We will help you build the business, operate the business and keep customers coming to you as well.”