Competitive Edge: Massage Retreat Takes On Massage Envy

Competitive Edge: Massage Retreat Takes On Massage Envy

Local upstart Massage Retreat takes on industry leader Massage Envy.


In recent years, you might have noticed a new business at your neighborhood strip mall: the membership-based massage studio, where for a monthly fee, you can grab an hour-long massage or facial.

For more than 10 years, Massage Envy franchises have been popping up nationwide. In the past five, locally based Massage Retreat & Spa locations have put down roots in the Twin Cities. And two years ago, within a month of each other, both companies opened locations in Edina, only a few blocks apart.

While their customizable massage and facial offerings are roughly the same, Massage Envy takes a therapeutic stance, calling its outposts “clinics.” Massage Retreat dubs its stores “spas,” offering services Envy doesn’t, including head-to-toe waxing and eyebrow tinting.

As one of the area’s largest Massage Envys, with 16 rooms, the Edina location provides more than 2,000 services per month, compared with Massage Retreat’s 1,500 to 1,700 in its 10-room spa.

Massage Retreat Owner Lee Oberg says being privately held allows the company to be employee-driven, promote from within, and respond quickly to changes that need to be made. “We’re the same owner, we have the same values at all of our spas, you get that consistency,” he says. “[That] gives us what we feel is a competitive advantage.”

Shelli Stall Smith, who owns Massage Envy franchises in Edina and Vadnais Heights, argues that being a national franchisee gives her access to tested protocols and updates in industry techniques. Plus, when customers are traveling, they can find a Massage Envy in the area. “It’s like a little piece of home no matter where you go,” she says.