Distinctive Women: Maurita Elias

By Jerry Lynott The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A Pennsylvania spa owner shares how she has been able to build her franchise to do a million dollars a year in business.


Give Maurita Elias an hour and she can change your life.

If someone walks into the Woodhouse Day Spa, she likes to say, they walk out a different person. Having owned the spa for more than 14 years, she spoke from experience.

"I love seeing the transformation in people from the time they come to the time they leave," Elias said.

Elias was selected by the Times Leader as one of 20 Distinctive Women of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The more than 100-year-old, Tudor-style house at 387 Wyoming Ave. becomes a safe place where someone can escape from the daily grind through a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure or other skin or body treatment.

It was with that purpose that Elias, 57, and her husband, Robert, established a local franchise of the spa that started in Victoria, Texas, in 2001. Nationwide there are 60 franchises.

"I think that we had a real passion for starting the Woodhouse because we are very much into health and wellness, and we felt that the spa industry was the perfect avenue to be able to get the message out and to educate the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania," Elias said.

It wasn't their first venture together, however.

She earned her undergraduate degree and her MBA from Wilkes University. Once out of school she went to work at the former First Eastern Bank from 1983 to 1993. From there she and her husband, an attorney, opened up a Party City store franchise, that's since relocated to Highland Park Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre Township.

"It's cool to see something that we started still going," she said.

"I hope that this is a legacy someday too," Elias said of the Woodhouse.

Other women interested in starting businesses have sought her out for advice. Elias said she believes there are more women in business these days because of increased opportunities and more starting out on their own.

The spa's location hasn't changed since the start. The number of clients and therapists have and for the better.

"The business has grown incredibly which I'm very grateful for, and I have such a wonderful team of people that support that," Elias said.

"We do over a million dollars a year," she said.

It's different from other businesses that identify themselves as spas.

"We are the only true dedicated day spa. There are other spas that are actual hair salons, but offer spa services," she said.

The Woodhouse staff of more than two dozen people includes hospitality workers and licensed therapists. Clients, men and women, come from all over. The majority of them are local, with many repeat customers. Through business relationships with local hotels, people visiting the area also can visit the spa.

The spa, or one of its massage therapists, makes a house call of sorts.

"We're actually the massage providers for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins," Elias said. A massage therapist goes to the hockey team's practice facility.

"They're very prone to injuries so it helped them work through that. But a lot of them just like to relax," she said.

That business relationship is more than 10 years old, and the spa has been working on others, connecting with people through health fairs, company and community events.

It's also how Elias connects.

"I do all the strategic planning for the company. I do the forecasting. But I also like to be involved to some extent," she said. "I have three wonderful managers that I can delegate to, and so I'm not in the spa all the time.

But I do like being involved because I love talking to the guests and, over the years, I've developed so many friendships with people just from coming here."

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