Strong House Spa staff providing massages for Prouty participants

When a business starts, and flourishes over many years, it provides benefits in several ways. Certainly, it benefits the entrepreneurs who had the vision to start the enterprise, and the various people employed there. Further, it benefits the clients and customers who’ve used the products and services provided. Still, other not-so-apparent beneficiaries may include the community as a whole, organizations that depend on that business in their works, and even other enterprises, which are bolstered by the clientele and goodwill generated. All of these are examples of the good works generated by Quechee’s Strong House Spa, celebrating 30 years in operation this year.

Just how a business survives and thrives this long is not a mystery. “We think that success is simply a dream followed by a lot of hard work, dedication and focus,” says Sheila Armen, who, along with business partner Shelly Yusko, began and still operates Strong House Spa. “One of the most difficult tasks in business is to stay focused on your mission. We’ve tried not to get side tracked into areas that do not fit our mission even though we sometimes want to,” says Sheila.

And what is that mission? “(To provide) quality therapeutic treatments in a safe and healing environment that honors the patient, practitioner and the environment,” says Sheila.

The Jedediah Strong House, long a Quechee landmark
Strong House Spa founding owners Shelly Yusko & Sheila Armen

From their beginning, Sheila Armen says their success resulted both from hard work, and from the many contributions of others. “We are extremely proud of our success but we did not do it alone. We have to thank our advisors, lenders, consultants, vendors, friends, family and clients who have shared the 30 years of long hours and sacrifices to make the Strong House Spa the wellness center it is today.”

One other contributor, not always obvious to the casual observer, is the building that houses the Spa – the venerable old Jedediah Strong House. Long a landmark in the Quechee community, the building, with careful updates and renovations, has proved a valuable asset for the business. “Operating in the historic Jedediah Strong House has allowed us to expand as the years passed and the healing energy of the building has embraced our progress.”

Progress. That’s a word entrepreneurs use when they adapt, innovate, change, keep up with market trends. In the field of health related treatments and products, that willingness to adapt is crucial. It might surprise many to know, “In the beginning it was rare to find a person who had actually received a massage unless it was an athlete who used massage to treat injuries,” says Sheila. Those athletes helped shape the business’ focus early on, she adds. “Shelly’s (Yusko) education is in sports injuries and chronic pain so we decided to keep a focus on helping people who want to stay active throughout life.”

Fast forward to today, where new innovations and services continue. “We have just opened our new Wellness Lounge,” says Sheila, which features services such as an infrared sauna with light therapy and an inversion massage chair. Of course, new products continue to be offered. “We have a wellness store…that has a large variety of wellness and self care products and, over the last five years, have added a variety of CBD products most of which are local and organically grown.”

Shelly Yusko donates her time to ease runners’ sore muscles after the Covered Bridges Half Marathon.
Shelly Yusko donates her time to ease runners’ sore muscles after the Covered Bridges Half Marathon.

It’s not only services and products that have progressed and developed. “Both of us have grown through education, learning from our mistakes and generally keeping up with the enormous changes that happened over the years,” says Shelia of her and Shelly.

When all is said and done, a business is judged by its benefit to the community as a whole. Whether it’s we here at Greater Good Media highlighting the wonderful people, places, and organizations in towns such as Quechee, or the many businesses sponsoring events such as the upcoming Quechee Balloon Festival, our region is blessed with community-minded enterprises. The Strong House Spa is no exception, having supported an array of causes over its 30-year history.

The annual Prouty event for cancer research is just one example. “We began the post-event massage for The Prouty, and in the beginning could not beg people to get on the table, even if they were cramping up. Those days have changed and now it takes a tent full of therapists to manage the number of participants who want to get flushed out after the event,” says Sheila.

“We also began the post-event massage for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon and the Vermont 50 race but, after 25 years, we had to stop doing event work since we were so busy at the spa.”

These annual events have not been the only beneficiaries of Strong House Spa. “We have tried to be good stewards of our community by building the Ottauquechee Trail that connects one end of town to the other,” says Sheila. “We have enlisted the help of the community from many area schools, the local colleges, the garden club, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance and community members. We hope to continue to raise money and awareness for our trail system.”

Thirty years of benefiting clients, service providers, and the community at large – thanks, Sheila Armen and Shelly Yusko. Thanks from all of us, and happy anniversary.

The Jedediah Strong House, long a Quechee landmark
The Jedediah Strong House, long a Quechee landmark