What began as a typical Monday, was quickly elevated as we wandered into the health oasis behind the glass doors of Method Infrared Sauna & Wellness.
It’s hard to miss the welcoming face of co-owner, Debralee Letchford, or the sliding ladder that thoughtfully graces the almost floor-to-ceiling bookshelves behind the front counter.
Then there is the large, hanging chair and prevalence of greenery that brings even more life to the space.
Just a few steps inside and you get the feeling that Method is both unfussed and upscale, decompressing, and revitalizing.
In the words of co-owner, Sarah Blehm, Method is a center for people to explore alternative health methods and treatment types.
Its three main branches include: top-of-the line infrared saunas, wellness services like massage, nutritional therapy, ayurvedic treatments, and a growing apothecary that sells holistic goods and supplements.
How It All Began
“About two years ago, I was having some personal health issues – mostly gut health and hormone-related – and was struggling to find the care and treatment I needed. After exploring and researching on my own, I discovered holistic treatment and adaptogenic wellness supplements that enabled me to take great strides toward recovery where traditional medicine seemed to miss the mark,” Sarah tells us.
Debralee elaborates, “It’s not a new concept, but there is a need for it. We are both massage therapists by trade and have been in the industry for more than 10 years. We knew we wanted to create a space where other like-minded health practitioners could come together and help people find some answers.”
Notably, Virginia Beach did not seem to have any kind of business like it, so Debralee and Sarah decided it would be the perfect place for people to find their wellness method by learning, discussing, and discovering new ways of taking care of themselves.
They are certainly succeeding as the atmosphere throughout Method’s studio space feels inviting and vibrant with curiosity.
How They Met
“Debralee and I go way back. We first met at a wellness center in Richmond where she was running the massage department, and I was managing the administrative side. We totally hit it off and have been friends ever since, even through all of life’s changes, moves, kids, you name it,” Sarah exclaims.
After meeting in Richmond, Debralee temporarily left her Virginia roots by living in Colorado for six years. She was able to help grow a local massage practice while Sarah was building up her own massage business in Richmond.
“My desire to invest my time and energy into growing my own business was being strengthened around the time I later moved back to Virginia Beach. Having stayed in touch all of those years, Sarah and I knew was time for us to make our dream happen,” Debralee continues.
The Decor & Ambiance
As if the welcoming entryway wasn’t enough, each thoughtfully considered sauna room feels like something you might find in a friend’s comfortable yet lavish home.
With large, vintage feeling mirrors, a roomy changing area, a hanging towel wrap, facial towelettes, and other toiletries, they’ve thought of everything to make the entire experience stress free.
The black and white subway-tiled, open air shower and spacious bathroom is Pinterest-worthy, while select artwork by STAY (a prior Business Spotlight) adorns the hallways; adding to its modern, homey feel.
“We did a ton of research on everything that went inside the studio. We knew we wanted it to have a high-end, boutique feel without feeling stuffy or sterile, and be representative of the local community as much as possible,” Debralee shares.
Biggest Challenge & Proudest Moment
When asked about the highs and lows, Debralee laughs, “They’re both construction moments!”
She continues, “Of course it’s challenging to be patient with the build-out and all the delays that inevitably happen. That can be discouraging. But I vividly remember the day Sarah brought the pendant lights for the electrician to hang. As I looked up at them, I started to get choked up. They were the first pretty and aesthetically permanent thing to go into our space. I stood there practically crying and thinking to myself, wow, this is real!”
Sarah adds, “Despite the everyday challenges, there have been a few proudest moments for me. Definitely the day of our official opening and seeing so many people come out to support our event. Hitting goals we’ve set since opening feels good, too, and of course, the feeling of pride in talking to and helping the people that come into our space. Those moments of connection and sharing in each other’s journey to better health is really my favorite part of it all.”
The Saunas, Wellness Services & Apothecary
When it came to deciding Method’s core offerings, Debralee and Sarah both felt clear that they did not want to just offer one thing, but have many specialties in one place so they could give their clients a variety of choices and care.
Method’s infrared saunas are dry heat-based, meaning you can stay in longer and they work more effectively.
“Our saunas are full spectrum infrared saunas which include far, mid, and near infrared heat. The radiant heat surrounds you and penetrates deeply into your joints, muscles, and tissues increasing oxygen flow and circulation. Our saunas help to remove impurities from your cells, specifically the cells inside our fat where our body stores waste and harmful toxins such as cholesterol and heavy metals. Far infrared also generates a great passive aerobic exercise resulting in reducing blood pressure and weight loss,” Sarah explains.
For those who love the sauna so much they go daily (and people do), Method is also a retailer for the line of saunas in their studio. Meaning, they can even help you with purchasing a personal one for your home.
The Wellness Services
In addition to the saunas and apothecary, each of Method’s wellness services are targeted and individualized to the needs of each client at every session.
“Our therapeutic massage services cover everything from prenatal, Thai, sports, deep tissue, chronic pain, injury recovery, relaxation to PTSD. Each specialist on our team has an individualized process, but we all work together to determine the best possible treatment and care for the client, based on their specific needs and goals,” Debralee continues.
Method’s staff also includes an expert nutritional therapist, integrative reflexologist, and reiki and ayurvedic practitioners.
They also deliberately built a team of experts in their individual practices and connected with local makers whose products are lining the shelves of their apothecary shop at the front of the studio.
Debralee elaborates, “Sarah has done a lot of the research on finding and vetting companies that are environmentally conscious and source things responsibly. We sell everything from CBD oils, herbal tonics, elixirs, beauty products, aromatherapy, jewelry, honey, oils, thai compresses, salt scrubs, candles, juices and more. We are really picky about who we choose to purchase from, but we can not wait to see these shelves completely full!”
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
When asked what advice she would give to other aspiring business owners, Debralee is quick to answer: “Definitely have a plan in place before taking any action and implement the ‘Rule of 3s’. Don’t hire anyone unless you have interviewed three people in that particular specialty or field. Compare price, education, values, and use all that information to really help reinforce your decisions – whether you are hiring a staff member or a contractor.”
Sarah also adds, “Make sure you are ready for the demands, hours, needs of a business…there are no work hours, they are all work hours! With that in mind, as long as you are passionate about the thing you are doing, it makes it much easier because it doesn’t quite feel like work.”
Both Debralee and Sarah mentioned the importance of working well together and creating boundaries so they can each maintain a sense of work-life balance and precious time with family and friends.
Debralee shares, “As a mom of two, when I’m not at the studio, I’m a part of what we like to call “The Scooter Crew” – I’m always scootering or biking with kids, or doing something active outside like running, surfing or yoga.”
Despite still living in Richmond, Sarah finds herself exploring and getting to know the Virginia Beach area on a weekly basis. From the natural beauty of First Landing, to the shops of the ViBe District and Selden Market, she loves creating connections with the local community as much as possible.
“We both really want to be involved in what’s going on around us. Right now we’re in the Shore Drive Farmers Market (when the weather is warmer), and constantly looking for events, networks, or partnerships we can contribute to,” Debralee adds.
How to Experience All That Method Has to Offer
“We really want Method to be a place where people can come for healing – to help people find their method of living a lifestyle that makes them feel better, live longer, and live well. We do that by educating on healthy lifestyle practices for your every day, from the materials we use on our bodies, for our minds, and in our homes,” Sarah expresses.
Method’s boutique hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm and 10 to 6pm on weekends. They encourage reservations for all services and extend their hours by appointment only.
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