In 2008, Abby Brennan bought one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood and transformed it that fall into Brennan Massage & Spa, finding herself right in the thick of the business district, at 3700 Grand Blvd. - and in the midst of a national economic meltdown.
Opening a spa in Brookfield may have seemed ill-advised to others, especially considering a full-blown recession that was driving people away from personal-services businesses like Brennan's.
Four years later, Brennan's decision has paid dividends.
Starting in 2008 with only two rooms and two employees, just three weeks ago the facility expanded to seven rooms and now has a staff of 15 employees. The expansion came in the wake of having to begin a waiting list for new customers. Her client base has grown to about 75 to 100 people every week, Brennan said, and she decided that it was time to expand into the second floor of the home - one of the oldest in the village - where her business is stationed.
"It was definitely a challenge at the start," Brennan said of getting through the recession, "but we just had to figure out how to stay positive. I've always wanted to have a positive environment here, and have always made sure that my employees feel happy working here. We work hard and we're a good team. I'd use the word family, but sometimes that can be a synonym for dysfunctional."
She also gives credit to her networking within the Grand Prairie Crossing business group and Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. Together they worked to increase foot traffic in the business district through fundraisers, special events and art festivals. Brennan has played a lead role in several of those events. She said she believes the support she received from not only her fellow small business owners but the local community as a whole has been essential to the health of her spa.
Going from only specializing in massage therapy, the spa's staff has been able to take on extra clients by also expanding into the fields of energy healing and facial care.
"Because of the great people of Brookfield, we've been able to survive," she said, "and we look over and beyond just bringing people into our location, but also driving customers to other local businesses."