DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL – Massage Envy’s founder has new twist with The Joint

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By Ed Sealover (Reporter - Denver Business Journal) on May 17, 2013 in Business

Massage Envy founder's new twist

The man who brought America franchised massage spas has turned to the chiropractic-care business and is opening up clinics - dubbed "The Joint" - up and down the Front Range.

John Leonesio, founder of the Massage Envy chain, is betting his new venture can remake a chiropractic industry that, he says, is "going backwards." Insurers have clamped down severely on payments for chiropractic procedures, and 60 percent of chiropractic businesses fail now, as purveyors must spend nearly half their time chasing down payments, said the Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, who also has a home in Colorado Springs.

The Joint has grown from 12 locations when Leonesio took over as CEO in 2010 to 180 nationwide now. It doesn't accept insurance, and it doesn't take appointments. Instead, customers walk in to purchase an individual $29 visit or $49 monthly membership, which gets them four treatments. The centers are open after work and on weekends.

"Chiropractic doctors have done it one way for so many decades that's it's nearly impossible for them to change," Leonesio said. "We took away a lot of the negatives that customers didn't like about chiropractics."

There are 11 locations along the Front Range, including six that have opened so far this year, said Brad Remington, regional developer for the chain. He has sold the rights to 22 franchised locations, and he expects more to be opening this summer.

The stores go into 1,200-square-foot spaces within retail centers, and most operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. They are operated by chiropractors who either buy into the franchise or operate it for a service-management organization set up by investors.

Among those chiropractor-investors is John Lloyd, who sold his 5280 Chiropractic clinic in downtown Denver to own and operate two Joint locations in the south suburbs and serve as a partial owner and manager of four other locations. While a few independently owned clinics have stopped taking insurance and some others have gone to extended hours, The Joint is the first to wrap up all these efforts in a nationwide franchise model, he said.

Lloyd said he believes the affordable, convenient aspect to the chain can help to grow the 8 percent of Americans now seeing a chiropractor - a number he fears could continue to fall because of insurance reimbursement issues. And he believes that this new model can help students coming out of chiropractic school, who now largely face the choice of starting their own firms or working for clinics where the reimbursement model is highly slanted toward investor owners rather than chiropractors.

"The Joint is a very interesting model in that we've been able to deliver affordable care in convenient time slots, and we're able to do that in a way that works for today's busy people," Lloyd said.