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How Cleaning Up After a Space Shuttle Crash Led Two Scientists to Open a Hand & Stone Franchise

First-time franchisees Aaron and Susan Hastings will open Thornton, Pennsylvania’s first Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa this year.

By Hannah Rogers1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSORED 10:10AM 09/28/20

Husband and wife entrepreneurial team Aaron and Susan Hastings are set to open Thornton, Pennsylvania’s Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa this fall. 

Growing up, Susan’s father served in the Navy, and she was able to spend a portion of her childhood in Cuba. Susan later returned to the United States and received her degree in environmental science from the University of West Florida. Originally from D.C., Aaron received his degree from Virginia Tech University in chemical engineering and was sent to help with the environmental clean up of the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster that happened over Texas. During the cleanup, he met Susan, who was also an environmental scientist assigned to help with the cleanup

Aaron and Susan decided to open their Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa operation in Thorton to be able to spend more time traveling with their kids. 

1851 Franchise: Tell us a little bit about your background — what did you do before franchising? 

Susan: I was born in Florida, my father was in the Navy so we moved around a ton, but we lived mostly in the Southeast. I went to school at the University of West Florida and received my degree in environmental science. I worked in that field for 10 years as an environmental scientist and lived all over the country. I always loved living in the Southeast and being by the water. Aaron and I met when the space shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas. We were both working for environmental companies picking up pieces of the shuttle. I moved to Texas but before that I was living in Florida. I lived in Cuba for first, second and third grade  years. I was in eight different schools between first grade and my senior year. 

Aaron: I was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in the D.C.- metro area on the Virginia side. I went to School at Virginia Tech and received my degree in chemical engineering. I loved chemical engineering but I didn’t love the idea of living by a chemical plant, so I got a job working in environmental consulting. It didn’t pay the bills, so I stepped into the telecom industry and I’ve been with the same company for 16 years. I’m a senior director of planning leading the network planning team. I plan on staying at my job through the opening of Hand & Stone. 

1851: Why did you choose to go into franchising? What was the trigger moment that led you to become a franchisee with Hand & Stone? 

Aaron: For three years, a colleague and I have been playing around with the idea of what it would be like to run our own business. The conversation overtime matured to looking at different franchise operations. He and his wife decided to do it and some professional nudging was all it took to make me and Susan get into it. We were looking at different kinds of businesses in November of last year when we became aware of Hand & Stone from a colleague of mine in Oklahoma. We looked into it thoroughly and we ultimately felt like it was the right choice. 

1851: What are your dreams with the business? What does the future look like?

Aaron: I’d like to partner with local charities sometime in the future. Hopefully we can partner with the local schools in Thorton and with Scouts USA. 

1851: Did you look into any brands other than Hand & Stone Massage and Facial?

Aaron: Both Susan and I are into fitness and health. As we were looking at other kinds of franchise opportunities, many of them didn’t fit with who we are socially. Hand & Stone really fits with who we are. We wanted to offer something that was more about the experience of the brand rather than the “stuff” that comes along with it.