By Emily Stonehouse
Sometimes, the first step is the most important one to take. Other times, it’s the hopping, skipping, stumbling, and jumping that makes the journey worthwhile.
For Shay Hutchings and Sarah Comer, their story has been filled with twists and turns, but has accumulated in one thing: the newly opened Wellness Hub in Haliburton. “When this first started, I thought we couldn’t do it,” said Comer, who co-owns the business and building with Hutchings, “but now that we are open, I feel so light and bright and absolutely ready for this.”
The Wellness Hub is located down Industrial Park Road, in a building that previously housed tenants from the industrial industry. It has been transformed into a space that is welcoming and warm. The facility houses multiple wellness-related businesses, with everything from pilates and weight training, dance for seniors and children, massage therapy, psychotherapy, and is continuing to partner with local business owners to expand their services. “We are not super specific about what type of business,” said Hutchings, “we are trying to create a space that offers all forms of health and wellness; mind, body, and soul.”
Many will remember that the building used to house Haliburton Dance Arts (HDA), run by Chyna Schell, before it was sold to Comer and Hutchings. “We never could have opened this space without Chyna,” said Comer, “we like to see this space as a baton that’s been passed to us. First, Terri Mathews started HDA, then she passed the baton to Chyna, and now, Chyna has passed the baton to us; the vision has continued to evolve and grow with our community.”
Hutchings and Comer have been friends since high school, and are both locals to Haliburton County. The vision for the Wellness Hub started years ago, when Comer was living and working in Banff after school, and Hutchings was settling back into Haliburton. “We used to talk on the phone, and we had all these ideas about creating a club in Haliburton that just shared the stories of people,” said Comer.
The idea evolved into their first project together: Project SHE. Project SHE was predominantly an online platform, which offered a safe space for women and girls to feel honoured, celebrated, and safe. Starting in 2019, Comer and Hutchings started interviewing female entrepreneurs, business owners, and community figures. The whole concept was to share their stories, and give them a platform to soar. “I remember doing a podcast interview, sharing our vision, and after the interview, the host told us ‘I can’t wait to see what you two do next’, and that really stuck with me,” said Hutchings.
The two have soared far. While Project SHE is still on their radar, Comer and Hutchings have evolved parts of the branding into the Wellness Hub, creating a holistic space where everyone is welcome. “We want people to feel comfortable, open-minded, and welcome,” said Comer, “I believe if we have a space like that, then we will all learn from each other.”
The space currently offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences on-site, but Comer and Hutchings are always looking to grow. “We have visions of opening up a juice bar or coffee spot, we want to make everything accessible, and make it a hub overall,” said Hutchings. When asked about next steps, Comer and Hutchings agree that their measurement of success is always based on quality over quantity, collaboration over competition, and their bottom line is to always offer a space that feels welcoming to everyone.
While the journey seems to have evolved quickly and naturally, Comer and Hutchings said that any endeavor worth taking always comes with its fair share of growing pains. They noted that they have received an immense amount of support from Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC), and greatly encourage any new business in the Haliburton County region to work with them. “We’re young professionals,” said Hutchings, “many banks struggled with that, but HCDC looked at us. They listened to our plan, and have held our hand from the beginning.”
In the future, the bright-eyed duo have a vision of a vibrant and buzzing building, with all ages, skill-sets, and experience levels feeling welcome and supported. “We want to make wellness more transferable,” said Comer, “it’s not just about your body, it’s about feeding your soul and mind as well.”
The Wellness Hub is located at 135 Industrial Park Road in Haliburton, and has a variety of classes and sessions available. For more information, visit @wellness.hub_ on Instagram.