University Park Massage Heights featured on CBS' 'Undercover Boss'

cschelle@bradenton.comDecember 13, 2013 

Undercover Boss

Shane Evans, chief operating officer of Massage Heights, one of the largest massage chains in North America, must overcome her aversion to touching people when working as a massage therapist on "Undercover Boss." During a visit at the University Park spa, she tries to be a retreat director. The episode airs on CBS at 8 p.m. Friday. STUDIO LAMBERt/ CBS

STUDIO LAMBERT — CBS

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Tori Balzer, a retreat director at Massage Heights in University Park, will be featured on tonight's episode of "Undercover Boss" -- and yes, there will be tears.

The popular CBS reality series stopped in Manatee County in October to follow Balzer's boss, Massage Heights co-founder Shane Evans, as she visited the spa incognito to see how her business is doing. The results will air at 8 p.m. Friday on CBS, locally on WTSP.

Typically at the conclusion of the episode, employees are rewarded handsomely for their part if they did well, and bosses become just as emotional as they show compassion for their employees' stories. Some employees could be reprimanded or retrained, causing a different type of tears. But it sounds as if Balzer can be grouped in the first category.

"I definitely did shed tears, and I am a little emotional," Balzer told the Herald Friday. "It was definitely a good journey."

The series disguises executives and sends them to several locations to get an inside look of their own business, working alongside employees. Evans, Massage Heights' chief operating officer, visited the University Park location as part of an overview of the chain's op

eration as the San Antonio-based business will soon open its 100th location.

Evans, disguised as "Traci," tries her hands at being a skin therapist, massage therapist, lifestyle consultant and retreat director, with the final job finding her in Manatee County.

In an online preview clip, Balzer has her boss wash massage stones and fill lotion bottles. Evans appears to be pleased with the University Park store for using the company's branded Heights at Work lotion, though the boss is making a mess and Balzer critiques how slow she is.

Balzer, a Michigan native, joined Massage Heights in November 2012 while going to school for massage therapy. She made her way up through the company and was able to become the retreat director at the University Park location, 5275 University Parkway, after transferring in February.

Retreat directors manage the individual locations handling customer service issues at the front, making sure massage therapists are doing their jobs correctly and to make sure everyone has proper training.

A camera crew first arrived at the spa a few months ago, Balzer said, to interview staff who were interested in spending time with the crew. Then in October, the "Undercover Boss" team descended on the spa, except under a different name and premise.

Balzer has watched the show before, but still didn't think she would be on the show during the first round of filming, nor did she know it was her boss in front of her.

"I had no idea who it was, but it was like a normal training, but a little more pressure because of all the cameras around," Balzer said.

Learning experience

After looking back at the experience, she found it comical that it was her boss she was training, trying to correct mistakes under pressure.

"I think business in general is stressful, but it's about how well you can handle it," Balzer said.

Bosses tend to draw out suggestions from their employees and want to hear what the company could do to be better for their employees and customers. For Balzer, she shared how she felt a disconnect with ownership, which can typically be in another part of the country when help is needed. She feels that has improved.

"It was a great feeling because being in the franchise, we have to work with our owners from far distances, especially our corporate team," Balzer said. "It's nice to see she cared and makes sure everybody at Massage Heights understood what Massage Heights stood for."

Christmas season is a particularly busy time of year, and Balzer expects that the episode will draw even more customers into the store, curious to meet someone who was on TV or see what the spa has to offer.

"I can definitely see a huge increase in foot traffic within the month," she said.

But when she watches the episode Friday, she'll take a break from her busy schedule and in lieu of a viewing party, have a quiet evening.

"I'm actually going to be just with my family and watch the show. My family's from Michigan, and I'll be watching it with them on Skype, so it's like they're with me on the couch," Balzer said.

She may need to grab a box of tissues, too.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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