Michael Duncan had ridden to the rescue.
When Egea Spa abruptly closed last December, leaving customers with thousands of dollars in what had become worthless gift cards, Duncan bought the Sherman Avenue facility and promised to honor all outstanding cards and certificates.
But now, Duncan says a combination of his own health and the financial health of the spa forced him to close down abruptly as well, last month.
Duncan, who had spa experience in another location, tells Evanston Now that the recurrence of a serious illness, the cash crunch of honoring $350,000 in cards and certificates sold by Egea before he took over, and the challenge of finding employees all added up to the reality that things were not going to work.
Duncan says he might have been able to ride out one of the factors, but all three combined were too much, particularly with his health making on-site supervision impossible.
Duncan says he even tried selling the business, but three potential buyers all backed out.
“The economy was whiplashing me,” Duncan says, with fewer customers due to the new strain of COVID, and a scarcity of graduates to hire from massage school programs.
Duncan says he redeemed a “tidal wave” worth of gift cards and packages.
He also sold some of his own as the new Egea owner, an estimated $10,000 of which are still out there with no way to use.
Duncan said the attempts to sell Egea included a promise that the next owner would honor his gift cards, but a sale never happened.
Duncan suggests that customers holding new Egea certificates contact their credit card companies, to see if they can get a refund or a credit.
Jennifer Roberts is one of those customers.
Roberts says she showed up at Egea last month to get a facial using a package she had purchased, found the doors locked, the phone disconnected, and a sign posted by another customer who was also wondering what was going on.
“What went though my head,” Roberts says, “is that why didn’t they call me. And, am I going to get my money back?,” about $300.
An explanation of the closing was subsequently posted on Egea’s website, but that site has now been taken down, and Roberts says no one ever reached out to her.
Now she just hopes the credit card company will make good on her expenditure.
In the meantime, she says “I’m not going to pre-pay for services any more.”