This past Friday the River Valley Spa wrapped up its final day at its downtown location on Prentice Street as owner Mary Virnig has moved her massage therapy operation to her Granite Falls home at 706 7th Street.

This past Friday the River Valley Spa wrapped up its final day at its downtown location on Prentice Street as owner Mary Virnig has moved her massage therapy operation to her Granite Falls home at 706 7th Street.
Virnig opened the River Valley Spa in December of 2009 originally offering massage, body scrubs and wraps, aromatherapy, sauna access and ear candling. In time, she expanded the business offerings to include hair, nail care and other services––but with the relocation plans to get back to her original massage basics.
Over the past year, Virnig was taken away from the business as her mother’s poor health required her to spend a significant amount of time by her side in Maryland.
“It’s hard to run a business if you’re not here,” she said. You still have to manage everybody else.”
Virnig said that the stress of running a business under such circumstances was one issue, but adding to her angst was the realization that her management duties were keeping her from practicing and developing her own skills and interests.
“I’ve really had a hard time being able to branch out into my own field because I’m running this business, half of which involves services that I don’t do,” she said. “To be honest, I never thought I would be running a salon and spa.”
Virnig originally opened the establishment after a visit to Ireland where she took in the native spas and was introduced to new levels of relaxation. Her desire was to create those experiences for area residents in downtown Granite Falls––and by all accounts, she has been exceedingly successful.
Over the past couple years, the nail and hair offerings were made available to meet customer requests for bundled services, but in the end demand didn’t necessarily justify the extra expense and effort.
“You hear your clients say they would like to see other services. You start to offer those services, yet overall it didn’t exactly increase our clientele.”
The chance to get back to basics presented itself to Virnig when her two full-time employees each indicated that it appeared life was going to be leading them elsewhere. So in August, the decision was made to close the downtown location.
“With the girls each wanting to go different directions, I feel this is just the perfect opportunity to get back to doing the things that I want to do,” she said.

New location
Virnig isn’t taking any downtime during the transition between business locales. In fact, after weeks of putting up dry wall, applying copious amounts of paint and decorating the  space with a variety of appointments bathed in earth tones, she welcomed the first client into her newly remodeled basement on Tuesday.
Once again, Virnig will continue to offer massage therapy and spa body treatments, such as body masks and body wraps as well as ear candling. But she also brought along her top of the line Sunvision tanning booth and will continue offering a variety of handmade beauty products.
Looking ahead, Virnig is excited about being able to focus on bringing incredible experiences of relaxation and revitalization to her clients, in addition to trying out new services such as a “S(pa)lumber party,” wherein a group of up to five women use her setting for a girls’ night out. Specifically, this might involve a gathering around  a meal and a movie, during which all of those present are pampered by Virnig’s services.
“We just dont’ take that time out for ourselves,” said Virnig of the importance massage therapy and related services. “It’s not about making your self pretty with nail polish or a haircut––it’s about that honest to God muscle manipulation that does wonders for your body. I lost a lot of that running a business and I can’t wait to get back to it.”

The Bluenose Gopher Brewery
As for Virnig’s building and equipment, it is being quickly snatched up by area individuals. To date, Virnig said she has sold to 90 percent of her hair and nail care related items, and is set to sign a purchase agreement with a local brewery co-op start-up that calls itself The Bluenose Gopher  Brewery.
Virnig plans to advertise her remaining items, while The Bluenose Gopher  Brewery is still in the infancy stages of  its development.
Made up of locals Sarina Otaibi, Tim Beckmann, Mary Gillespie, Scott Wold, Megan Ulrich and Montevideo resident Andrew Hodney, the newly formed cooperative brewery intends to open a small brewpub and restaurant. At present, the six founding members are busy working on the business plan, cooperative bylaws and most importantly their product, the beer.
 The brewery will not be up and running for another couple of years as they develop their business model and products. Given this, the co-op is looking for individuals such as entrepreneurs, artists, or business owners in need of temporary space in downtown Granite Falls to test out an idea, to use as office, retail or studio space.
In the meantime, the members of Bluenose Gopher Brewery will be using the back of the building  to perfect their beer recipes and to conduct business meetings until they are ready to open up for business.
Individuals are asked to call Mary Gillespie at (320) 309-0092 or to stop by her place of business in downtown Granite Falls, Frogs on the Footbridge. In addition, the group’s progress can be followed at