While the pandemic has forced some businesses to forego expansion, Michele Branch recently moved her flourishing Branch Out Day Spa to a new Northwest Rochester spot and is working on also opening a Winona location.

Branch Out opened at 4100 18th Ave NW in the Cedarwood Plaza on Jan. 5 offering a wide array of services, including facials, chemical peels, body wraps, brow extensions/lifts/tints, waxing, microdermabrasion and more in two private spa suites.

“My clients are amazing. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am at,” she said. “ My clients have been very faithful and so supportive. That's why we're thriving.”

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However, the path has not gone quite as planned.

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After a couple of years working solo in two Rochester locations, Branch decided to ramp up and open a larger place. She opened downtown in the Doubletree Hotel’s skyway space by Cafe Steam. That’s where Blu H20 was previously located.

Branch Out opened there six days before the first COVID-19 shutdown. Her business was closed for 12 weeks and then faced a quiet downtown with most of her potential customers – Mayo Clinic employees – working from home.

“We stuck it out as long as we could. Then we had to re-evaluate,” she said. “We needed a place to better accommodate our clients.”

That turned out to be the space in Cedarwood Plaza.

Branch works with one other esthetician there. However, as she gears up to open a second location in Winona in the next few weeks, she expects to add one or two more to her team soon.

Why take the additional step of opening a second spa in Winona?

“It was always the plan to branch out to other locations,” she said. “Winona is a college town and not many there offer the services that we do. Since we’re not hurting, I thought, ‘Why not try it now?’”