Having built a solid reputation for beer, wine and fine food over the past decade or so, Downtown DeLand now seems to be on a health kick.
Six new health-and-fitness businesses have opened or are slated to open this year in the central business district, offering reflexology, massage, pilates, yoga, neurofeedback and more.
Finding health services in Downtown DeLand is not new. A chiropractor, a weight-loss service, a health-food store and an acupuncture clinic — to name a few — have been operating for some time.
But the sudden influx of businesses devoted to wellness is notable.
“There must be a need,” said Anna Collins of You Do You Yoga, who began offering Baptiste-style yoga classes earlier this year in a studio at 114 W. New York Ave. in Downtown DeLand.
Unanimously, all the new business owners spoke of a growing need for their services, and, more personally, being drawn to DeLand either by family ties or the town’s ambience.
Missy McMurray said her new business is part of an “uprising in town” that is “part of a movement of self-love and self-care.”
McMurray, who has family members in West Volusia, is moving from Atlanta to open DeLand Pilates at 119 N. Woodland Blvd.
She is currently waiting for city approvals for her renovations, and hopes to open in October.
Like some of the other new business owners, McMurray was motivated to share an exercise technique that made a positive difference for her.
“Pilates changed my life,” she said.
Knead and Sole Reflexology, open since February at 216 N. Woodland Blvd., has a similar origin.
Owner Lisa Monti left the music business to open the studio, hoping to help others discover the benefits she found from a directed massage method that focuses on feet and hands.
“Reflexology was life-changing,” Monti said.
Shan Kennedy, one of the therapists at Knead and Sole, noted some people are reluctant to try alternative modalities before they’ve exhausted the possibilities of traditional medicine.
But when it comes to some health problems, Kennedy said, “We should be your first resort, not your last.”
DeLandite Vicki Duckett also drew on personal experience when she decided to open her Happy Brain Neurofeedback office in Downtown DeLand earlier this year at 114 W. New York Ave.
Like yoga and pilates, neurofeedback can be likened to a form of exercise — but, for the brain, not muscles. The Duckett family saw remarkable results for a family member diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Seeking an alternative to drugs, the Ducketts found neurofeedback, and Vicki Duckett later decided to become certified and launch her business, hoping to share the positive results her family had had with others.
“Our family was so fortunate that a physician recommended neurofeedback,” Duckett said. “Now, after being involved for many years, I’ve seen that everyone can benefit from the training, whether you are struggling with negative symptoms or just want to reduce stress and improve your clarity and sense of well-being.”
The DeLand Healing Center, which opened in June in DeLand Plaza, next to the post office, and Bodhi and Sol, scheduled to open in October at 136 S. Woodland Blvd., both offer a wide variety of health-related services including massage, yoga and essential oils.
The Downtown DeLand studio will be a second location for Bodhi and Sol owners Chelsea Conard and Allyson Sunderman, who also own City Wellness in St. Augustine.
“We are passionate about health and wellness, and we saw a need and felt a draw to this sweet, supportive Downtown,” Conard said.
Helping someone improve his or her life, Conard said, “is what it’s all about.”
Yoga teacher Collins, daughter of Beacon publisher Barb Shepherd, said offering that positive change often requires encouraging people to take a risk.
A DeLand native, Collins tailors her classes based on individual needs.
“People may be nervous to try, but there are no expectations, and no need to have a background in yoga,” she said.
The risk these new business owners have taken in opening their doors is reflected in the customers who walk through their doors, looking for a change in their own lives, and willing to take a risk for the better.
But can Downtown DeLand support so many?
“Absolutely,” said Sara Humbert, a registered dietitian who works in acute care at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial and teaches a Saturday-morning yoga class at Persimmon Hollow Brewing Co. in Downtown DeLand.
Humbert started her class in 2015 and has seen it grow from six or 12 people to an average of 30 and sometimes as many as 45. She’s adding a second class in October.
“There is a movement toward health in this country, and there needs to be,” Humbert said. “People are realizing that being sedentary isn’t beneficial for their health and overall quality of life . . . So, people are seeking out a different way to be healthier that works for their life.”