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Keeping the community in good health

Healthy Spaces is a small business with a big impact on the local community. Read more of these stories within our Perspective magazine, inside today's paper.
by: VERN UYETAKE Mike Bays, co-owner of Healthy Spaces in West Linn, relaxes with a foot bath and a cup of tea.

Though Healthy Spaces has moved several times over the past decade, the business' store and self-service spa have always remained in the core group of shops and cafes along Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn. And over the years, the business has become a pillar of the health care community that has blossomed in the historic Willamette district.

Today the small but bustling Willamette Falls Drive business strip is home to a handful of naturopaths, several chiropractors, massage and other therapists, yoga and pilates studios and, of course, Healthy Spaces, a spa, water bar and store.

It makes sense to Diane Bays, who co-owns Healthy Spaces with her husband, Mike.

'There's a history of healing in this area,' she said, noting some people believe the vortex where the Willamette and Tualatin rivers meet holds special power. 'There's a great healing energy in this neighborhood.'

Bays' passion for wellness is rooted in a back injury she suffered long ago and related chronic pain that persisted for years. It took a long time for her to find an approach that allowed her to live without pain.

The therapeutic equipment available in her self-service spa, she said, 'represents the approach I found that helped me.'

A typical regimen begins in the infrared sauna, which soothes and relaxes muscles and allows them to release stored toxins.

A client then might move to the shiatsu massage bed, which also emits heat as jade rollers target pressure points along the spine to ease pain.

A 'whole-body vibration' machine is good for building up bone density, stimulates the lymphatic system and can help with weight loss, Bays said.

Other equipment includes a foot bath, a massage chair, light therapy, and, Bays' personal favorite, the Chi Machine, which helps relieve tension in the back, shoulders and neck while improving circulation. Bays also offers ionized alkaline water, which aims to improve health.

But it's up to the person using the spa to choose his or her form of therapy, because it's all self-service.

'When you come here, it's your private sanctuary,' complete with a relaxing fireplace, Bays said.

'My goal was to find people with chronic pain, but I also realize people are under a tremendous amount of stress these days,' she added. As a result, it's common for couples to enjoy date nights at the spa, or for friends to unwind together and nurture themselves after a tough week.

And for those who want a full menu of health services, a massage therapist, a dietician and a counselor share the space next door.

'I want to empower people to take their health into their own hands - in concert with a practitioner,' Bays said.

In addition to providing locals with better health, Healthy Spaces offers more tangible support to the community.

The business has frequently provided prizes for school auctions and other fundraisers. It has held fundraisers for West Linn High School's annual graduation party.

Bays is also active in the efforts of Historic Willamette - A Main Street Community, and in the local farmers market, in which she was a founding member.

'Small business owners sponsor arts festivals and concerts, and they donate to school auctions,' Bays said. 'That's how we support the community. All we ask in return is that people patronize our businesses.'

Still, staying above water has been tough throughout the economic recession. Some people hit especially hard financially are deferring preventive health care, Bays said.

She acknowledged her retail selection has shrunk some in recent years. That's in part because she has chosen to focus more on services and on the store's water bar.

She still offers cutting-edge, high-tech equipment for sale, and she can order special items out of stock and ship them to clients. But as natural products have become increasingly mainstream, places like New Seasons and Whole Foods markets - not to mention Internet vendors - have created more competition for smaller companies like Healthy Spaces.

At times, staying in business has been a struggle, but Bays has always pulled through. She credits dedication to health care for Healthy Spaces' survival.

'If you look at the small, independent businesses that have survived, you're going to find owners who care about more than the bottom line,' she said. 'With those of us still here, you're going to find a passion for the community, and in our case, for health. I believe we have something of value to share.'

Healthy Spaces is located at 1751 Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn.

Contact the business at 503-655-3565 or send an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or go online to www.facebook.com/healthyspaceswestlinn or www.healthyspacesonline.com.