When Kevin Byrne joined the banking world, it wasn’t too different from working in the service or hospitality industry.
The small community banks he was with for the better part of his career — about 24 years — allowed him to work one-on-one with clients, develop personal relationships with them and feel like he was making a genuine effect on their lives.
“The time I was in banking, I really enjoyed it,” Byrne recalled. “I was able to help a lot of businesses over the years get started, expand, build buildings, build homes, and so I really felt like I was making an individual difference.”
Byrne got his start in the industry through a co-op program with Puget Sound National Bank during his junior year at the University of Puget Sound. After working there for a year and a half while in school, he stayed on after graduating for another eight and a half years, doing a little bit of everything from operations to lending.
From there, he joined Western Community Bank, where he worked for seven years as a vice president and commercial lender, until KeyBank purchased it.
He kept his title after the merger, but seven months later, found his way back into community banking.
Byrne got a group together to start a new state-chartered bank in Tacoma, called Northwest Community Bank. There, he served as CEO, founder and vice chairman for another seven years, until it sold to First Community Bank, which was later named Venture Bank.
After that acquisition, Byrne took his entrepreneurial spirit and desire to work one-on-one with clients to an individual mortgage company he co-founded, called Northwest LLC. He ran that business for seven years, before starting a company that operated and franchised check-cashing stores, known as Express Financial Centers.
But, just as regulations had forced him out of small community banks, a change in Washington state laws forced him to wind down his check-cashing business after just six years, in 2011.
By this point, Byrne had a wife, two young adult children and was ready for a change of pace and an opportunity outside the individual regulatory environment where he could put his passion for personal relations and customer service to use.
The similarities aren’t stark, but he landed on a day spa — a place practically guaranteed to send people out the door feeling better than when they walked in. At least that’s how he felt after spending the last four years, since his father’s death, getting massages.
With the help of his wife and two sons, he opened Hand & Stone in Kent Station earlier this month. This is the 130th location for the franchise, which, unlike traditional day spas, typically locates in shopping centers, accommodates walk-ins and offers extended hours.
“When I was in banking I gravitated to small banks and that doesn’t exist anymore. I tried to take that same background and find something different to do with it,” Byrne said. “Those same feelings can get transferred to other lines of work.”
Byrne — who will be running the day-to-day operations at the spa — has hired nine massage therapists, five estheticians and five front desk employees initially to run the 2,900-square-foot location. He anticipates having a total of 30 staff members within a year, though, by which time he said he expects to have an excess of 1,000 full-time members — which visit the spa at least once per month.
“I view myself as someone who was successful in banking because I got to know my clients well and I knew their needs. I knew them. I knew their background. I knew their families. I listened to their individual needs,” Byrne said. “The same things I was doing in banks are similar to the things in Hand & Stone, just in a different line of work.”