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Leanne Spofford, Cheri Christiansen and Nancy Brown supply much of the passion behind "Four Pillars," a new spa and wellness retreat in Lakewood Ranch.
East County Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016 5 years ago

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater

Four Pillars a rock-solid business venture
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

The tour of Four Pillars' temporary home in Lakewood Ranch took a turn into a small room that was dimly lit and filled with soft music.

Standard procedure if you were about to get a massage.

But, Jiminy Cricket, what was that appliance sitting on a table at one end of the room?

Jay Heater
Jay Heater

Is that a Crock-Pot?

Owner Cheri Christiansen gave me a quick, "Were you born yesterday?" look and smiled. "Yes, that's a Crock-Pot."

She walked to the table, pulled off the lid and lifted out ... a couple of rocks.

My alpha male side went into hiding as I thought, "You aren't getting any hot hot rocks between my shoulder blades No siree."

Christiansen, who opened her business in December, handed the stones over and told me to feel them a bit.

I am not sure if these were Mississippi rocks or Snake River rocks, or perhaps the international kind from the Amazon, but they sure were smooth. Maybe this woman was on to something?

Four Pillars, the brainchild of Christiansen, prides itself on its "aha" moments, or at least "ahhhh" moments. I'm sure many of you might be familiar with the hot rock massage or many of the other services provided by Four Pillars. But it's a good bet they would have a surprise for you if you decide to visit, and take a tour.

Getting potential customers to visit is the primary chore for Christiansen and her staff, which includes "founders" Leann Spofford, Nancy Brown and Tatiana Valadares. Once you walk through the doors, though, it's a good chance you're coming back.

And they haven't even opened their main facility, which will be on Communications Parkway, just east of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and south of University Parkway. Until next spring, Christiansen will be building community relationships at 8209 Natures Way, Suite 221, The size of their current surroundings hasn't stifled their mission which aims to get your mind, body, spirit and social connections (the four pillars) in order.

I can't say I understand all the pillar alignments, but it's hard not to be impressed when looking at the plans for the new building, which will include a major spa facility, a patio, spa garden overlooking a pond and nature preserve, meeting room, a bookstore, boutique, full-service kitchen, lounge, deck, two lanais, meditation garden, herb garden, fire pit, outdoor pavilion and a Kia dealership.

OK, I made that last one up. But it's going to be, oh for goodness sakes, huge.

Rooting for Christiansen will be half the fun for watching the project grow. If you go to the website at, you can read all about her 40-something years on the planet. And I mean, a lot more that you might have expected.

Christiansen is open about her failed marriage and other aspects of her life that led to a greater sense of self-awareness and a more clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish in life.

"Life is filled with obstacles," Christiansen said. "Twists and turns. You need to have compassion for yourself and for others. And life has a purpose."

She is so confident with her business purpose she took the equity out of a home she owns in Arizona, and put the money toward the construction of the 7,500 square foot facility she is building on professional parkway. It a leap of faith, for sure, but one inspired by the rapid growth of Lakewood Ranch.

"I'm not worried," she said. "I'm pretty fearless. I believe in it."

Christiansen believes in her business, even if she isn't quite sure what to call it.

"It is difficult for me," she said. "I call it a retreat center, a place to hang out with no pressure."

What might eventually make the difference for Christiansen is whether she can bring enough business owners and their employees through the door. Logic would indicate Four Pillars would be the perfect environment to host those "retreats" that are so popular.

Common theory has it that you need to drive two hours to leave behind the grind of of the work environment. Distance, I guess, promotes some kind of mental disconnect. With Four Pillars, and the all the high-powered stress right here in Lakewood Ranch, the trip has been reduced to a matter of minutes.

Perhaps that is what we need at one of our upcoming Observer meetings, a deep tissue massage, some soft music, coffee supplied by Christiansen's "Brazilian connection."

She looked at me and then started explaining reiki treatments, where a therapist can channel energy through touch, a stress reduction method that utilizes unseen life force energies.

I'm not sure about this reiki stuff, but why not heat up some rocks?




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