Martin Paquette is an Outaouais native and a high-level athlete. He first worked as an educator, then became a police officer. Daniel Gingras is from Quebec City. He began his professional career in education, but soon shifted to the exciting world of business and marketing.
The two men became acquainted while working together as educators with at-risk youth. Their friendship grew quickly, and, sharing a passion for entrepreneurship, they became partners and associates. Together, they share an ambition to improve people’s lives.
While training for the Ottawa marathon, Martin was invited to experience the benefits of thermotherapy at the Polar Bear’s Club, a Nordic spa in the Laurentians. That visit would spark a dream of developing a company based on his deepest-held beliefs and his healthful lifestyle. People living in the Outaouais region needed a spa. He would take the initiative to provide one, and would set it in the heart of nature, no less!
He first shared his idea with Daniel, in an open and friendly atmosphere. Entrepreneurial minds saw a business opportunity, and they joined forces to bring the dream to life. Passionate, motivated, and convinced that their idea had great potential, the two men forged ahead to improve the wellness of people living in the National Capital Region and its surrounding communities.
A parcel of land adjacent to Gatineau Park was identified. The project took shape, and the pieces were placed through perseverance and hard work. Five years passed between the initial idea and the grand opening of Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, in the summer of 2005. Five years of believing in the idea, moving forward, stepping back, working hard, falling, getting back up, persuading, taking risks, but never giving up on the dream. It was a formative and stimulating learning process that would become part of the very foundation and structure of the company.
Despite the financing hurdles they faced, and reluctance from investors who were skittish about their innovative project, the two businessmen continued to follow their instincts to fulfill their mission and reach their goal. Together, they would transform people’s lives by offering them a relaxation paradise in nature, just 10 minutes from the city. A health centre would care for them through thermotherapy and various relaxation techniques inspired by Scandinavian countries.
Their initial plan was to open the spa in Chelsea in the spring of 2002. A photo of the two entrepreneurs on wooded land is illustrative. Filled with startling excitement and tremendous motivation, they personally felled the first trees on the land with their chainsaw. Nothing could make them deviate from their goal.
Their plan had to be revised a few times along the way, but despite everything, they confess to having enjoyed every step of the process. “From the start of the adventure, this was how we launched every project,” says Daniel Gingras, co-owner and VP of corporate development. “By living in the moment, celebrating the positives, and staying optimistic about the challenges we faced.” To succeed at each step, the two champions of wellness surrounded themselves with trustworthy experts and partners who sometimes acted as guides, sometimes as advisers.
The formula worked. Guests settled in from day one. People needed a place where they could relax, where time would stop for a while. More and more guests were coming to try thermotherapy and integrate it into their wellness routines. The number of visitors shot up. Their instinct had led them in the right direction.
Starting in the winter of 2006, just a few months after the official opening, the teams mobilized to launch phase 2 of the project. They created the Kaskad relaxation area, added massage therapy rooms, and doubled the space of the changing rooms to welcome even more wellness lovers. Next, a lodge was built, and then a second. They would multiply guest options by offering welcoming and luxurious lodges to host professional meetings or to enjoy a getaway with family or friends, just steps from Nordik Spa-Nature.
The popularity of Nordik Spa-Nature is alive and well. One of the greatest challenges faced by our two wellness creators was to be able to welcome everyone who wanted to take a nature break. In 2012, they began construction on a third section to greatly increase the site’s capacity and ensure their guests enjoyed themselves to the fullest.
Nordik Spa-Nature sets itself apart from other health and wellness centres by offering three distinct sections to its guests, each with its own unique relaxation experience: Borëa, the whisper zone; Kaskad, the silent zone; and Panorama, the social zone. In 2012, Nordik Spa-Nature officially became the largest spa in North America.
Since then, this enormous spa has continued to grow. It has become a tourism icon of the Outaouais region. Its profits are reinvested to develop its features with a single goal in mind: to offer the benefits of its spa to as many people as possible, near and far. This led to the construction of Källa, a 1200 cubic feet floating saltwater pool carved into the rock, filled with 10 tonnes of Epsom salt. Nordik Spa-Nature’s Källa pool is the second of its kind in the world, the only other one being in Switzerland. Biërgarden, a panoramic terrace, was built. Multiple restaurants are available. A multipurpose wellness sanctuary, Espace Banyä, was constructed and now hosts a Russian sauna, an exfoliation room, and a meditation and yoga area. One step at a time, the spa has created a perfect environment for relaxation and wellness, with an enchanting atmosphere that invites guests to make a beneficial and healthy inward journey.
The Groupe Nordik is a flourishing company that stands out for its willingness to always reach for the top. By listening to its guests, creating new relaxation rituals inspired by Nordic traditions, and always staying on top of new trends, Nordik has multiplied its business and partnership opportunities.
In 2012, an opportunity presented itself to develop a new outdoor spa in Winnipeg. The success of Nordik Spa-Nature | Chelsea inspired the two businessmen to take their company to the next level. The project took shape, and Nordik Spa-Nature soon welcomed its little brother on the Canadian Prairies. Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature | Winnipeg greeted its first guests in January 2015.
“Learning is in our genes. We are curious by nature and driven by challenges!” says Martin Paquette, Founder and CEO of the Groupe Nordik. “It’s the engine that pushes us ever further. We create so as to continue to discover and we find new inspirations to develop new Nordik-signature relaxation experiences. Every achievement holds the spark for our next project. Are we insatiable? Probably.”
Today, Nordik Spa-Nature welcomes over 250,000 guests every year. Thanks to this ever-growing passion, Nordik’s second spa opened in 2015 in Winnipeg: Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature. Over 100,000 people per year choose Thermëa to enjoy their own wellness routine, and it is the only Nordic spa in the Canadian Prairies.
The experience and knowledge acquired over the years have allowed the shareholders to take their place among the greats. Their goal is to propel the industry to an even higher standard by offering new and innovative experiences, ultimately becoming an international leader in Nordic spas. Their expansion plan involves developing 10 spas by 2027 across North America.
The company has given itself the tools to succeed. It is relying on its role as a major job creator in the region, with more than 60 employees working on its development projects and over 460 employed at all its existing spas. In 2017, the Groupe Nordik’s headquarters was inaugurated in Ottawa-Gatineau. An investment of $5.5 million in a 27,000-square-foot complex will offer a strong economic boost to the region. The Groupe Nordik’s new corporate services offices have been specially designed and furnished to meet the company’s needs and respond to the rapid growth of its workforce.
These high-tech, smart, and user-friendly open-concept offices are evidence of the Groupe Nordik’s flair for innovation. They will bring its employees and magicians from its Marketing, Corporate Development, Finance, Information Technology, Project, Design, and Construction divisions and its call centre together under one roof. Through a common vision, the skills and expertise of these employees truly contribute to the growth of the company and the achievement of its mission.
Over the years, the Groupe Nordik has become the gold standard in the health and wellness industry, and an example worth following for many entrepreneurs, locally and abroad. Its projects are growing and its ambitions are already enormous. A third spa is under construction in Whitby in the GTA, an expansion project for Thermëa is in the works, and a 60-room hotel project is underway at the Nordik Spa-Nature site in Chelsea.
It has developed vast expertise and knowledge in all matters relating to the spa industry, which it now shares by partnering with other spa projects. Independent investors are now using Nordik’s expertise to develop health centres across Canada. A team of experts has been organized to support developers at each step of their wellness project and to offer personalized solutions to help them make their dreams come true.
The Groupe Nordik is a success story that inspires many. It’s a team with a passion for wellness that educates and guides its guests toward adopting healthy habits. It’s a company that gets people thinking about their priorities and putting their health at the top of the list. It’s a flourishing Quebec company that creates jobs and is always aiming higher and moving further ahead. The Groupe Nordik is, all around, a feel-good story.