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St. F.X. grads open physio clinic near university

Xcel Physiotherapy owners and St. F.X. human kinetics graduates Laura Nickelo and Nathan Giroux.
Xcel Physiotherapy owners and St. F.X. human kinetics graduates Laura Nickelo and Nathan Giroux. - Contributed

A dream, a goal and now a clinic

ANTIGONISH, N.S. - It’s a scenario local politicians, planners, and everyone with an interest in Antigonish’s future, hope would happen more often.

St. F.X. graduates gaining such an appreciation for the town during their four-year degree, that they, when circumstances allow, move back to Antigonish and make an investment in the community as entrepreneurs.

It’s the exact scenario for Nathan Giroux and Laura Nickelo; 2012 human kinetics graduates who furthered their education to become physiotherapists and, this past September, opened Xcel Physiotherapy, literally across the street from their alma mater (66 West Street, suite 2).

Speaking to the Casket Jan. 15, Giroux said plans for opening the clinic in Antigonish started, in earnest, around last February.

“We started thinking about it; the prospect of where would we want to open a clinic, where do Laura and myself want to be long-term and what areas of the province made sense for a new clinic,” Giroux said.

“Obviously, we had to do some business research but, also, where did we want to be as a couple long-term; and the biggest part was we have always loved Antigonish. We’re both St. F.X. grads and we’ve always loved the town and have made some great connections here, made a lot of friends in the area.

“Also the fact Laura’s family is from Cape Breton and have a bungalow up there; we head up there in the summer, so it’s great to be an hour or two closer. Just a lot of positives brought us back here and we knew this area could, probably, sustain another clinic, so we said, well, why not head back.”

As for the clinic’s location being about a football field away from the Keating Centre, where Giroux worked as a student therapist with the X-Men hockey team, and Oland Stadium where Nicklo did the same for the X-Women’s rugby team, Giroux said they had their eye on the spot for a while.

“While this building sat vacant, we would come back for Homecoming, to visit friends, watch a hockey game or there were a couple of friends’ weddings we were back for, and every time we drove by this building and it was vacant we would say ‘oh, that would be great.’ And, finally, it came to fruition. It worked out that we saw it, decided this is where we could open it, so we approached them and it worked out that we were able to get the space we wanted.

“A dream that became a goal and that goal has now become a clinic.”

So far, so good

Four months into the operation, Giroux said things are going well.

“Everyone is embracing us really well,” he said.

“The St. F.X. community, we both worked with Tara Sutherland [St. F.X. head athletic therapist] before as student therapists, so that helped as we have a medical connection there. We knew a couple of the family doctors from working with St. F.X. sports as well. They heard our names and have been nice enough to send some patients this way.

“Honestly, it’s a small town and now word of mouth is starting to get around. We’ve had some great patients who have spread our name; that they’ve received good care here and are better. So now we’re hearing, ‘my friend sent me,’ ‘my family sent me,’ so it’s starting to pick up … it’s nice.”

Giroux noted Nicklo remains at their former clinic and will join Xcel Physiotherapy in a full-time capacity in the near future.

“The plan short term is that I would start the clinic and Laura would remain at our old clinic, where we were employees, and then the goal is, in the next month, get her started here on a part-time basis and then, hopefully by the spring-summer, it will be full-time for both of us here,” he said.

The spring/summer would also be a more appropriate time for a possible grand opening event, Giroux said.  

“We haven’t talked about it formally, but we have batted around the idea,” he said.

“We’re thinking this time of the year isn’t always the greatest because of the weather being so unpredictable; so we’re thinking in the spring or summer, once we’re full on.”

At 66 West Street, Xcel Physiotherapy is located right across the street from where owners Nathan Giroux and Laura Nickelo earned human kinetics degrees in 2012.
At 66 West Street, Xcel Physiotherapy is located right across the street from where owners Nathan Giroux and Laura Nickelo earned human kinetics degrees in 2012.

Web presence

The clinic, which offers services for physio-therapy, massage therapy and occupational therapy, has a strong web presence, starting with a thorough website – xcelphysio.ca.

“Between our website and social media, it’s huge,” Giroux said of the importance and focus.

“Especially knowing the student population, it definitely helps, but now, these days, a lot of people go on Facebook and look up a business, or they review it on Google, or on Instagram … so we definitely wanted a strong presence on the web. And, as we evolve as a clinic, we’ll evolve the website. As we do new courses, add new employees, we’ll always try and keep [the sites] as updated as possible.

“Also simple stuff, like the power went out a few weeks ago; ‘hey, we’re not here because the power is out.’ Communication is easy with social media because if you follow us and the different links on social platforms, it’s easy to then to see what’s going on that day.”

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