Sandy and Marsha Best were explaining the evolution of their magnet therapy products when the familiar one-long, two-short jangle of a long-distance call interrupted their narrative.
“See if he can't not answer the phone,” chuckled Marsha, nodding to her husband.
A split-second later, Sandy is out of his chair, making a beeline for the phone. “Gotta go!” he chirped. “It's long distance.”
The call, it turns out, came from one of the couple's two daughters, but could easily have been a customer placing an order with The Best Bandages, the home-based company run by the Bests from their home in Azilda, in the City of Greater Sudbury.
Adapted for different areas of the body, the bandages, blankets and coats have magnets inside that are designed to treat a range of illnesses, from chronic pain, fractures, and sports injuries to circulatory conditions, degenerative issues, and soft tissue problems. The products cater to equine, canine and human users and range in price from $35 to $120.
Magnet therapy has been practised for centuries as a holistic alternative therapy—Aristotle, Plato and Cleopatra were all purported to be believers—and operates on the premise of properly aligning the electrical charges that run through the body.
“When a cell is dysfunctional—when there's pain or inflammation—those magnetically charged ions unalign. That creates pain, that creates inflammation,” Marsha said. “So what the magnet's doing is realigning the electrical charge, which is completely normal. Then that cell will function the way it is designed to.”
The Bests are accustomed to the skepticism that often greets them when they talk about magnet therapy—not everyone puts stock in the healing power of magnets. But they're supportive of other treatments and often suggest using their products in conjunction with additional forms of therapy.
But with sales circling the globe and testimonials from advocates flooding their inbox, their products have earned a loyal following, making The Best Bandages a homegrown success story.
Now dubbed the biggest equine magnet therapy bandage company in North America, The Best Bandages was established in 2005 after Sandy decided to wrap up his career in harness racing.
“We used magnetic stuff since the early '80s when we had a racing operation, and it was always the 'Hmmm factor:' they just didn't fit right; they didn't sit right,” Sandy said.
After dismantling a few store-bought versions to pinpoint the design flaws, Sandy rebuilt the products, improving on the design, soon earning rave reviews from his contacts in the racing industry.
“Marsha had this idea, and she said, 'You know what? We can sell these,'” Sandy recalled.
With their combined experience, and long union—the couple is celebrating 35 years of marriage this year—Sandy and Marsha make a dynamic sales and production team.
A third-generation horse person, Sandy began working with horses while growing up on Manitoulin Island and met Chelmsford-born Marsha at the Sudbury racetrack. The two married and together raced, groomed and trained standardbreds for more than 30 years.
After training in Canada and Sri Lanka in acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy, laser therapy, and magnet therapy, Marsha opened her own clinic, attached to the family home, in 1988 and today sees 173 patients a week.
In the warmer months, Sandy spends most weeks on the road, travelling to trade shows across North America, where his affable personality earns the trust of potential clients, who can either purchase bandages on the spot, through the online store, or on eBay.
He has fielded requests from as far as Ireland and Germany, and recently filled a large order for a client in Norway, where holistic medicine is increasing in popularity.
Winter marks the busy production season, and these days the Bests can usually be found hunched over a pair of sewing machines in their basement workshop, stitching bandages in tandem to build up inventory.
Some components of their products are previously manufactured before being shipped to their shop, but others, specifically the insertion of the magnets, are all done by the couple. Quality control is a focus for the Bests, who measure the 12,000-gauss, direct-from-China rare-earth magnets with a gauss meter to ensure they're receiving the product they order.
“Our magnets are individually sewn in; everything is done in piecework here,” Marsha said. “A lot of our competitors, which are made off-shore, they duct tape them in. It's mass production. So what happens is, as soon as you wash them, all the magnets clink together.”
Creating nine products—available in four colours and countless sizes—keeps the couple busy, but they're also happy to customize their products for clients, a personal touch they believe has helped them excel in the industry.
Expansion has its allure, and the Bests have been approached about collaborating with larger tack shops. But, being 52 and 59, respectively, they're content to stay true to the niche market that has brought them success.
“We talked about having our products made off-shore and going much bigger, but we're doing great, we're having a great time,” Marsha said. “So we're going to stay made in Canada proudly and just do what we're doing.”