Small Biz Saturday: Thrive Massage & Bodywork focuses on safety

Heidi Johnson, owner of Thrive Massage & Bodywork in Ann Arbor, spoke about working in close contact with clients during the pandemic. (Heidi Johnson)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It’s a unique time to be working in massage therapy and Thrive Massage & Bodywork owner Heidi Johnson has put safety first at her business.

“I have an obligation to keep myself and my staff safe, first and foremost, and of course my clients and the community at large -- because we go out into the community after a massage session,” she said.

“So what happens in my business and the protocols we have in place are extremely important, and the consistency of executing those protocols with every client is super important.”

Thrive was closed for three months before reopening on June 15. As the only staff member to return to work, Johnson created an intense safety strategy while adapting her business.

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Part of that strategy includes health screenings. The day before clients visit Thrive, they go through a health prescreening call. Then, they go through a COVID-19 symptom screening right before their session.

Johnson said that clients remain masked for their massages, as does she. When clients are faceup, Johnson also wears a face shield for extra protection. She added that modifications can be made to the massage sessions if clients don’t want her working near their head or face.

“We have a lot of in-depth discussion before the session so that everyone is comfortable,” she said.

Between two to five days after a session, Johnson follows up with her clients to make sure they haven’t presented any COVID-19 symptoms. She also waits an hour between each client session to air out the massage space.

If there is ever any doubt about a client’s health, their appointment is canceled. While this may change Johnson’s business day-to-day, it’s part of adapting to working during a pandemic.

When working with clients, Johnson wears a mask and face shield. (Heidi Johnson)

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Thrive is known for offering numerous types of therapy and services but some have been postponed, like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) therapy. Johnson said that TMJ therapy sometimes includes intraoral work, which wouldn’t be safe right now.

Right now Johnson is only seeing about 50% of her regular weekly clients and isn’t accepting new ones. After 22 years of private practice, her regular clients keep her busy and she is booking appointments four to five weeks in advance.

“Even though this is a paralyzing time mentally and physically for some people, I saw this as an opportunity, hopefully, to come out of this pandemic stronger and poised for success and growth,” Johnson said.

She is feeling optimistic and plans to expand Thrive’s footprint in September, including an additional treatment room and more lobby space. The expansion will allow for another therapist to work in the building without clients, or the therapists themselves, from ever crossing paths.

“Our main focus is to connect with our clients and to care for them. So this COVID strategy that we have, the safety protocols that we have in place, is just an extension of our foundation,“ Johnson said, adding that she makes a commitment to her clients, and the safety protocols are an extension of that commitment.

Right now, Thrive is generally open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. five days a week.

Thrive Massage & Bodywork is at 2500 Packard Street.

Furniture at Thrive Massage & Bodywork is taped off so that it isn't used. The massage therapy business is using strict safety protocols to keep its clients safe. (Heidi Johnson)

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.