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Finding a new normal: How a massage therapist is staying afloat during social distancing


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As our community works to collectively adjust to this new normal, we want to share the perspectives of people in the Charleston community who are working to adapt their lifestyles, family dynamics, business models, workflow, + more. Today, we’re hearing from Joanna Gable, owner of local massage studio BeesKnees.

Find BeesKnees on Facebook and Instagram, or over on their website here.

What’s your name + business?

Joanna Gable

Joanna Gable | Photo provided

Joanna Gable. I’m the sole proprietor at BeesKnees, the only all-inclusive massage studio in the Charleston area. I’m a results-oriented therapist who uses all the tools in my toolkit to help my clients achieve their goals for the session.

What impact do you think this could have on your business as time goes on?

Thankfully I have a solid core of very loyal clients and word of mouth in my area is strong in my favor so in the long run I think I’ll be ok. Hopefully I won’t have to take another 4 years to rebuild to where I am today. I was looking to move my business closer to Park Circle in the fall and who knows what’s going to happen with that.

I’m concerned about my fellow therapists who may give up over time. Being a small business owner is hard enough, but in our profession where less than 10% of people are receiving regular services because we are considered a luxury we’re often one of the first things out of the budget and the last things brought back.

What do you look forward to doing the most once everything goes back to normal?

Working. I cannot tell you how much I love my clients. I’ve had clients tell me that they’re getting divorced, medical diagnosis, pregnancy announcements before they tell anyone else. My clients trust me with a LOT and I don’t take that lightly. I’ve had a few classes I want to develop and didn’t think I’d be able to get to them until next year sometime so I’ll mostly be focused on that.

What can members of the community do to support your business and others like it during this time?

Buy gift cards from *independent* business owners. Not chain spas. Chain spas have memberships that sustain them. Local, independent businesses in this line of work are the ones that need support. Buy them now and thank your child’s teacher: now you know how much they are worth. Buy them for a healthcare worker who is working mandatory OT and will be exhausted when this is finally over. The people who work at grocery stores are busy and stressed, they often can’t afford a massage and could definitely use one. As much as I’d love to have everyone on my table I’m just one person so people can reach out to me and I can help them find the best practitioner for their recipient based on goals or location. Basic social media stuff; like, share, comment on posts so we can continue to be visible; I’ve been reading bedtime stories a few nights a week as something to lighten our spirits and to maintain a presence on social media.

This is all massage-based but really, just buy a gift card for anyone who you can think of who is working extra hard right now. They’ll appreciate it – whether it’s a wax, a haircut, a facial or a massage. Or if you’re working crazy OT/are already over homeschooling right now, buy yourself something for when this is all over.

How has the pandemic affected your work already?

I am in the most literal sense in the business of touch. So when social distancing was beginning to be recommended there was really no way I could ethically continue to keep my business open.

I am fortunate on several levels in that I have a spouse with a great job and benefits; while it is certainly helpful, we don’t rely on my income. I also work from home and don’t have rent to cover. However, without much effort I can list at least 5 single-parent solopreneurs in my industry. Very few, if any of these individuals have any sort of savings or medical insurance. In some cases there are employees of chainspas who have been told they must report to work and see clients no matter what. Not all chainspas are like this though, it’s really dependent on the franchisee. A few energy workers can maintain a small income by doing such things as reiki and angel readings but as a whole, this industry is being crippled by this pandemic. Sadly this is invisible to much of the community; we’re viewed as luxury services and something like 10% or less of the population gets regular bodywork so we’re not really included in the “support local” lists of local restaurants, makers and providers of other services.

Thankfully most of our vendors have been amazingly supportive and helpful in this time and have given us relief packages in forms of added support, deferred payments and more.

What message do you have for the Charleston community right now?

Go home and wash your hands. Make wise life choices, this isn’t the time to be cavalier about health. And when this is all over, start getting regular bodywork. If you get an oil change more often than you get a massage you’re focused on the wrong vehicle.

Share your own experiences with us.


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