At several Whole Foods Market locations in the Denver, Colorado, area, you can find the healthy, natural food products for which the chain is known.
And you can also take some time out from your busy day to get a massage.
For the past 16 years, Whole Foods has partnered with local massage providers to offer no-appointment-necessary chair massage therapy for patrons.
“I see this business as the urgent care of massage. We don’t take appointments—clients just walk in, so if someone wakes up with a kink in their neck or a headache, they can just come in and get relief,” said Abby Jane Palmer, founder of The Massage Spot, which focuses solely on chair massage and currently serves as Whole Foods’ massage provider in the area.
Commitment to Denver’s Wellness
Palmer has been providing massage in various Denver-area Whole Foods locations since 2002, when she first became licensed as a therapist and worked for the company that was providing the service. Her practice won the contract after the previous business made the decision to move on.
Massages cost $1 per minute, and are booked by purchasing vouchers at the store register.
As a natural health practice, massage therapy fits in well with Whole Foods’ mission, said Palmer.
“One of Whole Foods’ core values is to create win-win partnerships, and I really feel this is a win-win-win because the stores win, the therapists win and the customers win,” she said. “I am so grateful that they have given us the space to really serve the health and wellness of our community.”
From Chair to Table
Chair massage can be highly effective as a modality in itself, and it can also be a good way to find new clients for a table massage therapy practice—especially clients who wouldn’t otherwise have considered getting a full-body massage.
A chair massage is short, relatively inexpensive, and doesn’t require getting undressed, all pluses for people hesitant about massage therapy.
Seated massage therapy “gives people who may have been wary of receiving bodywork a comfortable first step,” said Palmer.
Many of the therapists who work with Palmer are also building their own practices; chair massage, she said, has helped them increase their clientele.
“Therapists get access to a lot of clients, and customers get access to a lot of therapists … so they can find a therapist who is a great fit,” Palmer said. Occasionally, she added, The Massage Spot has landed new corporate contracts thanks to a connection made through chair massage.
A Challenging Environment
A grocery store setting can be vastly different from most venues where massage therapy typically takes place, such as a quiet session room with soothing music playing. A store can be crowded and noisy, and you never know who you’ll meet or what issues clients may have.
“There are no ‘typical’ sessions in this gig,” said Erica Franzen, LMT, a member of The Massage Spot’s team. “Every shift is a pleasant mix of clientele. From the shopper that longingly notices our signs at checkout, to the team members visiting our chair at break time, to the steady return clients that hunt down our shifts. The people occupying our chair keep it interesting.”
Clients may present with pain, tension or stiffness—Franzen sees a lot of people with neck, shoulder and low back issues—but there’s one problem she sees more than any other.
“The number-one complaint that brings people into our chair is stress, wherever and however they are holding it,” she said. “Squeezing a quick chair massage in between work, shopping, picking up the kids … people just want a minute of brief respite, and we provide that space for them.”
Happy to Help
Because of the differences in working environment and having less time to spend with each client, succeeding at chair massage in a store requires that a massage therapist be flexible and adaptable, and listen carefully to clients’ needs.
“Since we have limited time, I’ve found it’s very important to listen to what [clients] say and address that with presence and intention,” Palmer said.
Franzen enjoys the variety working in the store provides. “You come in with basic chair massage routines in your arsenal, but I have found a great freedom and adapability in this modality,” she said.
“We’re out in the public eye, in a fast-paced environment, offering people a few minutes to take a breath in their day,” said Franzen. “People are typically in a rush, adding us into their shopping cart, if you will. We have the opportunity to shift that … we do our best to help them get the most out of this self-care moment.
“Affecting our greater community is profound,” Franzen continued. “We have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in our neighborhood demographics. To meet the people working in the buildings on our block every day—to help them feel a little bit lighter.”
About the Author
Allison M. Payne is a freelance writer and editor who lives in central Florida. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine and massagemag.com, including “Massage on Demand: The Complete Guide for Therapists.”