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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

A Passion for Therapeutic Relaxation

Dec 29, 2016 04:17PM

How does a self-described “nervous Nellie” grow one of Bethlehem’s most successful relaxation businesses? Jennifer Burns, proprietor of Healing Hands Massage Therapy Center, says the secret is to remain focused on the needs of her clients. “I always put myself in other people’s shoes,” explains Burns. “I ask myself what I would want, and I’m a pretty picky customer. I just stay focused on making people happy.”

That focus has allowed Burns to grow from a one-woman enterprise to a robust business that currently employs 18 massage therapists and an esthetician. But despite her current success, her career in massage therapy almost didn’t happen. Back in the early 1990s, Burns had planned to study physical therapy. She was looking for something to do over summer break when her uncle recommended that she take a massage therapy class with him. “As soon as I placed my hands on someone, I knew this was what I wanted to devote my life to,” she says. She ditched her plans to become a physical therapist and never looked back.

Upon graduation, Burns was employed for two years by someone she describes as “to this day, the best massage therapist I’ve ever known.” When that business closed, Burns worked wherever she could, “in a clinic, in people’s homes, in my grandmother’s attic” until her brotherin- law encouraged her to rent her own space. Only 22 years old at the time, Burns decided to go for it, and to figure it out as she went along, a strategy that continues to serve her to this day. She found basement space in the building her business still occupies, only now she’s the owner. Back then, it required a big leap of faith, along with a loan from her grandmother and the help of her then-boyfriend who, as luck would have it, was a construction foreman. She signed a lease, designed the space, and began renovations. Though Burns admits to learning much from trial-anderror over the years, she was committed to the customer experience even then, choosing to divide the space into two larger, luxurious treatment rooms instead of four smaller ones. “I wanted both clients and therapists to be happy in the space,” she says, noting that “everything is in the details.”

Her business soon grew enough to warrant hiring two massage therapists to keep up with demand, and eventually expanded to include the building’s entire basement and upper level. When the main level became available last year, Burns’ brother (who is also her partner and a manager) suggested she look into buying it. In October 2016, she completed the sale “against all odds” and immediately began renovations on the main level to accommodate the expansion of services.

Those larger rooms Burns initially designed helped set the standard for the level of comfort clients can expect, and allow ample space for couples’ massages, which Burns says are her most requested service. Healing Hands’ menu of services features virtually every type of massage, including Swedish, deep tissue, neuromuscular therapy, sports massage, prenatal massage, Thai massage myofascial release, even oncology massage for clients undergoing cancer treatment. Reflexology and Reiki are also offered, along with facials, waxing, colonics, and sound therapy which incorporates crystal singing bowls. Burns attributes much of her success to “hiring people who are better than me,” along with the wisdom of several female mentors – the dean of a nursing school, a successful chiropractor, and her former boss.

Though the early years focused on massage only, facials and waxing were added when Burns hired an esthetician friend who now also serves as an “amazing manager” in addition to handing the company’s social media. In her commitment to offer an ever-broader array of services, she plans to offer foot soaks followed by reflexology once the main floor renovation is complete in February.

Colonics were added to the menu, following Burns’ own experience with the therapy. Nine years ago, after the birth of her third child, she struggled to lose the last 10 pounds of pregnancy weight. Then a client suggested she try colon hydrotherapy, and Burns says it allowed her body to easily release the weight. She also finds the therapy beneficial in managing her lupus diagnosis, along with a specific diet and vitamin therapy program. “I promote what I’m personally passionate about,” she maintains. “I say ‘This works for me. Maybe you should try it.’ That’s how I love people.” For the same reason, she’s considering adding acupuncture to the mix in the near future.

Once complete, the main level will house retail space, where clients can purchase soy candles, eye pillows, the doTerra brand of therapeutic grade essential oils used by Healing Hands’ therapists, and products in the Eminence organic skin care line used in facials. “The skin is the body’s largest organ,” explains Burns. “You should never put anything on it that you wouldn’t put in it.”

Burns’ brother began managing the massage therapists about a year ago, freeing Burns for more general managerial duties, which now demand all of her time. Though she no longer does massage, she describes herself as very “hands on,” an appropriate representation for someone passionate about massage therapy.

Healing Hands was one of the few businesses to thrive during the recession, which Burns attributes in part to people choosing to treat themselves to what she terms “mini-vacations” to deal with stress. The business is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week to accommodate virtually any schedule, and auto insurance claims and Workman’s Compensation claims are covered by insurance.

The business enjoys a high repeat client base, which serves as testimony to the level of service provided. “Our goal is for clients to experience that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when entering a friend’s welcoming home, or returning to your own sanctuary at the end of a long day. We want to create a place where people can feel destressed and be treated therapeutically in a clean, fresh, nurturing environment. Our therapists always put the customer first.”

Healing Hands Massage Therapy Center is located at 518 Main Street in Bethlehem. For more information visit www.healhands.com or call 610-882- 4325.