“It’s a calling, not just a living,” said Hollie Merchant, licensed massage therapist and owner of Blue Valley Massage in Sugar Grove, Ohio. “Giving massages is not something that is taught in school. It’s a gift either you have or you don’t have.”
Merchant opened her business as the sole owner and employee in 2001. Since then, it has grown to nine employees, all of whom are licensed massage therapists as required by the state of Ohio. The business provides an average of 300 massages per month (April is a slow month; September and October are the busiest). Sugar Grove is located in a popular section of southeastern Ohio called Hocking Hills.
Hilly is indeed what the area is, with hairpin turns and more than 1,000 tourist cabins nestled throughout the county’s seven state parks. Because the area is large and sometimes confusing for visitors to navigate, Merchant decided to offer a special service to customers – the employees of Blue Valley Massage would drive to the location, set up their equipment and give the massages there.
“I’m the fourth generation in my family to live in Hocking Hills,” said Merchant. “I love it but know it can be challenging for newcomers to drive. In addition, it’s not a good idea for most people to drive after a massage because they are so relaxed.”
Merchant says the benefits of massage therapy continue to unfold through research. “Science has proven that the body releases serotonin, which contributes to feelings of well-being during a massage,” she said. “A massage also increases red and white cell counts. A person can even lose weight from a massage because it speeds up metabolism. It’s rare to find something that feels good like a massage and is so good for you.”
Couple’s therapy is Blue Valley’s most popular type of massage. “Having a massage with a partner offers the rare opportunity for a married couple to spend an hour quietly enjoying something with each other,” said Merchant. “It’s not only romantic, but a massage is a healing and bonding experience on a level you don’t get often in our world.”
Merchant adds that 85 percent of the men who participate in couple’s therapy have never had a massage. “They are more comfortable having a massage beside their partner and in their own places, not necessarily a fancy salon,” she said. “There is no guilt factor from the wives for having a massage because their husbands feel that same wonderful glow.” Group massages with girlfriends or family members are also available.
Merchant employs one therapist who is an RN and another who is working on her RN degree. She advises nurses to schedule regular massages to enhance their care giving skills. “Nursing is a physical job and nurses often don’t take care of themselves,” she said. “If they would invest in themselves through regular massages, they could become even better caregivers.”
One unique group the Blue Valley massage therapists see is American soldiers home from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We offer free massages to those military people who have arrived home within the last year,” said Merchant. “We do it to thank them for their service to our country.”
Besides the complimentary massages to soldiers, Merchant and her employees contribute free massages as prizes to benefit local charities. “It’s important for us to give back to our community,” she said. “We’re in a career that can easily do that because people want it. That’s part of why we love our jobs. It’s a peaceful work environment and people love to see us.”
For more information about Blue Valley Massage contact :
PO Box 271, Sugar Grove, OH 43155.
Business: 740-653-CALM (2256)