SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
Contact Melinda Waldrop, [email protected], with any questions or ideas.
Even before a city of Columbia ordinance closed all non-essential services last week, Sarah Allers wasn’t entirely sure how her massage therapy business, Massage Works, was going to weather the COVID-19 crisis.
But she’s keeping the faith.
Allers believes her loyal customers — some of whom have supported her business for the 11 years she’s been in Columbia, others whom she sees like clockwork every two weeks — will still be there when she’s able to open the doors to her Middleburg Drive business again.
“Oh, yes, I really do,” Allers said. “I always call massage work the little engine that could, because it’s only me. The little engine can only put out so much, but the little engine never stops. The fact that I’ve been blessed to be in business for 11 years here in this community, it shows me that people have supported me, and I’m so humbled by it.”
Allers’ work schedule had already been disrupted before new coronavirus concerns by removal of a basal cell carcinoma. The surgery has also kept Allers, an avid runner who competed in the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials and was named the S.C. Masters Runner of the Year in 2017, sidelined from her other favorite form of stress relief.
“This has coincided with me not being able to run, so I’m even nuttier,” Allers said with a laugh.
Allers is used to peaks and valleys in the massage business, though none as pronounced as this.
“It’s sort of yo-yo like anyway, because it will be runners training for races, or ‘Oh I’m doing a marathon, I need to get untangled,’ or now we’re not racing,” she said. “I’ve seen the ebb and flow. Typically I’ll go, ‘OK , it must be fair week. No one’s coming in’, or ‘OK, there’s a big (event) at the zoo going on.’ This time, it’s ‘OK, so we’ve got a massive virus attacking our planet.’ ”
Allers said she always tried to accommodate customers’ schedules and anticipates coming in early, working through lunch or on weekends or staying late when she’s able to return to work. She said the maximum number of people she sees in a day is five, though she doesn’t reach that amount often.
“Massage is one of those things, you obviously can’t do an eight-hour day unless you want to blow your arms up in a year,” she said.
When still working, Allers said only person texted her to cancel an appointment because of new coronavirus concerns, though there are clearly implications to be worked out going forward for her touch-based business.
“When I do massage, even though it’s been 14 years since I left school now, I still approach it as this is the best one I can do,” Allers said. “ … I really mean it humbly, but it’s like an artist. You have an innate touch that people trust. … I don’t want people to be anxious coming to me. I feel less anxious for myself, because that’s just kind of who I am. I like to discern and be wise, but I don’t want to (live) in anxiety.”n