Battling Back

Area massage therapists persevere despite impacts of coronavirus

Loyal customers come back after restrictions are lifted

(October 2020) – At a time when many businesses and restaurants have either closed or been forced to operate on a limited basis due to the coronavirus pandemic, many area message therapists have been able to remain open most of that time and continue serving clients.

Jennifer Soule


Jennifer Soule, owner of Eco Massage in Madison, Ind., said that after being closed for two months in the early spring, she is working a full schedule, attending to her clients’ needs. She had closed her business when Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that massage therapists and other businesses such as salons and gyms had to shut down in March. But she was back to work by May.
“I’ve been really blessed to have regular clients. Everybody came back with the exception of a couple of people who were not sure,” said Soule. “I’ve had a numerous amount of new business also.”
She attributes that to the fact that the fear of COVID-19 has made people stressed and anxious, thus they come to her for comfort and to experience a calming atmosphere. Soule doesn’t operate her business much differently now, except for following strict CDC guidelines so that everyone who walks through her doors can feel safe.
Soule’s 10-year-old business anniversary was last month, which she still hopes to celebrate with her loyal clients and the community. Throughout the pandemic, Soule said she has been really “humbled by the generosity of the community and my clients.”
She has been really fortunate that she has been able to remain in business when so many other businesses have closed. Many of her clients went ahead and paid for a year’s worth of massages, even when she was closed for two months. Knowing they couldn’t get a massage, others went on and paid during that time as a sort of gift, to help her out, she said.

Sarah Pendergast


She thinks her business’s future looks bright, since people obviously can’t give themselves a massage and need to come to her. “My business is doing great. I see it continuing to get better.”
She also credits networking among the area massage therapists as helping her through the pandemic. She said the message therapists in town refer and recommend clients to each other.
Soule said that the two months her business was closed was “emotionally hard for me. I help people when they are upset or worried and not being able to do my part” was upsetting. Being able to check in with other therapists gave her the encouragement she needed. “We were there for each other.”
Amy Noel Walters, owner of Island Style Massage in Madison, said “nothing has really changed for me” except for following the CDC guidelines. “Every-thing is pretty much back to the way it was.”
Like Soule, Walters was forced to shut down for two months earlier in the year. She is open by appointment only, which is the way she has always conducted business.
“As a massage therapist, I have always taken precautions and cleaned everything anyway.” With the exception of a few different guidelines now, such as extra wiping down of surfaces and mask wearing, “I run my business like I did prior to the pandemic.”
Walters is waiting to see if she will receive any more financial relief and said the Madison Main Street Program helped her out when she was in need. In addition, “my landlord is wonderful” decreasing her rent to half price during the shutdown.
Walters has been a massage therapist for 17 years. She lived in Haua’i, Hawaii, for five years, which is where she learned and crafted her skills in “Island Style” massage.
Through her training she has learned many modalities – from Swedish to LomiLomi to MyoFascial Release and Structural Integration.
She has treated many clients, including those who suffer from Fibromyalgia, cancer, car accident victims and individuals who just want to de-stress and feel more relaxed.
In her line of work, Walters said, “I want to fix you.” She does this through therapy massage because “I give the kind of massage I would want to get.” She opened her business in Madison in 2013.
Sarah Pendergest, owner of MyoTherapy Wellness in La Grange, Ky., said she is “grateful for the clients that have stayed with us” throughout COVID-19. She is currently at full capacity, with only a “small percentage of clientele that has not come back yet.”
Pendergest, who is from Oldham County, opened her business 12 years ago under the name of Greater Louisville Massage Therapy. “When a massage therapist has a solid clientele, it means a client wants to take care of themselves,” she said.
Even though she had to close her doors from March 17 to May 25, “we still are very solid as a business.” She did not receive any financial relief, although it would have been welcome, especially because PPE was expensive, she said.
“I follow all guidelines,” said Pendergest, which includes taking temperatures and health screenings. She generally operates only four to five hours a day anyway, which spaces out her clients and any unnecessary interaction within the office. “We now spend more time in between appointments cleaning and have limited traffic.” Clients also remain in their cars until their scheduled appointment time.
Pendergest’s business focuses on an individual’s health and wellness. Her treatment is based on the Five Pillars approach: hydration, mobility and balance, rest and recovery, nutrition and supplements, and strength and endurance. “I want clients to be educated on full muscle health.”
She now has yoga instructors on staff and will begin holding four yoga classes soon. Pendergest employs a health and wellness coach as well. “I have a great team of professional therapists.”
She plans to open a second location soon in Smithfield, Ky., in nearby Henry County.

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