by Hope Katz Gibbs
Three stores Healthy Back Stores in the metropolitan Washington area cater to taking the ache out of backs. The stores are filled with chairs, Temper-pedic beds, and assorted gadgets to help relieve pain—but what has lured many shoppers are the handful of folks standing behind the seated massage chairs.
“Seated massage has really caught on,” said Tony Mazlish, The HealthyBack Store’s founder. “We were only going to have the massage at store openings, but it was so popular we decided to keep it on as a permanent fixture.”
Since opening his first shop in Rockville, Maryland, in March 1994, Mazlish has opened one in the northern Virginia shopping Mecca, Tyson’s Corner, and another on a busy street in downtown D.C.
“Sitting in my seated massage chair has become a weekly event for many of our customers,” explains Vika Mutter, a certified massage therapist. “Some customers who work downtown come in twice a week. Even though we work through clothes in the seated massage, it is very intimate for our customers who aren’t used to getting touched. They feel so much relief when we do the massage. They are so grateful, they bring in their coworkers, and family members for a massage. We’ve gotten to know some of our repeat customers so well, it is sort of like a big family for us, too.”
by Hope Katz Gibbs
It was 1986 and Luann Drolc Fortune was standing at National Airport in Washington, DC, waiting for her bags to roll off the belt. She had just returned from Europe. Again. And she was in pain.
“I knew something had to change,” Fortune says. “I remember looking around at other people and looking back at myself and not liking what I saw. We all seemed to share a common frustration. Our bodies hurt and our spirits were becoming demoralized. We feel we have no choice but to keep our high-pressured jobs. We have to keep paying the bills. We get to a point where we just accept the pain. We say, I hurt, but I guess I’m supposed to.’ It’s the baby boomer philosophy.”
After a lot of soul searching, Fortune traded in her luggage for massage table and enrolled at the Potomac Massage Therapy Institute (PMTI), an accredited school in Washington, D.C.
“Everywhere in America, people live high-pressured, stressful lives,” she said. “But in DC, the pressure is really on. I felt it, and I looked around at the people I was working with and knew that I had to do something—for them and for myself.”