Phone: (804) 815-1291
Orthopedic Massage Specialist
Back in early 1993, I started my initial schooling to become a professional Massage Therapist. One of our first class “projects” was to investigate current city / county codes and ordinances. Each student was asked to find out how the local codes pertained to a Massage Therapist who wanted to obtain a city/county business license, and openly operate a therapeutic massage small business. So, off I went… to the Gloucester County Zoning Department!
I quickly informed by “Zoning” that Gloucester did indeed have outdated codes on its books, and I was told that any “massage related small business” would fall under the Gloucester MASSAGE PARLOR code. The Zoning representative went on to say, “That is, if anyone thought about opening “one” in the county”.
FYI: The only exception to the “massage parlor rule” was given / provided to the Riverside Fitness Center. (And yes, Riverside Fitness Center was offering massage with no resistance from anyone, or any code.) I was also informed Gloucester County didn’t care who was providing massage at Riverside (qualifications, or no qualifications at all… they didn’t care). Double standard?
While I was still talking to the Zoning Department representative, a gentleman stood next to me at the counter - listening in - as I continued to ask my questions. As I was ready to leave, the gentleman listening into my conversation asked me what I was trying to do. I told him I wanted to open a one person, massage therapy small business after I finished my VA approved therapeutic massage training course. I honestly didn’t understand his reaction at the time, but I will never forget his response. He looked at me, snickered a bit, and responded with, “Ha, good luck!” (The gentleman I was talking to was a newspaper reporter for the Gloucester-Gazette Journal.)
Thru my own research, I quickly discovered the “history of massage” in Gloucester, and how many of the elected county elders still held steadfast to their outdated opinions of “massage”. I found out that in 1987 Denise Pauze and her husband tried to provide professional therapeutic massage within their business, “THE WEIGHTING ROOM” (a small business fitness center, located within the Route 17 Plaza Shopping Center). I learned about the harsh resistance Denise received when she addressed the Board of Supervisors (BOS) concerning “therapeutic massage”. Long story kept short… the county elders wouldn’t change or amend the current “massage parlor” code… and, THE WEIGHTING ROOM simply couldn’t offer or provide “therapeutic massage services” to their patrons… PERIOD!
The kicker? Like I said earlier… the county code did allow massage services to be offered at the Riverside Fitness Center. Why? Hmmm??? Yeah… go figure!
Being I was still in school, and as time went on, I did learn of people already offering massage services within the county. But, I was quickly advised by many of those who were providing massage only offered their services for “friends and family”. (To me, it was just another way of saying, “Out of sight – out of mind”.)
A massage practitioner group meeting was held, and I was made keenly aware of their opinion… that they were in no rush to go up in front of the Gloucester Board. One person who didn’t even live in Gloucester County said, “They would wait a few more years” before addressing the Gloucester code again”. Another practitioner stated she already possessed a Gloucester County business license for massage therapy; however, when I talked to the Gloucester Zoning Department Head about her county license, I was informed that she still couldn’t open a therapeutic massage small business even if she wanted to, because… of the current county zoning code. So, the “county business license” was worthless.
So, after learning about Denise, and listening to the “working practitioners” … well, I guess my military background & personality just wouldn’t allow me to “wait a few years”. I knew that the Gloucester code/law was skewed and it needed to be changed. So, off I went alone to make “the change”.
Knowing “the rules” that were in play, and how folks were hiding, I realized that in order to open a therapeutic massage small business, I had to educate the county elders as to exactly what Massage Therapy was and wasn’t. The county elders had to be educated as to the educational qualifications required of a Massage Therapist, and to the health benefits available via properly administered therapeutic massage.
- Throughout the remaining portions of 1993, I introduced myself to every Gloucester County official that had any dealing with the code. I made up and presented each with “Massage Therapy information packets”. I was there to answer any questions if and when they had concerns. In the later portion of ’93, I drafted a professional therapeutic massage small business exemption to the Massage Parlor code.
- Throughout ’93 and early ’94, I would do whatever I could to promote professional therapeutic massage. If there was a Coleman Bridge opening, I would be seen providing chair massage on the bridge (so folks could see, feel and learn what therapeutic massage “was all about”).
- In February 1994, I presented a Massage Therapy Code (a draft) for Gloucester County. At the end of the Board’s open discussion period, the Supervisors voted / directed the County Attorney to review the Massage Parlor Code to see what needed to be updated. It was a big first step!
- In April 1994, I was interviewed on Gloucester’s local cable TV station. Questions were asked and answers were given. The viewers that “called in” responded with positive support for massage therapy and for my changing / updating the Gloucester Massage Parlor Code. ( I think that was a shock to the person running the show… since he was expecting lots of public resistance).
I On Tuesday, June 07, 1994
After approximately 15 months of an uphill political battle, the Gloucester elders amended the County’s Massage Parlor Code. Yes, an amendment… not a code change, but the amendment did allow any professionally trained Massage Therapist - with verifiable qualifications - to open & operate a therapeutic massage small business.
I On Monday, June 13, 1994: Relaxation Station – MASSAGE THERAPY SERVICES was established.
We were the first professional therapeutic massage small business to receive a county business license, and then operate - OPENLY – within Gloucester County. Denise Pauze’s mother was one of my first clients.
I then offered my knowledge and support to the Massage Therapists working in Yorktown (Annie Wright was the lead Massage Therapist). Within the year, York County soon followed Gloucester’s lead, and updated their county ordinance/code.
Since then, many changes have occurred to the Massage Therapy profession nationwide, and to Massage Therapists in the State of Virginia.
For more information, please feel free to call me:
Orthopedic Massage Specialist
WTCS (SW / DV) U.S. Navy, Retired
Massage & Bodywork
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