SHAMOKIN — In a second-floor room above Tranquility Tattoo and Art Studio at 621 N. Eighth St., massage therapist Alicia DePeal hopes that people who walk in “feeling not so good” leave feeling better, and with a “peace of mind.”
Peace of Mind Massage & Reiki, in fact, is the name of DePeal’s new business, where clients can take a break from a fast-paced world and take time for themselves.
When DePeal officially announced the opening on Facebook in October, she wasn’t expecting the response she’s received. Her best description? “Overwhelming.”
She’s already at 75 to 80 percent of the business she expected to build up over a much longer time than her first two months. And she’s heard from many that they’re happy to have a place in Shamokin for a basic therapeutic massage, or Swedish massage, reflexology and more.
“I lived here for 10 years and I didn’t really know of anyone doing massage besides physical therapy. I never saw anyone promoting it,” DePeal said.
At the same time, she didn’t think there was a market for it — but has been pleasantly surprised.
The quick success, however, is misleading considering the long path DePeal has taken to having her own massage business.
A long road
Massage therapy wasn’t DePeal’s first career choice; in high school she had aspirations of teaching. Following graduation she worked in a day care and spent three years as a live-in nanny. The hands-on experiences deterred her from further pursuing education.
In her early 20s she picked up a retail job, advancing to management. But McCann School of Business held an open house at the mall she worked at and, while browsing, she found herself drawn to massage therapy.
“When you feel like you’re stuck and you’re reading something that says ‘be your own boss’ and ‘flexibility,’ I was like, ‘let’s do this!’ And I enrolled in the two-year program,” she said.
That was approximately 16 years ago, before massage therapy required a license. Later, McCann started a degree program and DePeal was one of the first to enroll.
Then the opportunity to move to Colorado presented itself, and completion of her degree took a back seat.
DePeal would soon move back home and has since met her now-husband. She spent some more time in retail management and then banking.
Massage therapy was still on her mind, but having missed the opportunity to be grandfathered in without licensing, fulfilling her dream seemed unlikely.
Follow the dream
DePeal said she was doing fine without massage therapy, following the advice of others, working hard at a 9 to 5 job with a 401K. But she was miserable.
Then a friend asked her to be her “body” during her finals for massage therapy at McCann. DePeal wasn’t going to turn down free massages; even more importantly, through this refreshed connection with the school, she learned McCann had changed its massage program. Her files were reviewed and DePeal learned she needed one class to finish her degree and only 40 clinical hours.
Still, she had every excuse in the book as to why it wasn’t possible. Her husband, however, encouraged her to quit her job and enroll, knowing that no matter what else she did with her life, she wouldn’t be satisfied.
On July 1, 2016, DePeal finally received her degree and was ready to set out on her own.
A place of her own
Lugging her massage table, nicknamed “the beast,” to homes of friends and family was no easy task, and DePeal knew she wanted to find a place of her own.
She planned at one point to start a business with her sister, but they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. DePeal was at Tranquility Tattoo one day and joked with owner Jeff Tweed about renting the upstairs. About a week later, Tweed invited her to look at the space and told her it was hers if she wanted it. She said her personality fits with the vibe Tweed has at this shop, so she agreed and set out to create a relaxing space that puts clients at ease.
“I figured if I’m going to spend a lot of time in this space, I’d like myself to feel comfortable, but I’d also like everyone coming in to feel comfortable,” she said.
In addition to massage, DePeal is also a Reiki master. She doesn’t push Reiki practices on those who don’t ask for it, but she says the service allows her to provide full physical and internal healing.
She knows some find being touched by strangers “awkward,” so building trust is important. Questions are encouraged by DePeal, who wants clients to be open and honest about what they’re feeling or about any questions they have.
She says her massage room is also a “judgment free” zone. Her only concern with a client’s body is making it feel better through their muscles.
“All I want to do is relax you and make you feel better, and give you the overall sense of well-being and healthy, happy feelings you get from the massage,” she said.