I recently contacted Cary Cruea, a licensed massage therapist and president of Massage Bar Inc.
Q: The concept to offer a massage to weary travelers is excellent. How did you make the transition from lunchtime crowds to traveling crowds?
A: I believe you're referring to the very first "bar" I had in a clinic in downtown Seattle. The transition occurred when the partnership at the clinic dissolved. I left with the rights to the name "Massage Bar" and began re-thinking the look of a new bar along with a new location. Our first site made me realize I needed much more foot traffic. The airport came to mind. I pestered them a good nine months before they said, "Let's test it out." Remember, this was 17 years ago and public massage was unheard of.
Q: After talking to one of your massage therapists in Seattle, I wondered how many of your clients are repeat customers? He also mentioned working about six hours a day with 20-24 clients and seemed genuinely happy working there. About how many employees do you have?
A: Our "regulars," as we call them, represent approximately 85 percent of business at most locations. Being a massage therapist myself, I understood the need for shifts of shorter duration, as seated massage can be tiring. A six-hour shift is average, and yes, most of my family of therapists really like working for the Massage Bar. Currently we have approximately 160 full- and part-time employees. We just presented a plaque to an employee who has been with us for 15 years! I think seven plaques are due for 10-year employees. Average length of stay is five years. I certainly try to keep my therapists happy as they are the lifeblood of this business.
Q: Carrying heavy bags can wreak havoc on posture and strain muscles. Do you think your clients would be interested in postural assessments and recommendations to "straighten up" during their travels?
A: Postural assessment is not within the scope of practice for massage therapists. At this point, our customers just want to have a good, quick massage and get on their way.
Cruea added that Massage Bar is pursuing three airports right now to complement the Seattle, Nashville, Newark, Washington Dulles, Port Columbus, Sacramento and Pittsburgh locations. She is not interested in pursuing overseas markets at this time. Regarding in-flight massage, she said options have been explored but are not feasible for many reasons.