NISKAYUNA — Businesses with hands-on, close-range customer service have had a tough road through the COVID public health crisis, with skittish customers and stringent regulations.
And few are more close-range than massage therapy, the very definition of hands-on.
Bodywork Professionals was shut down for three months as it was preparing to open a third location in Niskayuna. The hiatus was disruptive but it also allowed owner Nick Pavoldi time to design and equip a space ideally suited to the new normal of precautionary sanitation.
Since the Balltown Road office opened last week, it has accommodated many of the clients who can’t get into Bodywork Professionals’ offices in Latham and Saratoga Springs.
“We’re able to distance people and stagger people in a way that we’re able to see more people than last year,” owner Nick Pavoldi said. “I just ran my numbers. We opened [Niskayuna] formally July 6, we’re up 5%.”
That’s a 5% increase in business after a 50% increase in space, not an ideal return on investment. But it’s a 105% rebound from the COVID shutdown, which lasted March 16 to June 17 for the Latham and Saratoga locations.
“Our phone was just nuts,” Pavoldi said. “[Clients] were just delighted that we made it through and we were back up and running.”
The public health crisis and the state response has given many New York businesses a crash course in improvisation. For Bodywork Professionals, it actually allowed for some careful planning — since the new space couldn’t open up right away, it could be set up with COVID in mind and the staff could use it to learn and practice how best to work when they were allowed to reopen.
Water fountains were covered, chairs were removed, disinfectant was bought by the gallon. The staff practiced on each other for everything from massaging wearing face masks and goggles to simply greeting clients in the new way.
Pavoldi startles some clients by greeting them with the old-fashioned handshake. When they think about it for a moment, it starts to make sense — his hands are going to be all over them shortly.
Plus, he sanitizes his hands first.
Pavoldi said the sanitary protocol was based on state guidelines and adapted from the one used by dentists, whose precautions are even more stringent than massage therapists’ needs. Having time to develop and learn the protocol was helpful, he said.
“I must have read the guidelines like seven times,” he said. “Until we put it in practice as a team, I really didn’t understand it.”
Pavoldi is a Princetown native who went to massage school right out of Schalmont High School and later received Rolfing training.
His business has grown incrementally over the last two decades — first as a solo service, then with employees at the Latham location when he got too busy to do it himself. When Latham got overly busy, he added the office in Saratoga Springs, where he now lives.
When Saratoga got busy, he chose Niskayuna for a third office because a quarter of Bodywork Professionals clients live in Niskayuna, Rexford or Schenectady. Also, massage therapist Amy Alcaide, who has worked for Bodyworks Professionals since 2012, is a Niskayuna resident and part-owner of the Balltown Road building that houses the new office, where she’ll be managing partner.
Pavoldi said he’s not itching to expand again any time soon but if he does, he’d like to follow that model, where employees have a stake in the operation.