Sunlight peeks through colorful curtains and a tall, dim manilla lamp lights the back room in the Soma Massage Therapy office while a soundtrack of waterfalls and calming noises sets the mood.
Amber Briggle glides and twists around the table where client Clay Rozell is laying face down, stopping for almost a minute at a time, moving just her hands and arms.
While Briggle has been a massage therapist for 10 years, this is one of the first massages she’s given in the mint-green room. On Nov. 15, she set up shop in a portion of an office building on Malone Street to accommodate the business she’s built up in Denton over the past four years from her home.
“It got to the point where ... there were constantly people coming into my home,” she said. “People that I didn’t even know who were just finding me on Google, and it got to the point where my house felt more like a business and less like a home.”
She had transformed the master suite in her home into a work space for a few clients after her husband took a teaching job at the University of North Texas four years ago. She never thought she’d be a small business owner, but as more clients came in, she hired an independent contractor for help, and the growth was undeniable, she said.
She began scouting for office space about a year ago, before Soma completely outgrew her home, and was able to find the Malone Street space where a therapy clinic once operated.
The space seemed clinical and slightly outdated, and renovations would be expensive. In mid-October, she launched a fundraising page on Indie Go Go, where clients and community members donated $3,800 to help her add new carpet, to repaint and get new furniture.
“I’m so touched, even the people who gave five dollars,” she said. “It’s like, you believe in me. You’re helping me manifest this dream that I have, and it just meant so much to me that people chipped in.”
She now has office furniture, a second massage table and artwork throughout the space, which includes two massage rooms, a waiting area and an office. The waiting room features her favorite purchase, a round fountain with floating chimes, on top of a mini fridge full of water bottles.
Clients say Briggle’s message goes beyond the massage. She’s a bit of an unconventional massage therapist, her clients say, spanning hour-long appointments up to 80 minutes and not accepting tips.
“One of the things I really love is at the beginning of each session, she starts almost with a meditative reflection, asking you to think about your goal for being here today, and I’ve never had another massage therapist do that,” said client Cathy Gonzalez. “At the end of the session, she always asks if that goal was met, and if it hasn’t, she considers it and doesn’t think she’s done her job properly.”
Gonzalez is one of Briggle’s regulars, visiting her every other week to help manage a chronic health condition that causes pain and swelling in her legs. Since she’s made massage a priority, she has been able to manage the disease more easily, she said.
Briggle said she always wants to start her sessions talking to a client first so she knows what is going on physically and emotionally.
She has started to assemble others who share that mentality, and now has two massage therapists working as independent contractors out of the new office. She’s now interviewing for a third massage therapist.
By focusing on preventative care and not accepting tips, Soma is able to attract different clientele than other businesses that offer massages in the area, Briggle said.
“What I’ve been really able to tap into is this client base that recognizes that this is medicine and they commit to that,” Briggle said. “Client retention in any business is going to be a big challenge, but if you can get people to understand this idea that it’s good for you instead of just feeling good ... but if you’re getting a tip, you put yourself in that service industry.”
Becca Penn has been with Soma since this summer, and said she is excited about the new office and the potential business that being in a more accessible location could bring.
“My first day [at the new office] was Sunday and I worked with a few clients who ended up loving it,” Penn said. “It’s also just as cozy as what we had, but we have two rooms for tables now so it’s bigger, and the lighting is nice.”
The cozy space in Briggle’s home could have been a deterrent because outside of the master suite where the massage therapists worked, her two little girls were playing or crying, Briggle said.
“It was noisy and my family was very accommodating, and my husband, Adam, did the best he could to keep them quiet, but that made it feel more like a business and less like a home,” she said. “It was good because I could see my family whenever I wanted, but it wasn’t a good business model. It wasn’t sustainable.”
This wasn’t a problem for Gonzalez though, who doesn’t care so much about the office as the quality of the service she receives from Soma.
“I think Amber and her other therapists really stand out because they care about you as a whole person,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a much more personal treatment than I’ve gotten at any other massage therapy place, and I’ve been going for a long time.”
“It’s a whole body experience, it’s not just about a simple massage, and I think that’s really unique.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.