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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Massage Envy: Healing Mission Motivates Local Owners

Mar 29, 2017 03:01PM

Emily Harding and Carlene Brown, Massage Therapists at Massage Envy

The decision to start a massage business can often be driven by profit. But for the owners of Massage Envy in Scarsdale, Bedford Hills and Rye Brook, that rule doesn’t hold. They say it’s all about the healing.

Lisa Barbanti, who owns the franchise on Central Park Avenue in Scarsdale, fell in love with massage when it restored her quality of life after she was injured. Nataliya Kisseleva, who owns the original Scarsdale location on White Plains Road, sees massage as a far healthier and more effective alternative to popping pain pills—something Americans do too often. And Ellen and Kamil Samra, who own two Massage Envy locations, in Beford Hills and Rye Brook, were attracted to its flexible scheduling, which allows more people to get the healing they need.

Like many Massage Envy owners, the Samras were clients before they were owners. “What drew us to Massage Envy is the ability to schedule massages seven days a week and evenings so we could always come in for service,” Ellen says.

All four owners say buying a franchise struck them as an obvious way to get the word out about massage, as the unique business model makes therapeutic massage both less expensive and more convenient than traditional spas.

At Massage Envy, customers pay a monthly membership fee for access to a variety of massage and spa services. The more often members take advantage of the services, the lower the cost per service—which means that they come in often enough to receive continuity of care.

That’s critical, Kisseleva says. “Often people will look for relief from a single massage session, which naturally is not going to be effective long-term,” she says. “There’s a big difference between a single massage session and customized massage therapy. I’m a big believer in the therapeutic, ongoing approach to receiving massages, as I have seen some pretty amazing transformations with our clients and with myself personally.”

She might as well have been talking about Barbanti, who credits a year of massage with helping her deal with the whiplash she received in a car accident. “Nothing helped me feel better except massage,” she recalls. “Truly, it was the only thing that allowed me to get better. When I found Massage Envy in Westchester County some years back, I thought, I would have saved so much money if Massage Envy was around way back when!”

After becoming a member at Kisseleva’s Massage Envy, Barbanti decided to open her own location to make the therapy accessible to even more people.

Kisseleva, meanwhile, says seven years of seeing the industry from the inside has only solidified her belief in a holistic, natural approach to healing— a concept that is still foreign to many Americans.

I feel stronger than ever about promoting the benefits of regular massage therapy in the U.S.,” she says. “After years of experience dealing with different types of clientele, what I’ve learned is that a large number of people still look for a quick fix, which is generally a pain medication. It’s easier and faster to just pop a pill and keep going.”

It’s also less effective, as medicine simply masks pain without addressing its cause. In fact, there can be many causes of pain and discomfort—from stress or pregnancy to acute injury or chronic conditions. All four local Massage Envy locations are staffed with massage therapists whose combined training enables them to address a variety of root causes.

The Samras, for example, have hired therapists certified in specialized massage such as deep-tissue, prenatal, geriatric and oncology.

Barbanti, a cancer survivor, says she’s especially interested in bringing the benefits of massage to other survivors, as well as the doctors who treat them. “We have a number of very experienced massage therapists,” she says. “They provide services to a diverse group of clients—from pregnancy to post-surgery, geriatric clients, cancer survivors and those getting dialysis.”

Kisseleva says most of her clients are seeking stress management and non-chronic pain relief, but a sizeable number suffer from chronic conditions like arthritis, MS, Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia.

“Our therapists’ skill set is very broad, and a lot of them stay busy with their regular weekly clients,” she says.

Among her skilled staff are Althea Lewis and Carlene Brown, nationally certified myofascial release therapists who also have experience treating clients with MS, cancer and Parkinson’s disease; Emily Harding a nationally certified prenatal massage therapist and aspiring birth doula and lactation consultant; Allie Taddeo, “the absolute most requested therapist for Swedish massage, with very loyal clientele”; and Michael Alfano, a nationally certified craniosacral therapist.

Regardless of the location, the mission is the same: to offer a natural way to manage health symptoms and restore quality of life.

Massage Envy locations in Westchester include 737 Bedford Rd., Bedford Hills (914.244.3689); 158 S. Ridge St., Rye Brook (914.417.6940); 777 White Plains Rd., Scarsdale (914.902.9200); and 365 Central Park Ave., Scarsdale (914.422.3689). For more info, visit

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