- by Jon Devin
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, most people spell the Holidays, S-T-R-E-S-S. Shopping mall crowds, traffic, and the looming visit of in-laws all grate on the nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. But a new business in the heart of Midtown offers a moment of calm, right before the holidays and throughout the year. Gene Elliott, owner of Calming Influence Massage and Bodywork Salon, says it’s time to relax.
“This has been on my mind forever, but I kept waiting,” says Elliott, the former manager of the Massage Professionals.
Like most people, Elliott had the dream of owning his own business long ago, but was never certain that the time was just right to strike out on his own. Now, sitting inside his 2,000 square foot studio at 74 N. Cooper St. near Overton Square, he says that starting on your own is more like having a child - there is no right time to do it, you just have to make up your mind and do it.
A native of Kentucky, Elliott first moved to Memphis 15 years ago, planning to stay only for a couple years. Something about the city unexpectedly grabbed him though.
“I got hooked in and loved the city,” he says, adding “You can find a more beautiful city like Portland and Seattle, but something about the friends and connections I made here just kept me.”
Here in Memphis, Elliott added a massage diploma from the Massage Institute to his B.A. in theatre from Eastern Kentucky University, and later received his license from the state of Tennessee and became nationally certified as a massage therapist.
Elliott had worked as manager for the Massage Professionals in East Memphis for 15 years when he learned that his employer planned to down-size into a smaller space. He took the cue then to open Calming Influence. Most of his staff followed him from there as well, making for a familiar, cohesive work group. He says the transition was a natural fit.
“I’ve always kind of gravitated toward managing or directing. I’ve always been more comfortable in a leadership role,” he says, noting his other love, directing theatrical productions for New Moon Theatre Company, also in Midtown.
Calming Influence was expertly designed by two of Elliott’s close friends, who according to him, turned the building from dark and somber to warm and welcoming in one whirlwind weekend in September. The lobby, hallway, and individual massage rooms donned shades of sage green and golden pear yellow with decorative accents in red. Black and white photographs of Asian florals, water features, and stones contrast with original abstract oil paintings, created especially for the salon.
Calming Influences is one of several businesses occupying classic Midtown bungalows on Cooper St. Previously, Elliott says it was a counseling office.
In addition to 30, 60, and 90 minute massages (therapeutic, deep tissue, pregnancy, and sports), Elliott and his staff offer spa services individually and in packages like his detoxifying face mask, paraffin hand and feet dip, steam canopy, salt glow (exfoliation), and aromatherapy. Appointments can be scheduled Monday through Saturday between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM. Yearly memberships are available as well.
Massage is more essential than some people imagine, says Elliott. While most people use massage to reduce stress and relieve pain, others make it a part of their overall plan for health. Touch-deprivation - the lack of healing, personal contact with another individual - is also a factor that many Americans take for granted, he notes.
“Europeans, especially, are more used to close contact with each other, but Americans tend to shy away from touching,” Elliott says.
The sensation of being relaxed by human touch adds some emotional comfort to the release of physical tension.
Since opening in October, business has been nicely steady, giving Elliott himself a sense of calming after watching his dream take shape. He hopes to add more staff as his business grows, making Midtown an even more relaxing place to be.
You can learn more about Calming Influence at www.calminfluence.com, or by calling 901-276-9423.