Sparrow Harrington, owner of Sparrow’s Nest Wellness Center, has been a massage therapist for 13 years. She specializes in pre- and postnatal massage and fertility work.
“I feel just very of service, and of purpose, and able to really connect with my clients and to solve really unique issues that they have that just gives me years worth of gratitude,” she said.
Sparrow’s Nest Wellness Center was closed from mid-March through the end of June because it was deemed non-essential during the pandemic. Harrington “felt a little blindsided” when she had to close down her business.
“I felt like the same safety protocols and hygienic protocols that doctors and chiropractors were using, we were able to put those in place just as easily,” she said. “And because we have such a low-volume, high-care business, we’re not having tons of people coming into our space every day. We set out giant blocks of time for one specific person to tap into their specific needs. And so with the masks and the disinfectant and the airing out of the space—we’re lucky enough to have a studio that has 14-foot ceilings—so there wasn’t this cramped feeling in our space,” she said.
Not all massage therapists had to stop working during the pandemic.
“If there was a massage therapist who was an employee of a chiropractor or a physician, then they could continue working this entire time,” she said. “Sometimes it definitely feels a little bit arbitrary, but I know that we’re not targeted in any particular way. We’re all kind of doing the best that we can in an unprecedented time, and there’s probably lots of people in lots of industries that are feeling like that doesn’t quite make sense. But I never took it as anything personal."
Although the Wellness Center was closed for months, Harrington never stopped working. She did virtual massage lessons for her clients and put video explainers on Instagram.
“I would just take requests like: What kind of pain are you having? How can I help? So we were trying to be creative in the midst of not being able to put hands on people and how we could still help,” she said.
In order to reopen in July, Harrington had to buy medical-grade wipeable coverings to go on every surface, which she was “totally in favor of,” as well as hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfectant that is safe for pregnant women.
“We really were mindful of looking at the schedule and making sure there weren’t going to be too many people in the space at a time, and we staggered appointments so that there’d never be two clients arriving at the same time," she said.
Sparrow’s Nest Wellness Center was open for two weeks before Harrington got the order to move all operations outdoors.
“We had one day's notice to move outside,” she said. “We had plans on the books for the next day, and I said, ‘How are we going to make this work?’ And I cleared out the gazebo on my property, which has electricity, it has a ceiling fan, it has shade, and we put the massage table out there. And we talked to all of our clients and just said, ‘Look, this is what we have to do. Do you want to keep your appointment? Do you want to reschedule?’ And everybody came. Everybody was like, ‘Nope, that sounds great. It looks beautiful.’ We sent them photos. And everybody showed up.”
In addition to the gazebo, the Wellness Center also has an outdoor patio. Harrington said she’s lucky to have so much outdoor space.
“That was, at that point in one day's notice, not going to be possible to set up there, but within the week, I was able to transform that space also into a therapy space,” she said. “And we got a 10-by-10 pop up tent, and an outdoor rug, and we had electricity out there so we had the fans going.”
Now, per Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order, massages can happen indoors with a medical release.
Harrington said her clients have enjoyed getting massages outside. It’s not as pleasant for the therapists though.
“We even got these little hands free fans that go around the therapist’s neck where you can control where the fans are pointing because for the most part, even clients who are in their third trimester who tend to run hotter, have been comfortable,” she said. “But us as therapists, you know it’s physical work, some days have been challenging. We’ve definitely had to change our outfits. [We wear] jumpers and shorts and our hair is pulled up and back, and now we’ve got these cool little fan necklaces on the warmer days, and we’re rolling with it.”
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