Businesses in the Community: Renewing Massage

Colin Coffey. Photo: Susan Jordan
Colin Coffey. Photo: Susan Jordan

By Susan Jordan

Colin Coffey opened Renewing Massage, 728 South Ave., in January 2009. As a licensed massage therapist, he offers healing and stress-reducing massage. He also values locally owned small businesses and the contribution they make to the South Wedge economy and to Rochester as a whole.

Colin grew up in St. Albans, England, the son of Irish parents. He came to the U.S. (Texas) to get an MBA, and arrived in Rochester in 2006 because his partner Michael is a Rochestarian with family here. In December 2010, Colin became a U.S. citizen and in 2008 he became a NYS-licensed masseur.

Colin studied at the Onondaga School of Massage, located in Village Gate. He decided on the profession after being “outsourced” from his previous job.

“I went to India to teach information technology,” he said. “I was training the person who would replace me! So I decided I wanted a profession that couldn’t be outsourced!”

Massage therapy is now a $13-$14 billion dollar business in the U.S. Colin decided to start his own business because of that and, as he puts it, “I wanted to find a business that would be helping the community, especially the LGBT community. What John (White) and Harry (Bronson) did with Equal=Grounds inspired me. I worked there for a while as a barista – which sounds glamorous but there was a lot of washing up to do!”

Equal=Grounds is just down the block from Renewing Massage, which is located in an attractive house with a flowerbed and window boxes. He and his partner also live in the South Wedge. “We love the neighborhood,” he said. “The LGBT business owners have made a big impact. The intriguing thing about the South Wedge is that there is not a single Burger King or other chain store. They’re all locally run and owned. I’ve never lived anywhere where that was true.”

The biggest obstacle to starting one’s own business, Colin said, is “having the nerve to do it. The experience of being outsourced taught me that the only job security you have is what your skills are and how adaptable you can be. Running your own business is a good example of being adaptable. I have to deal with book keeping, marketing, health history records, clean up, laundry, and time management.”

He adds, “I love massage therapy. I’ve been having massage therapy for 25 years, and have had massages in Europe, New York, Australia and South America. I specialize in Swedish massage and am about to launch Ayurvedic massage. I do medical-based massage, which means treating a crick in the neck or sore muscles – ASL interpreters for instance get sore arm muscles.

“Stress reduction is another benefit of massage. LGBT people have a lot of stress. I’ve found it very helpful. It wasn’t just that I wanted to run my own business – I love massage therapy and wanted to combine that with being close to the community. It’s incredibly rewarding because you can see an immediate positive impact. People deserve to have less stress and better health. Massage therapy is good for people of all ages.”

One way for business owners to manage their own stress is through having a supportive life partner, Colin says. “Michael is 100 percent committed to this and really believes in the mission. That’s really important – because you have great days and hard days – and you need someone practical to say ‘Don’t worry about this.’”

There are three things for massage therapist business owners to remember, Colin said. “The first is, it’s a class D felony to practice massage therapy without a state license. You can’t charge for moving tissue without a license.

“Second, to run any business you have to do it out of a building that’s properly zoned for business. The building I’m in is zoned for multi-use commercial.

“Third, I believe you should advertise, and spend your advertising dollars where you live and with the organizations you believe in. When you have your own business, you are the CEO and you decide!”

Colin is a great believer in supporting the local economy. “If you spend your money where you are,” he said, “100 percent of your money goes to the community – whereas buying online or through big chains sends most of your money away.

“I absolutely love Rochester. People here are so nice. The gay and straight communities are both so welcoming, and there’s so much to do here. The South Wedge is really hopping!”