Dan Ladue | Photos by Jessica McCafferty
A house fire has a way of humbling its inhabitants. It is no different for business owners. Watching everything you have worked for destroyed in a matter of minutes is one of life’s greatest violations.
Such was the case for Chad Hunkins and his partner Rebecca Albright on the morning of October 11, 2022 when an electrical fire swept through their business—StoneWorks Massage & Skincare at their Route 9N, Plattsburgh location. Multiple crews battled the fire, but were unable to save the building. The damage was devastating, resulting in a total loss of all they’d worked toward.
It was fortuitous that the couple was in the process of purchasing a new facility. Hunkins and Albright were able to lease the new building until their closing later in October. Their staff of more than 15, clients, volunteers from the community and other massage therapists from around the area all chipped in to help paint and prep their new place.
“It was heart-warming,” Hunkins said. “We’re not from here and we were stunned at the response. You’re given hard times to really show what you have to appreciate. The power of community was a shock to my system.”
StoneWorks reopened on November 1, 2022 at its new location at 179 Tom Miller Road. Filling the new space was a concern, even before the fire. The space was six times larger than their Route 9 location, and plans called for 12 treatment rooms. Everything had been lost in the fire. The couple was astounded yet again when strangers donated sheets, a massage table, plants and mag lights. A GoFundMe account was opened in their name and $5,770 was contributed. Additional spa treatment equipment was purchased from the Sagamore Hotel that was selling off its collection as they upgraded their space.
Massage is as old as ancient history. Five thousand years ago it was a sacred system of natural healing. Ayurvedic practitioners used massage to heal injuries, relieve pain and prevent and cure illnesses. Through the millennium it traveled from India to China and into the Greek and Roman Empires.
The modern iteration can be traced to Johann Georg Menzer, a Swedish gymnastics instructor who used long, gliding strokes, pressure, squeezing, and lifting and kneading muscles to alleviate muscular pain.
Through the years, multiple techniques have been added and improved upon. Today, massage therapy is an integral component in the holistic health of millions of people worldwide and it is still a sacred system of natural healing.
From the Mirror Lake Inn to Tom Miller Road
Massage therapy is a demanding field. It begins with a rigorous education that includes Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Neurology, as well as core Liberal Arts and extensive training in the work of massage therapy. Once completed, New York State, one of the most demanding states in the union for certification, requires 36 hours of continuing education every three years. Three-day sessions can include advanced training in cupping, cranial therapy or myofascial release. Hunkins and his staff are certified to perform a variety of massage modalities. He joked when he said, “I have many letters behind my name.”
His professional career began in 2006 when Hunkins finished his studies at North Country Community College. The prestigious Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid hired him immediately, a job he enjoyed until 2014 when he moved to Plattsburgh. As a way to promote his expertise, he immediately integrated himself into the community. Offering free chair massages was an excellent way to let the community know just how accomplished his skills were. He did the Plattsburgh circuit: Mayor’s Cup, Farmers’ Market, home shows at the Crete and Saturdays in the park. “It was a way to get my name out there,” he commented. Slowly he began to make connections. “Oh, I saw you at the Farmers’ Market,” someone might say when he was at a city-wide event. One by one his clientele grew.
For a time, he worked in a chiropractor’s office, then established his own business in 2016 when he opened a space at West Bay Plaza. It was about that time that Hunkins noticed what he calls the “Referral Network.” Because Plattsburgh is a relatively small city, many in complementary medical and holistic fields know each other. “If someone comes to me in a lot of pain and it’s beyond me, I’m often able to refer a client to an osteopath, chiropractor, sports therapist, or acupuncturist.”
For more than a third of StoneWorks’ customers, massage is but one component in their healing process. One client commented that regular massage, weight training, physical therapy, osteopathic, and chiropractic treatments were essential to stave off the effects of severe arthritis in his neck. A good massage therapist, who is well connected in the community, is able to make referrals to other specialists. A medical doctor might refer a patient with lymphatic issues to a massage therapist for a session of lymph drainage. The massage therapist may recommend a chiropractor to solve a deeper issue.
Touch is one of the most intimate ways to connect to another sentient being. It is also something many people lack. Look at the relationship between pets and humans. One needs touch as much as the other.
It is no different with human beings. For bodywork to be successful, absolute trust must exist between client and therapist. It is only when a client fully relaxes into the massage that healing can occur. When a body gives itself into a massage, healing can occur. Intimate touch also allows people to open up verbally. Good listening is an essential component of a massage therapist’s job description. Often, a session goes well beyond physical healing. For many, a therapist acts as a sounding board, one who just listens.
Touch allows body work via the modality of massage therapy, which puts the therapist/client relationship in a most personal position. It is not surprising that practitioners of massage therapy are caring and empathetic. It often attracts people who want to help others.
“We have a connection with our clients.” Indeed, a therapist’s non-judgmental, welcoming demeanor often results in clients sharing innermost details of their lives. “Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to listen to their issues,” Hunkins revealed.
It is also a career with a high burn out rate. A capable therapist must take great care not to absorb negative energies and must take care with his/her hands, wrists, shoulders, and elbows. The sheer physicality of the profession puts great strain on body mechanics.
Full Range of Services
There is no dearth of amenities available at StoneWorks, and the spa’s new location will offer more as the business evolves into its new space. A staff of 16 employees include cosmetologists, estheticians, yoga instructors, an acupuncturist, and a reiki specialist. By far, the most popular service is massage, and StoneWorks’ 10 massage therapists are consistently busy. Many are dual certified, and a session might include foot reflexology, a massage and a pedicure.
“There is a therapist for everyone,” commented Hunkins. [We embrace] “all skin types, all body types and all physical issues.” Massage therapists are extensively trained in the best technique to treat specific issues. Deep tissue massage and stretching can be employed to help free trapped muscles whereas hot stones and a gentle session of reiki may be used to release accumulated stress.
The future is bright for Hunkins, Albright, and the many professionals who work at StoneWorks Massage & Skincare. The expanded space on Tom Miller Road has allowed the partners to open a “Members Only” salon and new services are on the horizon for the group.
StoneWorks Massage & Skincare
179 Tom Miller Road
Plattsburgh, NY 12901