From millwork to massage
Call it a success story or turning lemons to lemonade.
When Judy Gervais lost her job at a local mill, she pursued a second career and today celebrates 10 years of having her own space as a massage therapist.
"I worked at the mill for 19-and-a-half years, and one day they said we don't need you anymore, and they let me go," Gervais recalls. "It was like, well, what do I do now?"
She contemplated accounting, but that didn't sound appealing. Then, she thought of massage therapy.
"I always liked massaging," Gervais said. "I already owned a massage table and would massage family, but I didn't do it as a profession."
So, she went to the employment office and with the help of Tina Simmons, at Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, she qualified for assistance from the Trade Act, which helps workers who have become unemployed.
"Tina Simmons really helped me out through everything," Gervais said. "She graduated high school with my kids, and she really was super helpful all those years I went through it all."
Gervais started massage therapy school at Central Oregon Community College in 2002 and after two years, she became a licensed massage therapist and also earned an associate's degree.
The Trade Act covered her tuition as well as books, part of her gas, her tests and even out-of-town hotel fees while she took her licensing tests. She said it paid for anything it took in order for her to become a success.
After Gervais became licensed, Simmons encouraged Dr. Paul Slater, at Slater Chiropractic in Prineville, to look into adding a massage therapist to his team, and Keep in Touch Massage Therapy was born.
For four years, Gervais massaged patients in Slater's office.
Her husband owned a business in Redmond at the same time, and she set up an office there. She also traveled to John Day once a month and spent Saturday through Monday seeing clients. She kept up that schedule for three years.
"I got so busy I was booked out for four weeks, and I didn't even have lunch time — I was booked solid. If you needed to get in, I couldn't get you in," Gervais recalls. "That was my whole business plan when I was in college, to start at the chiropractor, have my own shop in Redmond, and then eventually get my own spot, and that's what I did."
On Sept. 11, 2007 — 10 years ago — she opened Keep in Touch Massage Therapy on Northwest Deer Street. Her office has a waiting room and a massage room. She sees clients by appointments on weekdays, offering half-hour, hour, and 90-minute massages.
"My specialty is pain-relieving deep treatment," Gervais said, adding that she also treats specific injuries. "I give a full-body, and it's a little deeper than what most people do."
She treats clients with shoulder and knee injuries as well as those with headaches and sciatic problems. She says her associate's degree taught her which muscles to work to take care of specific types of pain.
Her motto is, "You get them in here one time — they'll be back."
"About half of my clients are automatic appointments," Gervais said, adding that some clients come every two, three or four weeks. "I have regulars that come in."
Gervais' daughter, Thia Scher, is also a massage therapist. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, but comes to Prineville one Saturday a month to provide weekend massages.
Gervais says she likes being self-employed, and she loves hearing her clients say it's nice to be out of pain.
She says she wouldn't be where she is today if not for the Trade Act.
"I'm grateful to the Trade Act, and I believe if they put out the effort and the money to have you go to school, you should try your best to follow up on it," Gervais said.
Keep in Touch Massage Therapy
Owner: Judy Gervais
Address: 312 NW Deer St., Prineville
Hours: Weekdays by appointment