Photos and story by Debbie Flessner
As Connie Lewis prepared to celebrate her 19th year in business at Massage Experience on Siesta Key, she reflected on how she got to this place in her life. Because as tranquil and relaxing as her massage therapy spa is, her life has not been so.
Her father passed away when she was nine, and throughout her life, she has been plagued with injuries from multiple automobile accidents, and even needed open heart surgery fourteen years ago. But Lewis says it’s those life experiences that have enabled her to be so good at what she does now.
She was in her early twenties and working in television production and radio promotions in her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts when she had her second serious car accident in two years, in almost the exact same location.
“I looked up to the sky and said, ‘OK, I get it,'” she said. “I made the vow right then to make a change.”
She enrolled in the Bancroft School of Massage, an esteemed institution that offers training in a broad range of massage modalities, from Western health models to Eastern approaches. As the end of the almost 18-month course of studies drew to a close, she came to the conclusion that it was time to leave Massachusetts.
Having done quite a bit of traveling, she knew that there were some beautiful parts of the country where she wouldn’t mind living, but she still needed to figure out exactly where she wanted to move. She called chambers of commerce in the Florida panhandle, the east coast of the state and Sarasota to ask them to send her some information.
“About six months before graduation, I knew it was time to get serious about my future,” Lewis said. “Sarasota looked the best to me, so in Thanksgiving of 1992, I came here and looked around. I went to Siesta Key Beach and that was all I needed to know.”
She went back to Worcester, packed her belongings and drove down to Sarasota for good, getting a job working at The Massage Store, which is no longer in business. After a few years, though, she realized that if she were going to truly achieve her dreams, she would have to make another change.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to work in someone else’s business,” she said. “I knew I could successfully start my own business, because I always like to make my own destiny, and I’m a hard boss on myself.”
Lewis opened Massage Experience on June 22 of 1996 and has never looked back. As a matter of fact, she continues to look forward, by continuously educating herself so she can provide a wide range of services to her many clients.
In addition to the various types of massage therapies she offers, 10 years ago, Lewis received her aesthetician license, which allows her to safely administer skin care treatments, such as facials, facial sculpting and Connie’s Signature Treatment, a massage and facial combination.
In the process of running a business on Siesta Key, which allows her such personal interaction with her clients, Lewis has developed some close relationships, one of which may have ended up saving her life.
“I was talking with one of my clients, a cardiologist, during his treatment and telling him some symptoms I was having and he listened to me and he said, ‘You need to come in to the office tomorrow,'” Lewis said. “Within two months, I was having open heart surgery at the Mayo clinic.”
It’s those types of life experiences which Lewis says allows her to relate so well with her clients. She
can empathize with clients who are struggling with physical and emotional pain, and it makes her feel a sense of accomplishment to be able to help them.
Lewis says that in many ways, her clients lean on her for support, and that’s one of the things she enjoys about her job.
“I have clients that come in here every day who are challenged and because I’m warm and open, they feel comfortable with me,” she said. “”I have become that way because of what’s happened to me. They come in because I can handle it–nothing scares me anymore.”
Connie Lewis, BS/LMT/Aesthetician, can be reached at Massage Experience, 5138-A Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, 941-349-4833. For more information, visit the website at www.MassageExperienceSK.com.