Much like the strong and durable tree that dots the northern landscape, Golden Tamarack Wellness is only three years old but it is looking forward to a growth spurt post-pandemic.

Owner and registered massage therapist Sarah Slade opened the shop in June 2018 after moving North from Vancouver Island.

Since then has been building a clientele in the Hay River area and has been trying to become rooted much like the NWT’s favourite tree.

“When I first moved to town I noticed the Tamarack trees because they’re so fluffy and so pretty,” she said during a tour of her business, July 26. “So since I moved here I thought about how can I incorporate that name into my business.”

Located in the Godwin Mall, the wellness centre is divided into three sections, a greeting and waiting room, a massage table area and a laundry facility in the back.

“I offer generally tissue type massage and my focus really is into injury rehab and injury maintenance,” she explained. “I don’t do as much of the relaxation spa experience.”

Her focus is myofascial massage, which involves stretching the connective tissue.

“It’s more intense, it’s less oil and it involves stretching and breaking up of connective tissue,” she explained. “It’s a similar process to deep Swedish which most people know involves oil and recognize as massage. It is a little bit more specific injury rehab.”

Each session is geared to the client’s needs and is shaped through a common routine, which she said is important in helping a patient envision their healing journey.

Most of her clients are office workers and she tends to deal with people who have had neck injuries or pains in their shoulders or lower backs.

“It really depends on the situation, but say if it is a shoulder injury, usually I will greet the person at the door and we talk about their goals around treatment,” she said. “We talk about how the injury happened, how it has progressed, and what a recovery for them would look like.”

Slade is currently the only worker at the business but she said she is aiming to have the company transition into a multi-disciplinary service.

“We are growing and so eventually I’ll get in more practitioners,” she said. “That’s the goal anyway.”

The challenge is trying to recruit other trained massage therapists to Hay River where she says there is demand for all types of massage therapy.

“I think there is a desperate call for it in town because there isn’t anything really available, but it’s a slow process,” she said. “I think people are still slow to move here. I have some ads out on various different forums in Alberta and BC, and the national Canadian RMT website too.

“There’s just not a lot of interest but people I think are still hunkered down and recovering from the pandemic last year.”

For the moment, because of the nature of the work, she only takes clients who have booked appointments ahead of time.

Once a session starts, she guarantees that they will be the focus of her attention.

“Because I’m the only one here, when I have a person in here, I’m in treatment and so I can’t answer the door and I’m not going to interrupt the middle of a session to go and answer the door,” she explained.

COVID-19 response

Slade said like other businesses she had her struggles with the pandemic and was in constant fear that she would catch the virus and spread it to others because her work is so dependent on working closely with people.

“It was just a rough year last year, especially when we were closed for two whole months,” she said. “But now we’re pretty much back to normal.”

Much of that stress has been alleviated and she has been able to work easily with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer in meeting public health guidelines and restrictions.

She keeps a high standard of cleanliness on surfaces and other areas and protective wear is also common in her practice.

Clients upon entry are given a pre-COVID screening and are asked to wear a mask if they haven’t been vaccinated.

“I always wear a mask anyway just because I’m always working in such close proximity,” she said. “I want to protect to them and protect myself.”

What’s clear looking ahead is that Slade feels very much at home where she is located and is looking forward to meeting new clients and working with other like-minded businesses.

“I love my office,” she said laughing. “It really is a great place to work.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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