Massage Institute owners pass torch onto new generation of massage therapists

Posted 4/15/18

The owners of the Massage Institute of Cleveland are selling their business after 20 years as they look toward future endeavors.

Husband and wife Mike and Gail Sandberg are two certified …

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Massage Institute owners pass torch onto new generation of massage therapists


The owners of the Massage Institute of Cleveland are selling their business after 20 years as they look toward future endeavors.

Husband and wife Mike and Gail Sandberg are two certified massage therapists who have a passion for helping others.

Mike said they have found a buyer, who they hope is going to keep the name of the institute while also keeping the business in Cleveland.

“There may be a month in the transition time in between us passing the torch, but we are hoping it doesn’t have to stay closed down for long,” Mike said.

The Massage Institute’s school has been open since 1997, with Mike’s stepmother Sandy originally owning it in Sweetwater, when it was the East Tennessee School of Massage Therapy. At the time, Gail was working for Sandy. When Mike retired from the Army, he moved to Tennessee from New Hampshire in 1998.

“My stepmother suggested I try massage school, and having had back issues in the past and seen the good that massage therapists do, I came here and learned massage!” he said.

Mike and Gail were both divorcees. They met through work and eventually started dating. When Sandy decided to sell the massage school, Mike and Gail bought her out. After two years in Sweetwater, the Sandbergs moved the school to Cleveland due to its growth potential.

Mike said Cleveland has grown immeasurably since they made the move.

To be a massage therapist, a person in Tennessee goes to massage school for 6.5 months, and pays $500; some schools offer more training, while none offer less, depending on which state you are practicing in. A person must also pass a state exam called the MBLEx and pass a criminal background check before they are certified.

“If paperwork follows through properly, in eight or nine months you could have yourself a new career!” Mike said.

Older people who are on fixed incomes are some of their best customers, as the high prices of specialty businesses cannot compete with the Massage Institute’s low rates.

“We see some people almost weekly in our student clinic, but they would only be able to afford one trip per month if they were going to some of these more expensive places,” Mike said. “We’re glad we are able to help these people with their everyday aches and pains.”

Aside from the Massage Institute, Gail has also opened up her own individual spa and massage center in Cleveland called Oasis Massage and Spa on Inman Street.

“We opened Oasis  in January because we knew that we’d be selling the Massage Institute later this year,” Gail said.

The biggest reason the Sandbergs have for selling the Massage Institute is the steady deterioration of Mike’s back. Living with numerous back issues and having had a surgery that didn’t go well, Mike went to a doctor a month ago to receive an MRI. He was told he had another ruptured disc in his back along with his already present spinal issues.

Gail said it is getting harder and harder for Mike to be at the institute for the state-required hours, which is what prompted them to consider selling.

Mike said his condition is not fair to the students, and thus, it is time to pass the institute along to someone younger and with new ideas.

Having worked in massage for over 20 years, the Sandbergs said  the best massage toffered is a Swedish relaxation massage.

Gail said many people who call them ask for “deep tissue massages,” when all they  really want is a relaxing massage.

“If the client has a knot in their neck or back, that relaxation therapist will just work the knot out anyhow. You don’t have to book a special massage for that,” she said. “Some schools are pushing heavily into what’s called medical massages, but that won’t pay off for the student until the training hours are raised.”

They stressed massage therapists are very different from chiropractors, as massage therapists manipulate soft tissues, while chiropractors manipulate skeletal structures.

Due to his back issues, Mike can only massage for 30 minutes at a time, so he also plans to help Gail at Oasis occasionally with therapeutic massages.

The couple has six children between the two of them, and five grandchildren. While they don’t plan on retiring yet, they do plan to spend more time with family in the future.

“We’ve helped a lot of people in Cleveland alone, and have helped people earn certifications through our program who now work for chiropractors and spas, too,” Gail said. “This school gave us a good career and set us up for a great future.”

The Sandbergs wanted to thank Cleveland for its continued business and for allowing them to provide a much-needed service.



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