As a spa attendant at Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, Marisa Rodgers has to do extra but essential sanitizing to ensure the safety of clients and employees.

She cleans and sanitizes every surface that gets touched.

“It’s a sense of normalcy to be able to come back to work,” Rodgers said.

She’s not only glad to return to work at the spa, which reopened Wednesday, but also that she and her fellow employees received a paycheck during the closure through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The SBA will forgive loans if all businesses keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for rent, mortgage interest or utilities, according to the SBA website.

Owner Micheal Petree said all but four of the spa’s 38 employees were furloughed for two weeks but returned through the PPP loan.

“The most valuable thing we have is our employees,” he said. “They were happy. Continued employment is always a good thing. We’re a service business and our staff is our business. Being able to secure their employment with us is huge.”

Rodgers said it was wonderful that Petree used the PPP loan helped the employees retain a paycheck.

“They took care of it all. They made it easy on us,” Rodgers said. “They brought us (all) back and took care of me while I was out.”

She said the owners kept in contact with the employees through several group chats and called her.

Massage therapist Brandy Plaza, who has been working at the spa for two years, said it was reassuring to be on the payroll even when customers couldn’t be served.

“I’ve certainly missed my co-workers and clients and I’m excited to get back to work,” Plaza said. “It (a massage) is so good for improving circulation and they missed eight weeks of that.”

Petree said he’s added several precautions to the spa to ensure safety for customers, including health and temperature checks for customers and employees and staggered shifts for employees.

Petree had to spend $15,000 in extra equipment for additional sanitation purposes to prepare for the reopening.

He added hospital-level disinfectants and hand sanitizers on the walls.

Protocols include wiping down all service rooms and tools with approved hospital-grade or EPA registered disinfectants and disinfecting bathrooms and common areas at least once every hour. Staff follows strict guidelines on sanitation and illness prevention, including hand washing

Linens are only used once and then cleaned and people are required to wear masks in the common areas, like the lobby.

Massage therapist Li Ming said she has to clean after massages and wash her hands more often and in front of the clients. She also uses proper sanitization, as she did prior to COVID-19.

Message therapists wear gloves if the customer requests it, Ming said.

Jacob Provencher, massage therapist, who returns to work on Friday, said it feels like Christmas to be able to work and continue helping people in need.

“Massaging is very gratifying,” he said. “Being able to help them, it feels good to help people. Everything is new here. It’s an interesting time to be alive.”

Reporter

I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.

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