The last decade has seen a robust period of growth and development for the Tompkins Avenue Corridor. Once an underserved strip anchored by liquor stores and abandoned storefronts, Tompkins Avenue has become a vibrant reflection of the community that the corridor serves: diverse, social, eclectic. So then, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you realize that one of the more popular establishments in the neighborhood isn’t some beer garden or franchise restaurant. The place with the biggest smiling faces out in front happens to be a massage clinic. I mean, an apothecary. I mean, an acupuncture clinic.
Life Wellness Center is all of those things, but most importantly, it has become a haven of serenity for the neighborhood. When you approach the establishment, you’re met with the lush greenery of plants positioned in such a way that you must first enter into their space before you go into the center. Once inside, you come upon a literal catalogue of all things holistic: powders, solutions, teas, books. The greenery is the theme throughout, robust colors presenting themselves to you through the borders of lush plant life. And then, there are the smiles. Everyone is smiling. Stress and worry cannot live in this place, the environment won’t allow for it. The largest, most beautiful smile in the center belongs to co-owner Khadijah Tutor. For Khadijah, and her life partner Ade Collman, Life Wellness Center is the culmination of a lifetime of work in the field of restorative healing and therapeutic massage. “We’ve been open for 2½ years. Ade has been practicing for over 30 years. I’ve been practicing for about 10 years. We have worked on everybody, every walk of life, every socioeconomic background, but we wanted something where we lived. We have a very large blended family of 8 children. When we looked around in our neighborhood, we saw it shifting quick. I remember telling him that if we didn’t try to get something commercial-space-wise, we were already priced-out house-wise, and we wouldn’t be able to afford something commercial either. So, Tremaine Wright used to own the coffee shop here, one of my sons used to work here, and I used to study massage therapy in a corner right by the corner window. I wanted a space that felt like community, the way that Common Grounds felt. We were looking all over the place and nothing felt right. One day I saw Tremaine and she said that I should come by and see the space, maybe I’d want to rent it. I came in and immediately was like, of course! This is it! It just felt right. We put our all into the business and transformed the space. The goal was that when Black and Brown folk walked in they felt respected, that they felt healed from the moment they walked in; from the scent, from how the place looked, from the music, even down to how they were greeted. We are happy that you are here. That in and of itself, that respect brings a trust. And then the kind of work that we are offering, it isn’t just massaging you. It’s about what’s happening with you. It’s very pinpoint, very technical, but very intuitive.”
Placing a wellness center in the middle of a Black community is a bold idea. The services are most certainly needed, but would the community support the business? Khadijah says the reception has been excellent. “It’s really been amazing. We already had a strong foundation because of the time frame that Ade has been working, that I’ve been working. People have really been supportive. But it’s been amazing. We have had everyone from state senators to people on the block. Senator Kevin Parker comes here. Lisa Price from Carol’s Daughter is one of our clients. And so is Pee-wee from across the street. And everybody is treated the same way.”
One of the best parts about the Life Wellness Center are the conversations. My massage therapist Alia was wonderfully intuitive. She asked all of the right questions, she explained her work and the process, she probed to find out more about my life and my therapeutic needs. And for Khadijah, the conversations are part of the business model. “We make health and wellness a common conversation. Ade is a Black man with children and responsibilities that come with stress. I am a Black mother with a bunch of children that come with responsibilities and stress. So, I can understand when people say they don’t have time for themselves. This is not a spa experience. This is something of medicinal value to help you through that stress that you’re feeling from work, from your relationship, from your finances, when you feel like you’re about to explode. Energy stays in your body. If you’re having neck pain or back pain, then it is a sign that something is wrong. Touch, in itself, is healing, but we are empowering people to understand that something is happening in their body, the awareness that your body is not moving the way it’s supposed to be moving, you’re not breathing the way you’re supposed to be breathing, or you’re not eating the way that you’re supposed to be eating to really fulfill a balanced life so that you can show up in life whole.”
A place of peace set in the middle of a bustling, ever-growing neighborhood. Life Wellness Center provides the serenity needed to keep you forever present in your body. And after a visit, you will understand why everyone in the place is smiling.
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