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Orange massage business has a sweet spot for first responders, veterans, active military
New Haven Register - 2/20/2021
Feb. 20—ORANGE — Longtime first responders Suzi and Ian Smolinsky understand the stress of the job.
So they started a business in part to relieve that stress from others like themselves — 911 responders, as well as veterans and active military personnel.
Their "Stillwater Wellness," is in a 700-square-foot space at 663 Orange Center Road, in a quaint shopping plaza in the center of town. The business offers therapeutic massage, facials, and more.
"For me it's another way of helping people," said Ian Smolinsky, a full-time paramedic with American Medical Response, and part-time massage therapist.
"As a paramedic you're in somebody's life for an hour and there's no follow up," he said. "With this, you're still seeing them for an hour and a half, but you see them again in a month or so and you get to see the benefits of your work."
Those who are 911 responders, veterans and active military, make up about 70 percent of their clientele and get a special 20 percent discount.
"While we are really there for the community, we stress massage, meditation, self -care for first responders," Suzi Smolinsky said. "We know this is a population that are underserved — they don't put the things they see behind them."
Suzi Smolinsky, who works full-time in the couple's wellness business, also volunteers part-time as an Emergency Medical Technician and is a former 911 dispatcher in New Haven.
Combined the couple has 35 years in emergency services.
Liz Connolly, a paramedic with the North Branford Fire Department and two ambulance services gets her massages from Ian Smolinsky and her husband, Kenny Connolly, a paramedic at AMR, gets his from Suzi.
"The difference you feel is palpable. He got knots and soreness out of my back that no one could," said Liz Connolly of Middletown. "It helps the stress and tension that people in my field unknowingly carry with them... It's a rare moment in our field because usually we're the ones out there helping everyone else."
In addition to being a licensed massage therapist, Suzi Smolinsky is an esthetician, Thai practitioner and teaches yoga and meditation.
She loved the dispatch career but had to leave because of a medical issue.
Interested in wellness, she reinvented herself as a massage therapist in 2018. Ian Smolinsky decided to train alongside her for the journey. Before opening in Orange in November, the two provided traveling services and rented space in another business, but this is the first place all their own.
The Smolinskys, who live in Milford, have been married six years ago and have six children between them, ages 17-23.
It would turn out they both grew in Milford and kept "missing" each other, she said. For instance, she worked at Hanson's Hardware as a teen, then he took her job when she left for college. Later, they both volunteered at Stratford EMS, but worked different schedules.
Finally, they met when a friend put them in a "mutual space," she said.
"We knew right away this was just right," she said of the romance.
Suzi Smolinsky said she does a thorough intake on each client and can often surmise what needs to be done taking pain, discomfort and career into count. For instance, she said, a police officer with a sore hip may be getting it from his or her utility belt, a paramedic who spends long periods sitting may have a different issue and a military client may have an injury.
She tells clients, "Before you walk into the massage room, tell me what's going on in your body today."
Suzi Smolinsky said even though she and Ian know the stress and unpleasant experiences the job can bring, conversation about experiences on the job are not part of the therapies.
"We recognize the need for them to just hold space and give them a safe space," she said. We are not psychologists, therapists, we're not counselors."
U.S. Air Force veteran Colleen Oaks of Trumbull said she appreciates that the Smolinskys give a discount to those in the special categories, as for some it could be incentive to give wellness moves a try. Oaks said she also likes the recognition of veterans and first responders.
"I don't think I'm owed anything (for being a veteran), but it's a lovely thing this company does," Oaks said. She said with the pandemic and all the other events in the world there's a lot of stress and "stress is a huge thing for veterans who have PTSD."
Ian Smolinsky said in the paramedic field the stress is high because it's about acute care, but delivering a massage to a client is a, "totally different pace."
"You take your time and connect more with the client," he said.
The business also has an "Honor Your Hero" program, which gives a free facial or massage each month to a first responder who is nominated through the business website. The program is made possible by a generous, anonymous donor, Suzi Smolinsky said.
The couple found the spot in Orange while casually looking for a business space. They saw the "for rent" sign in the window and it turns out it was the same center that Smolinsky was referring to 20 years ago when she drove by and remarked, "I love that space. I want to rent in that space one day."
Suzi Smolinsky said she had so many criteria for a place that even she thought she might be, "unreasonable," but it turned out everything was perfect — even the rent.
"I feel like all the stars aligned," she said. "I love the community there."
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