Can you imagine starting a new life in a foreign country, on your own, not knowing the local language, not having friends, just having a dream?
How long do you think it would take you to master a new profession, learn the language and open your own successful business?
It took Xiaoping “Michelle” Wan, the owner of Lynnfield Healing Massage located in Post Office Square, 10 years to open her own massage studio; and she still works seven days a week to make sure her clients are satisfied and the studio is clean and welcoming.
Wan moved to the U.S. from China in 2006. She grew up on a farm with no central heating and worked at a state-owned company as a bookkeeper until it went bankrupt. After that, Wan became an esthetician at a spa. But she dreamed of coming to the U.S. since she was little. She said she didn’t like policies in China.
“Here, in the U.S., if people work hard, they can build a good life,” Wan said. “I love freedom.”
In China, women over 30 years old, women with children or divorced women struggle to find a job and experience sexism, Wan said.
She came to the U.S. in hopes of building a better life for herself and her daughter, who she was able to put through college and a graduate school in Canada. They reunited only in 2019.
To support herself in the new country, Wan first worked at a supermarket. She knew some massage techniques from back home, but went to a massage school in 2009 to learn more and get her license.
Over the years she made friends who guided her through massage training and she mastered English. After getting her massage license, Wan worked for several years gaining more experience.
When she had enough savings and confidence to open her own massage studio, she rented three rooms in Post Office Square in 2006 and dubbed her business Lynnfield Healing Massage because of the many documented health benefits of professional therapeutic massage.
Wan said it is not easy to find a studio like hers outside of Chinatown. She views herself as an ambassador for Chinese massage, dispelling negative images of Asian massage parlors.
“I like this country and I wanted to do something nice,” Wan said.
Some clients brought those myths to their appointments and found Healing Massage quickly dispelled their misimpressions. She also opened Lynnfield Healing Massage with the idea to give other single, divorced women with children an opportunity to work.
The first week in business Wan worked by herself. Now, she employs a half-dozen people, mostly Chinese and Vietnamese women with professional licenses.
Lynnfield Healing Massage offers a wide range of services from relaxing to sports massage, couples massage, foot massage, Thai, hot stone and silicone cupping.
Many pregnant clients have found relief from prenatal massage and send Wan baby pictures once the child is born. Wan has also ventured into using cannabidiol (CBD) oils and lotions, after studying their therapeutic properties.
Over the years, Wan’s business has received considerable positive feedback, with a 4.5 stars review rating on Yelp and 4.8 rating on Google.
In the rare instances when a customer doesn’t get the results they hoped for, Wan tries to reach out, analyze customer concerns, and offer a solution. She is a firm believer in treating her customers the way she would like to be treated herself. Oftentimes she offers her customers little gifts around the holidays — a free additional 10 minutes of massage, a CBD-oil treatment for free, or a scarf.
“Michelle is the best. She is always accommodating with the appointments; she will bend over backwards,” said Denis, a customer from Malden who has been a regular for about five years. “The rooms are always nice and clean.”
Wan is constantly beautifying Healing Massage by adding fresh flowers inside and planting flowers outside and making her office more inviting. She expanded into Peabody during the pandemic but found it difficult to find people who wanted to work.
She made a difficult decision to close down the Peabody location, deciding to rent more space adjacent to her Lynnfield office. Wan renovated it and added three more massage rooms.
Several years ago, Wan became a Lynnfield resident herself. Even though the business is good, she still works seven days a week, making sure everything runs smoothly.
“I love this country,” said Wan. “This is my dream and so my dream came true even though I am older.”