CenterPoint Massage School Closing its St. Louis Park location

From StarTribune:

Despite strong demand for people wanting massage therapy, COVID-19 restrictions were too much to handle financially for CenterPoint Massage & Shiatsu School & Clinic in St. Louis Park.

The school will close on June 30, liquidating its inventory at It has stopped enrolling new students and is trying to negotiate a deal where current students can transfer to Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington.

Student clinic and all hands-on classes were canceled March 17 at CenterPoint after the governor’s directive.

“We tried to project into September with a 70% decrease in revenue or wait until January for hands-on classes,” said Cari Johnson Pelava, director of CenterPoint School. “But there was no way we could wait. People are not flocking to the program during COVID.”

The school received a Paycheck Protection Program loan but had to return it because of its restrictive nature. Even with a relaxation of the loan paybacks from eight to 24 weeks, Johnson Pelava said it was too little too late.

The school negotiated an early exit with its landlord and the debt-free school didn’t want to take on new long-term loans.

Even prior to the pandemic, the number of massage schools had been in decline. The Twin Cities metro could boast of more than 40 massage schools in the 2004 to 2010 peak. By 2012, enrollments were decreasing nationally and the number of schools nationally dropped by half.

CenterPoint’s enrollment was down 25% from five years ago and 35% from nine years ago, typical for most schools, Johnson Pelava said.

The industry changed, Johnson Pelava said. National chains started offering discounted massage packages, which led to lower wages for the massage therapists. To make the same amount of money, the therapists had to increase their client load, which causes more likelihood of injury if the number is more than 25 a week, she said.

Nikki Wells of Pueblo, Colo., finished her studies at CenterPoint in 2010.

“CenterPoint was so much more than learning how to give a back rub,” she said. “Because of their excellent training that included personal development training, I opened my own private practice right away and I felt confident because of their training.”

Details are still being finalized on the transfer agreement with Northwestern Health Sciences University, whose enrollment in its three massage programs has been stable with about 40 to 50 students annually. NWHSU is considering adding specialty programs such as Asian BodyWorks Programs and shiatsu massage.

NWHSU anticipates being back on campus in September with strict sanitizing guidelines. Only hands-on training, which cannot be taught online or through video, will be conducted on campus. Other learning will be done online.

Minnesota is one of four states that does not require massage therapists to be licensed at the state level. Instead, cities apply their own requirements, which vary widely. Schools such as CenterPoint and NWHSU adhere themselves to industry standards recognized by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). The advantage, Johnson Pelava said, is that its grads are more in demand by employers.

Currently, about 60 massage programs out of nearly 1,000 nationally are accredited by COMTA. The two schools also are accredited institutionally by the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits the University of Minnesota and other colleges and universities in the region.

“We are leaders in the way we have hospital partnerships at Regents in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis and University of Minnesota Medical Center,” said Dale Healey, dean of the College of Health and Wellness at NWHSU. “I’m not aware of another school that has partnered with hospitals at a similar level.”

Both CenterPoint and NWHSU had student massages for the public at reduced prices, a service that was shut down with the state’s stay-at-home order. NWHSU’s DeRusha Clinic is now open on Wednesdays and Fridays for acute care massage therapy appointments.

All patients must pass COVID-19 and Acuity screening questions and will have their temperature taken at check-in. Patients will be required to wear a mask during their visit.

CenterPoint was formed in 2001 by the merger of Northern Lights School of Massage Therapy and the Minnesota Center for Shiatsu Study, which were both in Dinkytown.

View the article on StarTribune’s website here.