Alternative healing and wellness businesses put down roots in Ypsi area

An acupuncture business with a "socialist business model." A waterfront yoga studio. A holistic bodywork practice promoting a safe space for black clients.


Their owners were drawn by factors ranging from a 10-minute walking commute to the community's "down-to-earth vibe." And the common thread between them is that they're all wellness and alternative healing businesses that have recently opened in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.


We talked to the owner of one established business that recently relocated to Ypsi and the owners of two newer businesses about the services they offer and why they decided to set up shop in the Ypsi area.


Common Source Acupuncture: Healing in a group space


Nicole McCarty ran a thriving acupuncture business called Common Source in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown neighborhood for four years but was outgrowing her space, so she moved her business to its current location at 11 S. Washington St. in downtown Ypsi in August 2018.


"I was looking for a nicer space with a bigger lobby, and one that was accessible (for clients with disabilities)," she says. "And I love Ypsilanti. Even when I lived in Ann Arbor, I used to come here socially and spent a lot of time in Depot Town. We moved to Michigan in 2014 and Ypsi feels more like the city."


Since moving her business to Ypsi, she and her husband also bought a house in the city, and she says she loves that her work is a 10-minute walk from her house.


McCarty became interested in Chinese medicine via studying herbs, but now herbal remedies only make up a small portion of her business. Most people come in for acupuncture, but occasionally she will suggest an herb or herb combination to an acupuncture client as well.


The name Common Source refers to the "socialist business model" she uses and a reference to "the commons," a place that is available to everyone in a society.


"It's about having community come together and healing in a group space," McCarty says.


She is able to keep costs low and offer a no-questions-asked sliding scale by treating multiple patients at once.


"Acupuncture is an amazing form of medicine, but when I was in acupuncture school, I realized my friends and family could never afford to come see me, because most acupuncturists charge around $100 for a one-hour session," she says. "I knew I needed to come up with a way it would be accessible to my family and friends."


Unless she needs a longer session to complete a health history and intake with a new client, she blocks off a few hours in a given work day and has clients come in at about 15-minute intervals. She talks with the first client briefly, applies the acupuncture needles to the target areas, and then leaves the client to relax, or even doze off on a cot or recliner, as she moves on to the next client. Each client is encouraged to relax for 30 to 60 minutes.


She says first-time visitors are often concerned that acupuncture will hurt.


"It's not really painful, but more like a dull achy movement, and a feeling of heaviness, and then lots of people just fall asleep," she says. "Expect deep relaxation. An acupuncture session is the best nap."


She says many of her clients followed her from her Ann Arbor practice, but Ypsi has also been good to her.


"I've gotten a lot busier in Ypsilanti," she says. "The walk-by traffic helps, and having a place to put my herbs on display."


Zion Well: Our goal is peace


Aubrey and Art Schupbach have been practicing yoga for about 10 years, and in late 2018 they decided they needed their own space for teaching yoga and meditation. That led to the creation of Zion Well at 874 S. Grove St. in Ypsi Township. Classes began June 1 after several months of remodeling.


"It has really been a dream to own our own space and give people a space to relax and explore mental and physical wellbeing, as well as providing tools they can take off their mat and use at home and in their daily lives at work," Aubrey Schupbach says.


The couple live in Pittsfield Township, but they spent a lot of time in Ypsi and liked the "vibe" there even before opening a business in the township.


"Ypsi is so down to earth and grounded, but very artistic," Art Schupbach says. "I really like that."


Their yoga studio offers a bright but calm space with a view of Ford Lake, and Aubrey Schupbach says that's a big part of the reason the Schpubachs landed in the small business strip off Grove Road.


"We both grew up on the water and loved the ocean, so when we found this spot, it was our dream spot," Aubrey Schupbach says. "There are so many mental and physical benefits of being near water."


The studio's class offerings include a variety of yoga and meditation classes. Aubrey Schupbach says the practice places great importance on the "emotional and spiritual benefits of centering yourself."


She says human connection and building relationships with clients are also important to the business.


"We love supporting people on a human-to-human level and being able to create a space in our workshops that fosters development of identity or legacy, who you want to be," she says.


She says many clients come to Zion Well to improve their mental health, so it's important to the Schupbachs to partner with licensed counselors and therapists. To that end, Zion Well sometimes co-sponsors events with BLND Health (pronounced "blend"), a Kalamazoo-based company offering a holistic approach to mental and behavioral therapy.


Overall, Aubrey Schupbach says the goal of Zion Well is to create a "safe and inclusive experience."


"When guests (who are new to yoga) first come into our space, we try to put ourselves in their shoes and, if they are fearful or nervous, let them know they should do what feels comfortable," Aubrey Schupbach says. "If they come into a posture and it feels too challenging and they want to move out of it, we let them do that. They have a full choice of whatever they partake in."


Art Schupbach says the "overall goal of the space is peace."


"Even if it's just one minute that they feel peaceful, we feel we did our job," he says.


Cocoa Healing Collective: People need a space to decompress


For Sharonda Purnell, building a new career as the owner of a holistic bodywork and massage practice has been "a journey of finding out my weird, finding out I have a whole tribe of weird."


Purnell opened Cocoa Healing Collective at 32 N. Washington St. in Ypsi last summer and has been quietly building her clientele solely through word of mouth.


Purnell already had some experience in the health and wellness field, having worked as a patient tech at Mott Children's Hospital. But she became interested in holistic approaches to health and wellness after experiencing Tibetan singing bowls at a now-defunct business called The Lampshade, located in the downtown space now occupied by Ziggy's.


"Once I went to that meditation at The Lampshade, I started looking into sound and vibration and (the energy work practice of) reiki, and started finding my weird," she says.


She decided to attend massage school at Irene's Myomassology Institute in Southfield to learn more. She ended up learning more about herself, particularly to value her intuition. Purnell uses that intuition to sense what clients who come to her need. She says working with a client's body often brings up mental health or spiritual needs as well.


"Generally, people who need to be on my table have trauma in the body, or sometimes chronic pain … and those things come up when they're on the massage table," she says. "Once they get off the table, they have a lot to say about what came up for them."


When that happens, she refers them to a mental health therapist who can address the issues that came up.


While Purnell's practice is open to all, she purposely included "Cocoa" in the name of her business to emphasize the work she wants to do with African-American clients. As a black lesbian, she says she's experienced firsthand the feeling that "it's not safe to be in a body."


"I want black women (in particular) to have a safe space," she says. "I like (sending) the message that I know what to do with your hair, and that you are safe here."


She says it's important to provide a non-judgmental space for all bodies, however.


"Big bodies are safe here. Natural hair is safe here. If you have stretch marks or ugly feet or hairy legs, I don't care," she says.


People who feel things deeply or who may have been described as "highly sensitive" will also find a safe space at Cocoa Healing Collective.


"Some people need a safe place to cry," Purnell says. "People need a space to decompress, and it's not happening."


She says touching people, whether it's on the massage table or giving a client a hug, is important. People living in the modern world are "lacking in touch, and people are suffering," she says.


"They are so pent up all the time. If you don't give the body the space and the rest that it needs, people start getting angry and cynical," she says. "If everyone got a massage once a week, the world would be so fucking Zen."


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

All photos by Doug Coombe.