A MILLENNIA-OLD HOLISTIC HEALTH PRACTICE, RETHOUGHT FOR THE MODERN NEW YORKER
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
When the proprietors of the new Modern Acupuncture franchise in Staten Island’s Tottenville neighborhood were first introduced to the concept, they weren’t immediately sold. While the husband-and-wife team were already running two other successful franchises, neither had any experience with acupuncture. They also were not thoroughly convinced their Staten Island neighbors would be the ideal demographic. While the young franchise, born in Arizona in 2016, had already gained a devoted following in the western United States, there weren’t yet any locations on the East Coast, much less in a city famed for minutes that dash by like seconds.
The first eastern franchise opportunity was in Pennsylvania. “We were hesitant at first because we didn’t know a lot about this business, and since we work full time, we didn’t want to add something to our plate in another state,” the co-owner said. “We wanted something where we live.”
There was a Staten Island franchise in the works, but another potential buyer had already claimed the territory. Then, in December 2017, the couple received an unexpected phone call that quickly prompted them into action.
“I was Christmas shopping with my kids when my phone rang, asking if I was still interested in the Staten Island location—the other people had backed out,” the co-owner said.
“My husband and I immediately booked a flight to Arizona to visit a clinic and experience it. We didn’t know what to expect, since neither one of us had ever done acupuncture.”
With demanding full-time jobs and three children, the potential buyers seemed perfect test cases to determine if a practice that requires absolute stillness could work in a fast-paced borough. They made an appointment at the flagship location in Scottsdale, where staff there had no idea the pair was interested in purchasing a franchise.
“We thought it would be more like a medical clinic, but it wasn’t anything like a doctor’s office,” she said. “It was a spa-like environment. After 10 minutes in the treatment room, my body was so calm. We had just gotten off a five-hour flight, worked a full workweek, and went straight there from the airport. After we left, we felt amazing.”
Following that single 30-minute session, the decision was unanimous: The couple wanted to bring the concept home.
“The way we felt coming from New York, where everyone is running on coffee and Red Bull—this was just the opposite. It lets you take a break, quiet down, and ease your mind. We felt we could bring this to Staten Island, where we could give people the chance to reset their brains and their minds.”
The Tottenville location took about 18 months to get up and running. The owners celebrated its soft opening this past July 25, and the grand opening is slated for November. There are three certified acupuncturists on staff, all graduates of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Manhattan.
The concept of Modern Acupuncture is to make this ancient treatment accessible to the average person, the owners explained. Sessions last only 30 minutes, and payment plans and monthly memberships are an attempt to make it both affordable and easy to work into a weekly routine. The first visit is always on the house, said the co-owner. “We want them to experience it before they sink their money into us.”
Visitors are greeted with a cup of tea at check-in. They are then ushered through large wooden doors and led to the Zen Lounge, where they make themselves comfortable in a “zero-gravity” chair that has built-in massagers and heating mechanisms. The acupuncturist enters and inserts the needles, then leaves the patient to relax for 25 minutes while calming music and visuals of nature scenes float in the background.
“People really love the chairs,” said Daniel Pfleging, one of the in-house acupuncturists. “It’s a recliner, but it does so much farther than people are probably used to. Once they are tilted past a certain point, it takes the pressure off the spine. It’s a weightless feeling. Plus, it massages and heats.”
The healing benefits of the millennia-old practice extend far beyond its calming properties, Pfleging pointed out. Records show that acupuncture has been applied to address a variety of ailments for thousands of years (the first recorded use dates back some 2,500 years, but many believe the practice originated long before then). Early practitioners were convinced the technique could restore balance and harmony within a person by channeling energy flows called qi (pronounced “chee”) in the body. Contemporary studies have proven the procedure’s ability to ease health conditions that include chronic pain, insomnia, PTSD, acute stress, and anxiety. What makes the Modern Acupuncture approach different, Pfleging explained, is how they’ve taken the method and streamlined it for the modern person. This accessibility is one of the many reasons the acupuncturist was drawn to the franchise.
“I got acupuncture for the first time a couple years before I ever thought about doing it as a career. I was going through some personal health issues, and a friend who swore by it recommended I try it. So, I went once a week in Manhattan for a while, and it really worked. But I wasn’t able to keep paying for it, so I had to quit. I like the Modern Acupuncture method because they are making it available to the average person. They figured out ways to streamline the whole thing, so it can be done very quickly and painlessly to address as many issues as possible in a shorter period of time. You don’t need thousands of dollars to do it each month.”
With its convenient location in Tottenville Commons on Amboy Road, Staten Islanders no longer have to take the ferry to Manhattan to find licensed acupuncturists. And they don’t have to dedicate a large portion of their day or bank account to reap the health and wellness benefits. All they need to do, Pfleging pointed out, is carve 30 minutes out of their week to take a little time for themselves and their well-being.
“In the modern world, we are always doing,” he said. “It’s stimulating to the nervous system, and over time we are overstimulated and overstressed. Stress is the number-one killer in the modern world. This is a way to engage the part of your mind to shut that off and force you to relax. You don’t have to develop a skill; you just have to sit in the chair. You engage that part of your brain, and it makes you relax. It’s very healing to your body. In a city where doing nothing is looked at like a sin, acupuncture is the key. It just works.”
7001 Amboy Road, Staten Island / 718.790.4195