ICYMI: This story and more small business news originally appeared in Biz Buzz.
Fewer Barcaloungers in the darkened room await patients at Eagle Rock Community Acupuncture (ERCA) these days. But owner Valerie Brown is thankful that her clinic – which reopened in early May as an essential business – continues to employ the ancient medical practice to address modern ailments.
"I’m so happy to be back," she says. "The business is yielding enough to keep me going for now."
Unique challenges face community acupuncture clinics, a business model that started around 2000 at a Portland clinic; today about a dozen exist in Los Angeles County.
Unlike traditional acupuncture settings (where practitioners treat patients in private rooms) community acupuncture involves a communal setting where multiple patients receive treatments simultaneously; it's a more affordable experience as you relax (and possibly snooze) next to neighbors as needles sway on arms, foreheads, knees and feet. A typical community acupuncture treatment costs about $45; compare that to a private session that can range from $75-$180 per session.
With today's social distancing directive, shared communal experiences are few to be found – and new protocols mean new configurations and procedures for health clinics such as ERCA.
Brown has increased space between treatment chairs, reduced the overall number of chairs and has tacked on $5 increase per treatment to cover lost revenue.
Current patients are requesting treatments for ongoing pains and aches, says Brown; she's offering three new treatment packages in response to clients requesting help for dealing with extra anxiety and stress.
Looking ahead, Brown tries to be realistic about how money will flow in 2020. She'll continue to look for ways to tighten her operating expenses (maybe downsizing hours?) and keep her business safe for clients and employees.
"I can’t squeeze any more money of out of people coming here," she admits. "We will just play it day by day."