Q+A: Cristina Popa Ricketts, Green Stone Spa

City-living can be stressful. What better way to relax and re-energize than a massage just feet away from the Dumbo waterfront? Green Stone Spa offers treatments that don’t just lessen aches and pains, but address the underlying causes of stress and tension in the body. We sat down with owner Cristina Popa Ricketts to find out what she and her therapists bring to the (massage) table.

What inspired you to open the Spa, and how did you know DUMBO was the right home for Greenstone?

It all happened absolutely by accident. I started at the spa as an employee back in 2012, right after Hurricane Sandy. When the owner decided to sell the business, I saw an opportunity. Back then, Dumbo didn’t really have any other spas, but people didn’t really know about Greenstone Spa because the approach was very cliche: Swedish, hot stone, deep tissue. Everybody was offering treatments, but no one was actually offering to get rid of the underlying issues. So, I thought that if we started targeting the cause rather than working on and off with the effect, that would be more useful in terms of treatment.

What treatments do you offer at Greenstone?

We stand for releasing the tension from your body so that all that you’re left with is relaxation. A lot of people come in looking for relief from a specific issue, but if we work on body alignment, we can completely get rid of that issue in a series of sessions. We usually work on a weekly basis. Once customers try a treatment, they feel the difference and they come back.

Sometimes, if someone hasn’t tried alignment therapy before, they think that the treatment is really painful and they say they’re never coming back. Then, four days later, they’re shocked to see themselves walk back through the door saying, ‘Can you hurt me again?’ We explain that the first session is the worst because we’re getting to know your body and your body is getting to know us. You trusting us is getting on the table, your body starts trusting us only after it feels that what we have done to it benefits it.

How do you deliver this individualized treatment to all of the customers that walk through the door?

I train all of the therapists to understand the causes and effects of how the body works. Everyone comes in with a certain amount of knowledge from their training, and every therapist brings something different to the Spa according to their height and their strength. When I bring in a new massage therapist, it’s not just a new therapist, it’s a new member of the family. Dumbo has a special vibe to it, it’s pretty chill but very organized. We make sure that the vibe is the same and that everybody has the same understanding of the treatment.

You were an athlete before opening a small business. How did you make that transition?

I was a competitive power-lifter and boxer in Ukraine, starting when I was eight years old until I was twenty. When I came to the U.S., I ended my athletic career and started trying other things.I was modeling for a while and then I worked in fashion, managing sales and doing personal styling. It was good, but not fulfilling or satisfying. Then one day, the receptionist at work was complaining about her shoulder pain and I did something to her shoulders. She said, ‘Your hands are so good, maybe you should go to massage therapy school.’ That same day I registered at the Swedish Institute.

I’ve been a licensed massage therapist since 2010. Finally I could apply my strength to something that was fulfilling, to see that my touch mattered on a different level. When I dressed people up, it was great because they would feel beautiful, but only temporarily. The effects of massage last for a much longer time. It’s like an energy exchange when you make people feel better.

What have you taken from the world of athletics to running the Spa?

Discipline. Organization. After a point, I hate micromanagement, so I like to educate my therapists on these values. That way there’s absolutely no micromanagement and everyone knows what they’re supposed to do. Athletics taught me a knowledge of the body and how to use your body mechanics. I tell the therapists that to do a great treatment you don’t have to break a sweat or be completely exhausted. Instead, it just takes a certain body mechanics. In sports, you use this skill a lot when working with an opponent.

And, finally, what’s your favorite spot in DUMBO?

I spend most of my time at the Spa, so it feels like home. Dumbo in general feels like home. I love One Girl Cookies and, of course, the park. Who doesn’t love the park? I think Dumbo is very unique; there’s still so much to discover.

Mentioned in this article

Green Stone Spa Brooklyn Bridge Park - Main Street