Greg Thompson kept finding himself hitting the ceiling and feeling boxed in professionally, but eventually he punched up and through — finding success and personal fulfillment in massage therapy.
With a Downtown office on North Tejon Street above Odyssey Gastropub, Thompson offers massage treatment under the name Gentle Giant Massage Therapy.
“The name ... took time to finally choose,” he said. “Ultimately, I love elephants and people call me a giant. I’m 6-foot-6. The two ideas — or reflections of myself — went together and resulted in the name Gentle Giant Massage Therapy.”
Born and raised on the East Coast, Thompson eventually moved west to find freedom in the Centennial State. But he still felt trapped professionally — until he saw an advertisement that opened new possibilities.
Thompson talked to the Business Journal about his upbringing, entrepreneurship, and the value of remedial labor.
Tell us about your background.
I’m originally from Washington, D.C. … I moved to West Virginia [and then] I transplanted to Colorado Springs 21 years ago, in 2000. I was what they called a “latchkey kid” growing up. You don’t hear that term much anymore, if at all, but it refers to a child arriving to an empty home after school, unsupervised, having to let himself or herself in. Anyways, my mom was a nurse and my dad had a federal job that required travel — he would be gone for long periods of time.
As a child, I loved playing with Lego, and I was really interested in outer space and NASA. Living in Washington, I had access to so many museums to explore and entertain my curious mind. As I became an adult, I moved to Colorado Springs for a change of pace. At that time, I was leaving West Virginia where there wasn’t much opportunity for me outside of coal mines, oil and gas, call centers, or nursing homes — and I didn’t want to do any of that.
Colorado ticks all the boxes for me. I’m a big outdoors person; I enjoy hiking, camping, road cycling and mountain biking. There’s just an ease of access to beautiful terrain … and incredible views here in Colorado Springs. I love it.
What did you do when you first got here?
I was in retail. Long story short, I was working a dead-end job. I saw the ceiling and it quickly became apparent I was not going to get anywhere, no matter how well I did my job. Then one day, I saw a commercial for massage courses and discovered that the school was just down the street from where I was living at the time. So I actually walked over to inquire about the program. I had nothing to lose. I eventually earned an associate degree from that school — IntelliTec College. ... In addition to a degree, I became licensed by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.
In school, did massage immediately click with you?
Honestly, it was a slow burn. It took a little time initially — but once I discovered I had a gifting for it, I bought in, fully.
Where did you first work as a therapist?
A day or two after graduation, I was offered a position at Massage Envy in Northern Colorado Springs. I was there for about five years. … After that, I transferred to Massage Envy in Denver, commuting back and forth, and did that for five or six years as well. Eventually, I came back to the Springs — taking a short, personal sabbatical — and then worked at Massage Green until I started my own business about a year ago. To summarize, I’ve been working as a professional massage therapist for around 12 years or so.
How did Gentle Giant Massage Therapy get started?
I started to get burnt out working for other people. … At every corner, seeing how managers treated individual therapists differently and, specifically, how the treatment was different between myself and other therapists. I was in high demand —and have always been in high demand — and the other therapists were being compared to me by managers … and pushed to be more like me. It created uncomfortable tension and discomfort, and I observed other therapists getting discouraged. They should not have been asked to be more like me; they should’ve been encouraged to be themselves … with their unique giftings.
There was also a lot of tension in just the field itself, when I worked for others. There wasn’t a lot of room for growth. Places really wanted a streamlined-type therapy — and I simply don’t fit that profile. I have my own technique and style, but I’m very expansive and open-minded.
Talk about your approach to massage.
I’m deep tissue/trigger point but slow and steady — rather than rush people in getting their range of motion or health back. I meet my clients where they are in their bodies and work from there — taking a slow, considerate approach. If I can help someone where they are at, and be open to what they need, it’s much more beneficial to both of us in our provider-patient relationship. There’s a lot of techniques within the field of massage, and there’s always new ones being discovered or developed. I’m really at the core of all the therapies … the Swedish massage, deep tissue and neuromuscular. I took aspects or elements from all and developed my own composite, but evolving, methodology to therapeutic massage — and made it my own.
In general terms, I’m very deep and focused, but relaxing at the same time.
You mentioned being in high demand. What makes you stand out?
I think just that: my technique — it makes me stands out … and stands for itself. I’m confident that’s the core of interest. Being Downtown but not being well known, I’m having booming business just through word of mouth. Clients have told me, ‘I’ve been all over the world trying massage, and yours is just really, really different.’
What’s in the future for Gentle Giant?
I’m looking into offering sound baths for clients. I’m currently doing training with that. It’s a destressing … or, as many say, decompressing therapy. A session essentially utilizes singing bowls, Tibetan or crystal, that are tuned to hit different vibrations, producing a calming effect via sound. If a person is feeling anxious, immersing in a sound bath may help bring both clarity and relaxation. With the sound bowls, ... I’d begin with a brief breathing exercise while also getting the clients accustomed to my presence. I’d then begin playing the bowls and allowing them to bathe in the sound. This is something that will be coming in the very near future, very soon.
I’m also looking into Ashiatsu massage therapy, Thai yoga, cupping, hot stone, essential oils and more — some, I’ve already started incorporating, such as cupping. I use cupping as a tool and extension of massage … as a road map to figure out what is going on. It’s a vacuum modality that draws blood to the surface, and can help with circulation and blood flow. The different colors, or shades, of the rings let me know what is going on in the muscle tissue. If it gets to a darker shade, I know that there may be a lot of injury there … a spot I need to target.
How did the pandemic impact your business?
I actually had an increase of business during the pandemic. I think people were in need of stress-relief during quarantine, isolation and the other consequences of coronavirus.
How are people finding out about you?
Word of mouth, particularly Downtown — it seems to spread like wildfire. I’ve been using Groupon a lot too, which has allowed me to be lazy when it comes to advertising and marketing. However, it’s quickly becoming apparent that I’m ready to step back from Groupon. Also, clients who knew me before wanted to remain with me as their therapist.
What’s important about your work?
I’m a healer. I help people get to where they need to be and where they envision themselves. What that means is different for each individual. Oftentimes people are told they just need to live with their injuries, which is true to an extent — [but] there’s a lot of wiggle room for improving quality of life. Once your range of motion increases and your stress decreases, further improvement builds upon that because you have a much more positive, confident mindset and outlook.