Bliss Integrated Bodywork is open at 1119 Sevier Avenue, Suite C. It joins a range of other health and fitness-related businesses that have opened in the same stretch, including LB Endurance Lab, Peak IV Hydration, which I’ve profiled recently, as well as South Knox Nutrition and Physio Lab PT. I stopped in to speak with owner Emily Bliss McLemore to learn more about the new business.
The first thing I learned is that the name of the business, while perhaps an apt description of how one might feel after a visit, is Emily’s maiden name. Emily is a Licensed Massage Therapist, one of three on the staff. The staff also includes a pilates teacher and two apprentice pilate teachers.
Emily was born in Gainesville, Florida, but was adopted as an infant and raised by her parents in south Knoxville. She graduated from South Doyle High School and began UT as an art major. “I took a turn and decided I wanted to pursue massage. I grew up playing sports and had chronic back pain and sciatica and had pushed through the pain . . . finally a chiropractor suggested getting therapeutic massage to address some of that patterning. I knew from that first treatment that it was going to change my life.”
She said immediately she began considering massage as a career path. She eventually attended the local Arbor College School of Massage, where she received her training. She finished the program in 2012 and began practice at a local spa for about a year, before moving temporarily to Johnson City for her husband, Patrick, to pursue a graduate degree in sports management. He’s now the Operations Manager at the Tennessee Theatre.
While in Johnson City, Emily worked in a clinic and then to establish a massage practice. When he got a job offer in in Tucson, Arizona, the couple moved there “sight unseen.” He worked at an arena there “on the facilities side.” For their two years there, she worked in an “integrative wellness studio.” She continued to practice massage there, but also began taking pilates classes. “It really changed my perspective to movement because it met me where I was with my back pain. I’d gotten a lot of relief through doing massage, but I hadn’t really strengthened or retrained my body how to move in more productive and supportive ways.” She pursued and obtained certification in pilates.
In 2017, when her husband got a job here, she returned to Knoxville and began her practice locally, doing both massage and teaching pilates. She said they loved the desert, but loved Knoxville, too, and wanted to be closer to family. They bought her childhood home in south Knoxville and renovated it. She started small in west Knoxville, “with one massage table and one treatment room and one pilate performer.” She established the name of the business.
She built her clientele and began adding additional equipment. “My heart has always been in south Knoxville, and I had an eye out for all the development happening in this area. I started looking for a space here in 2018 and signed a lease on this space in 2019.” She opened at that location in 2020 after construction delays.
She was close to making the announcement when businesses were shut down by the pandemic. She took the opportunity to move out of her office space while teaching remotely from her home, moved most of her equipment to storage and worked out of a friend’s business, Wild Elements Acupuncture inside South Knox Holistic Medicine on Moody Avenue, while she waited on construction to be completed on the new space.
When she eventually was given the green light to move in, she made public announcement. “I’ve been really grateful for the support we’ve received, especially being close contact providers navigating a pandemic.” She opened in September 2020 as a lone practitioner and has since grown to six practitioners and a Studio Assistant.
She said due to the continuing pandemic, they were cautious when they opened. “I paused group classes from March 2020 until a year later.” She said she did only private sessions until then, which was disappointing since they had gotten additional square footage specifically to make classes an easier fit. She said that clients were supportive of the extra caution, including wearing masks for a period after they returned.
Other than the walls, she and her husband did a lot of the preparation of the space. They did the painting and even laid the (beautiful) floors. “We had some good help. With the constantly moving construction timeline, and navigating supply delays, lining up contractors was pretty difficult . . . We’re pretty handy.” C3 Studios did the drawings. Lawler Wood manages the property.
Bliss offers private and small group training with pilates. The small group classes work with up to four people on the equipment or up to six people on mat. She promises personalized attention for everyone for injuries “or anything going on with their bodies.” She said they do not split the classes by skill level, but offer options to support everyone. They also offer therapeutic massage and bodywork services, prenatal massage and cranio-sacral therapy.
For the therapeutic massage, they do a consult with each client for each treatment to talk about their goals and anything they are noticing in their bodies. They tailor the treatment to what makes sense for them. “More pressure is not always better, sometimes it’s just more. We’ll work with the pressure and techniques that are appropriate for each client.”
They will also soon begin a new cohort for training pilates teachers called, “Pure Body Teacher Training.” They are the first practice in Tennessee to host this training. They had their first teacher training this summer and “supported four teachers getting into the community in Knoxville.”
They offer online scheduling through the website and provide free consultation for movement clients. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
“I’m excited to see the city’s focus on public outdoor space and a lot of the development happening here. We love being a part of this community and referring clients to neighboring businesses.”