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Monday

 

With spa's founder fighting MS, husband steps in









































Christina Rossetti Thompson and her husband, Victor Thompson, operate Greentoes, an ecofriendly manicure and pedicure studio and day spa at 529 N. Sixth Ave. Not long after she got her new business going, Christina began dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis.
Image source: TUCSON.COM

Christina Rossetti Thompson had been living with multiple sclerosis almost as long as she had been a school teacher when she had the dream that would change both her and her husband’s lives.

“In the dream, I had multiple sclerosis and I was among different doctors and they told me, ‘You need to slow down. You’re going to find this place of calm, and you’re going to create this.’”

She woke up that morning with the concept, the name and the drive that would make Greentoes day spa a reality.

With little experience in business, let alone beauty services, the mother of three immersed herself in learning about the industry.

“Besides going once in a while and having a pedicure, it was like a foreign language to me,” she said. “I had a lot to learn.”

When she wasn’t at school, she would do research, interview entrepreneurs, talk with vendors and look for mentors.

She decided she would open her shop in a family-owned building on North Sixth Avenue.

Her husband, Victor Thompson, worked on renovating the space.

She used part of their savings and credit cards to buy manicure stations, pedicure benches and to stock the products she needed to offer organic, ecofriendly services.

Greentoes opened in October 2012. It took less than a year for her dream to come true.

With the hard work of launching her business behind her, she was ready to face the even harder task of running a shop while keeping her day job teaching math.

But suddenly it wasn’t a dream that was telling her to slow down, it was her body.

“I noticed in late November a consistent discomfort,” she said. “I knew it was MS, and my students had made mention. I was getting a lot of, ‘Is everything OK?’

“And I was, ‘I’m fine.’”

STEPPING BACK

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system. It is unpredictable, and sometimes symptoms come and go as the illness progresses.

Those symptoms can include memory problems, poor coordination, slurred speech, extreme fatigue, blurred vision and paralysis.

“MS is different for everyone. I’m sitting in front of you today — I’m on a stool, I’m balanced, I’m speaking, I have energy right now. Things can change in the next hour,” she said.

As her symptoms worsened, doctors said she needed complete rest. For someone as active as she was, it was a tough time.

“It was a challenge, because she couldn’t be involved in teaching, she couldn’t be involved in Greentoes, she couldn’t be involved in her ordinary daily life,” Victor Thompson said.

Along with having to stop doing what she loved, Rossetti Thompson also had to decide what to do with her new business, so she turned to her husband.

“He had to make a decision,” she said. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to be able to rest and do Greentoes. You can do this. Do you want to do this?’”

For the first few minutes after she asked, Thompson said, his answer was that he couldn’t.

“I supported her idea of this business, but she was the one that put everything together,” he said. “All the concepts, all the people she had met, all the work that she’d done. That’s what I’m thinking right away: I don’t know anything about this.”

Thompson, who was working in home remodeling at the time, realized that the reasons he was saying no were why he had to say yes.

“I didn’t want her dream, all the energy and time she put into this vision, to die,” he said. “I looked at her and said, ‘I’ll take care of it,’ and from that moment, I took care of it.”

CHALLENGING TIMES

Even as she handed over the business to her husband, in the back of her mind, Rossetti Thompson thought it would be a temporary situation.

She had had episodes before and always bounced back from them, she said.

“This was the first time I kept trying to bounce back and I couldn’t,” she said. “No matter how mentally prepared I was or how positive I would try to be, I couldn’t find that balance again.”

A change in medication left her bedridden for months as she struggled to adjust to her new circumstances.

“I hesitate to call it depression, but I was kind of mourning the loss of this energetic woman that I had not just known but … this person who I had worked on being, and embraced,” she said. “Everything had been taken from me.”

The family also faced financial difficulties. With three daughters and a new business, things were tight, they said.

While Greentoes was mostly paying for its expenses, their income was reduced to Rossetti Thompson’s short-term disability checks. Her husband had to stop working to dedicate himself to not only running the business, but also figuring it out.

“My first year was basically learning what she did. I had an office there, and I just did the research I could do,” he said. “I had to establish my own way of doing things. I couldn’t really bother her because it was stressful to even talk about it. She felt like she abandoned the employees and the business.”

Thompson turned to Ellen Kirton at the Pima and Santa Cruz Small Business Development Center. Kirton, who had previously advised Rossetti Thompson, was impressed when she heard what was happening.

“Certainly for a gentleman to be switching gears from what he was doing, to care enough about his wife and to be taking over a business that’s female-dominated,” she said.

The Thompsons have been ideal clients for the Small Business Development Center, she said.

“I really admire that Christina really wanted to do this right and have all the components in place,” Kirton said. “What I loved about working with Victor is he’s just a sponge. He’s open-minded, he listens.”

As Greentoes slowly began to grow and Thompson became more and more familiar with the beauty industry, Rossetti Thompson said that for her, success came with mixed emotions.

“At first I was truly devastated that I wasn’t part of it. Once I moved past that, I was just so proud of him,” she said. “I cannot believe that he has taken this on. And not just taken it on as something he has to do, he’s turned it into his life’s work and his life’s vision.”

MOVING FORWARD

Today, Thompson has given up his office at Greentoes to set up a massage area, but only so the business can expand its service offerings.

“Every year it’s just growing. You see new clients every day. It’s just amazing the growth that we’ve had,” said Jeannette McCarty, manager at Greentoes.


Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by TUCSON
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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