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Our Town: John Ackerman

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The Sopris Sun is conducting a series of interviews with folks you may not have seen in the paper before – a sort of introduction to your neighbors. This week, we caught up with John Ackerman, who recently became a massage therapist after more than 30 years working for Ackerman Log and Timber first under his brother Skip, and later as the head honcho. His wife, Marianne, has been featured in Our Town in the past, and the couple have three kids in their 20s.

The Sopris Sun: How long have you been in the valley, and how did you come to move here?

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John Ackerman: Essentially, I followed in the footsteps of my brothers and sisters, who came out here in the early ‘70s. I grew up in Michigan, and I started coming out here to visit and work in the summers, and at one point I decided Carbondale was my home. In 1985, I moved here permanently and worked with Skip at Ackerman Handcrafted Log Homes. I’ve lived in Carbondale the whole time, even when I was living 27 miles up the Fryingpan River, at Skip’s property next to DeHaven Ranch Carbondale was always The Town, was always home.

SS: What was logging like?

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JA: The Forest Service had a rule: they wanted only ‘rustic logging’ there. We used no machinery whatsoever, other than chainsaws and hand tools. We had a bay horse to skip the logs out to the logging road, and Skip had a truck to take them from there. It felt good, plenty of fresh air, exercise, youth, all those things made it an exceptional experience.”

SS: At some point you took over the business, correct?

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JA: In 2005 or 2006, Skip decided he was moving on, so I took the opportunity to buy the tools and the business [Skip and Susan Ackerman have been living primarily in Mexico].

SS: And a couple of years ago, things changed?

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JA: The business was doing well, but I knew I was getting older, and it’s a small-niche company. And in a small-niche company you’re not just an owner sitting behind a desk, you’re a working owner, out there every day with your crew, making sure everything is done well. As I got closer to 60, my body was telling me, we should be done with picking up the heavy end of a log.

SS: Your decision was not driven by accidents?

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JA: I had had some close calls with chainsaws, but nothing bad, and we had a really good safety record.

SS: What else?

JA: A couple of things. For one, I have a 93-year-old dad, Art Ackerman and he’s chugging right along; he’s ambulating, he has his mental capacity. So I know I have that genetic piece for longevity, and I knew I needed to make a change, move into a field, a whole new career, that allowed avenues for learning, for educating myself.

SS: And you already had been looking at massage therapy.

JA: I saw a lot of massage therapists as a logger, and I realized that I really appreciated the positive, honest approach that the practitioners showed. And I thought, maybe I could learn some things, process this, and be one of these people.

SS: But it took some doing, right?

JA: Yes. I researched it, because I knew I had to go back to school, and I found Lotus Education Institute in Glenwood Springs. It explained that it took six months, 500 hours of class work and other tasks, including putting together a “vision board” mapping out goals. For instance, my vision board had pictures of the Carbondale Acupuncture Center.

SS: And the Acupuncture Center has worked out well for you?

JA: There are three [massage therapists: Sandy, who works downstairs, Pixie Byrne, one of my mentors, and me. I’m newly minted. There’s a certain kind of collaboration that goes on here … we all work well together, and we get along together; we respect each others’ business, and there’s occasionally a referral from the others in the building [including acupuncturist Dave Teitler, who founded the Center, and another acupuncturist].

SS: Are most of your clients also your friends?

JA: Some, but I’ve learned you need to move outside your friendship circles, which is a great thing, because you meet more people, and you get to work on different bodies. Everybody is different, every massage is different. I’m continuing to learn, to educate myself. I’m building a business, so I’m looking for ways to market myself — ads in The Sopris Sun business directory, and I’ve just put together a basic website []

SS: And you are happy with the change in your life?

JA: I really like it. I’m kind of tethered here. Spiritually, I’m anchored here. I can go to other locations, but that cord always snaps me right back. And in Carbondale, we have a real visible, vibrant community of body workers and healers, so there’s an attraction in that respect.

If you know of someone who should be featured in “Our Town,” email or call 510-3003.

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