A healthy wellness community grows in Chester

By Jade Dunn

Ten years ago, few would have thought that Chester could become a Mecca for holistic, naturopathic and alternative medicines. But with more than nine practitioners – in acupuncture, massage and acupressure as well as some of the more controversial fields such as Reiki – this town of more than 3,000 is well on its way. For a list of practitioners, click here.

ON THE COVER: Herbs line up at Jennifer Esposito’s shop, Peace of Paradise. Above, Esposito in her store. /Photos by Jade Dunn

As a licensed acupuncturist and a 27-year veteran of healing work, Laura Thomas helps people to optimize the energies of their own bodies. Thomas said, “Any disease or ailment is an imbalance of the systems in the body, and energy medicine helps to re-train and re-balance those systems.”

Thomas earned a master’s in traditional Chinese medicine from the Northwest Institute for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Seattle, where she began practicing. She now has her healing workspace in a private and peaceful section of the family-owned Hugging Bear Inn on Main Street, across from the Green.

Thomas offers acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicine, energy medicine and herbs, plus coaching on nutrition and self-healing. She acknowledges that it can be difficult to reach clientele and educate people about her work in a rural area, but she has also experienced the less-hurried and informal business culture of Vermont as conducive for private healers and their more casual work environments.

Tracy LaCreta, licensed acupuncturist and owner of Chester Community Acupuncture, treats Deborah Lindholm for knee pain in her acupuncture space.

On the Green,  naturopathic doctor Aimee Knauff treats patients out of Chester Community Acupuncture, owned by acupuncturist Tracy LaCreta.

Knauff specializes in botanical medicine, homeopathic remedies, hydrotherapy, nutrition counseling and FirstLine Therapy, a program that helps with weight loss and comprehensive health.  LaCreta speaks warmly about Knauff’s services and diverse patient population. LaCreta’s own credentials and her beliefs in individualized, holistic treatments make the pair complementary professional neighbors.

Client Deborah Lindholm, who recently moved to Chester from Ludlow, was drawn to LaCreta’s energy and acupuncture expertise. Lindholm receives regular acupuncture treatments for chronic fatigue and targeted joint pain. Lindholm, who works as a life coach, strives for holistic health. However, she is quick to acknowledge that her personal focus on spiritual balance has caused her to neglect some of her physical needs. She views LaCreta’s treatments and Knauff’s practice as necessary and invaluable additions toward her own life-long wellness.

Within LaCreta’s tranquil, low-lit treatment room, Lindholm sits in one of five giant reclining chairs. She speaks about the stress of her move and about some lingering knee pain. LaCreta listens, asking follow-up questions and considering which acupuncture points will be most beneficial. Wheeling nimbly around Lindholm on a physician’s stool, LaCreta makes a series of quick, painless needle insertions, asking Lindholm what she’s experiencing and if any adjustments need to be made. Lindholm says she is feeling calm and LaCreta offers her a set of soft fleece blankets. Lindholm is relaxed almost to the point of what LaCreta calls a “needle nap.” But then the patient raises her head and says, “I’m hopeful that insurance companies will begin to cover more holistic modalities like this … that’s one of the reasons I love Tracy’s community model.”

In 2010, LaCreta left a large acupuncture studio in Manchester where she often treated 80 to 100 patients a week. She was grateful for the experience and for the stable job, and knew she would not have that level of patient flow in Chester. But she says, “ … my model and my sliding price scale make acupuncture accessible and affordable to everyone. In private practice, you have to charge a lot per session because only one person can be seen at a time, so many people who cannot afford those rates do not experience the six to eight treatments that are usually necessary.” With five recliners in one room, she can treat more people at concurrently and charge less.

Down a wide alley off the Green, Jennifer Esposito has created Peace of Paradise, which she describes as an “open platform for the Chester community.” Esposito, a Reiki practitioner, knew it would be important to develop a clear mission and offer specific wellness services. But, she says, she never wanted an inflexible establishment, and likes it that her business can be dynamic and can evolve along with the local people she serves.

Besides Reiki, Peace of Paradise, which is open Thursday through Sunday, also offers massage, polarity therapy, Tarot and intuitive readings, magnified healing, intuitive counseling, hair feathers, community groups and drumming circles for both adults and children.
Her first customer, she says, was a teenage girl who was searching for a supportive space. “That population just seems to find me whenever I go,” Esposito said. That first patron blossomed into a healthy mentorship and laid the foundation for a group called Teens’ Time, a gathering of girls between the ages of 11 and 18 where they can express themselves in an accepting environment.

“My model and my sliding price scale make acupuncture accessible and affordable to everyone.”
Tracy LaCreta
Chester Community Acupuncture

Besides Thomas, Esposito, Knauff and LaCreta, there are a handful of yoga instructors, cranial sacral therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists throughout the town. Esposito smiles when she recalls people telling her that Chester wasn’t the right spot for her shop. “People were like, ‘that belongs down in Brattleboro because Chester isn’t a place where people embrace change.’ ”

But Esposito has found her community to be thirsty for holistic support and has found her fellow practitioners to be a blessing. “If people come in and I know they are looking for something that Kelley (Kehoe) can offer at Zero Balancing, they can get at Sama (Yoga), or that Tracy can give them, I refer them.”
Esposito seems genuinely thankful to have found a community where patrons can find what they need when they walk through her door and when they walk out of it. “It’s all about being collaborative, not about competition. We should all share our power, especially as women, and embrace our individual skills and abilities. We can be connected but still have the freedom of our own spaces.”

Jade Dunn of Bellows Falls is a first-year school counselor at Springfield High School. She grew up in the foothills of Western Maine and earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and dance from Bowdoin College. She recently received her Master’s in school counseling from Boston College.

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  1. Paula Sargent Piper says:

    I love Jenn and Peace Paradise, a community that works together stays together.

  2. Jenn says:

    This article is beautifully written and accurately captures the emerging as well as established focus on well-being and community in Chester. I feel honored that Peace of Paradise was highlighted in this article and to be a part of such a suuportive community. To inquire about our wide range of affordable services or to book and appointment, which can be scheduled ANY day of the week, call us at 802-875-8008. Peace

  3. Chester is a wonderful community! Come by and see me 🙂