Faces Of The Boom: Massage Therapist Finds Oil Patch Rewarding

Kaz Matsubara, pictured Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, in Williston, N.D., moved from Kentucky to North Dakota to work as a massage therapist. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Former Kentucky man Kaz Matsubara followed up a complete career change with a move to North Dakota.

Matsubara, 63, Lexington, worked in the auto industry for a company that supplied parts to Toyota, Honda and Nissan assembly plants.

Every day, customers complained that the product was too expensive or wasn’t delivered quickly enough.

“Every day apology,” said Matsubara, a native of Japan who moved to the United States at age 22.

After retiring and losing his wife to cancer, Matsubara decided to go back to school and re-enter the workforce. But this time, he wanted a job that would bring praise rather than complaints.

“I thought I should do something people appreciate,” he said.

Matsubara went back to school and became certified as a massage therapist. He began working in his new profession in Lexington, but the slow economy there made it difficult to attract customers.

Then he watched a news story about the oil boom in Williston on the TV show “60 Minutes.”

“I thought ‘I’m a crazy guy. The city is crazy. So maybe I will have good vibrations,’” Matsubara said. “My guess was right.”

Matsubara moved to Williston in October 2011 and began working as a massage therapist almost immediately. He’s had a steady stream of customers for the past year at Jackie’s Therapeutic Massage & Day Spa in downtown Williston.

Even the slower days when he first arrived in Williston were busier than Kentucky. About half of his clients work in the oil industry and the other half are local residents.

Now instead of looking forward to the weekends, Matsubara looks forward to work on Monday mornings.

“The way they comment after a massage. Oh, it’s so great,” Matsubara said.

Matsubara purchased five acres of land about 10 minutes from downtown where he is building a house. For nearly two years, he’s been living in a camper and getting used to North Dakota winters.

Matsubara expects to work in Williston for many years.

“I’m not going to retire anytime soon,” Matsubara said. “I enjoy my work.”

3 Responses

  1. Vicki Blyth

    Hi Kaz: What a brilliant move, I saw it on your story on Facebook….happy to see you are happy….Massages are the best….love them…cousin Vicki

  2. Wow it took some guts to make the move! But sometimes the best risks in life really pay off! I’m glad you are happy now with study customers 🙂

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