Surrounded by pale pink walls, knee-high geodes on the floor and a 5-foot-3, 145-pound lavender candle, Amber Stanley sat in the empty shop on a Saturday afternoon. Two storefronts down Diversey Parkway, people roamed in and out of a packed Duffy’s Tavern and Grille.
The effects of COVID-19 also surround the 23-year-old, from the heavy-duty cleaning products wedged behind the counter to the 7.5-foot distance between the store’s two plush pink chairs and the plastic barrier separating them.
Stanley, the manager at Astrology & Crystals Psychic Center, located at 430 W. Diversey Pkwy in Lake View East, said there have been no walk-in customers all morning.
Her two-year-old can be heard babbling from the meditation room in the back, which hasn’t held in-person services for nearly a year.
In some ways, the business — almost three decades old — was ready for the pandemic. As others scrambled to set up online services when COVID-19 hit, customers around the world, since 2010, were already logging on to Skype for virtual readings and healings, according to store owner Faith Christo.
Astrology & Crystals closed before the initial shutdown in March 2020 and by the time it reopened in April with an all-virtual plan, demand for healing services soared, according to Christo.
“It was an overwhelming response,” Christo said. “It’s leveling out [now], thank God. When things shut down, people become more intense, people become a little more worried.”
If clients are stressed at the beginning of their session, Christo said she’ll balance their root chakra — also called the Muladhara, the chakra of stability and safety — and “tap into their inner-self.”
Astrology & Crystals offers aura cleansings, palm and tarot readings, chakra healings and sound therapy, according to Stanley.
Stanley, who specializes in chakra healings and psychic and tarot readings, said transitioning to virtual-only sessions last year — whether through Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp — didn’t affect customers’ immersion.
“Once we’re eye-to-eye and face-to-face through the Zoom or FaceTime session, you can see they feel a lot more comfortable,” Stanley said. “You can hear their tone of voice a lot more relaxed, you can see their facial expressions relaxing as the session goes on.”
Almost a year into various shutdown phases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Astrology & Crystals has settled into a balance of 50 percent of customers coming in and the other half booking virtual services, Stanley said.
“Even if they are around the corner, they just prefer to be doing remote, virtual [sessions] through Zoom or FaceTime,” said Stanley, who’s been working at Astrology & Crystals since she was 18.
Due to the pandemic, the waiting room is now used for in-person sessions and the meditation room in the back is closed. Their temporary meditation room — two facing purple chairs in a 10-foot-long room behind two white French doors — is used for virtual sessions, according to Stanley.
For a virtual appointment, Stanley said she’ll ask her client a few questions — making sure to always jot down their name and birthday — have a “mini-reading” to find out which services they need, walk into their temporary meditation room, set her phone down and begin.
“I’m there with them throughout the whole process, telling them what to visualize, how to focus,” Stanley said. “If I feel they’re getting a little overwhelmed, I tell them to take deep breaths.”
For palmistry, she said she’ll have the customer text a photo of their palm, read their palm lines a few minutes before the session and ask them to hold up their hand to their camera in case the photo is blurry.
In virtual tarot card readings, Stanley will “infuse their energy with the cards,” shuffle the deck, pull out the cards, text photos and show the cards in the video call during the reading.
Stanley said she hopes to soon start teaching intuition and meditation classes through Zoom. She said she’s been derailed by a hectic schedule of catching up, evident by the two large boxes filled with chakra crystal bowls covering most of the floor space, which have been left half-opened for a week.
Astrology & Crystals is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.