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St. Pete Salt Works offers ‘adult timeouts,’ stress relief

Mark Parker

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"Saltier than he Dead Sea": There are plans to open Salt Works 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Photos provided.

Many people in today’s modern society live in a world of near-constant stimulation, rarely allowing the brain and body a chance to disconnect, which can lead to stress-induced physical and mental health conditions.

Mark Anderson and his wife, Amy, founded St. Pete’s only standalone floatation therapy center.

Established in 2018 by husband and wife duo Mark and Amy Anderson, St. Pete Salt Works Float Center offers people the chance to leave the world and sensory overload behind. Patrons float on top of 200 gallons of water filled with 1,000 pounds of medical-grade Epsom salt. The water is so dense with salt – Mark Anderson said it is saltier than the Dead Sea – that it suspends patrons in zero gravity conditions.

At Wednesday’s 1 Million Cups event, Anderson explained the concept of his float center and desire to expand the enterprise to various community business leaders. Many of those in attendance had already experienced Salt Work’s floatation therapy, attesting to its therapeutic benefits and “trippy” environment.

“In its simplicity, we’re not doing anything more than removing yourself from your environment,” said Anderson. “Who doesn’t need an adult timeout?”

Patrons float in a 200-gallon tub filled with over 1,000 pounds of medical-grade Epsom salt.

Salt Works is St. Pete’s only standalone float center, a concept first developed in 1954 by physician and neuroscientist John C. Lilly. The idea came to Anderson in 2010 after hearing the benefits of floatation therapy on a podcast. He was traveling the world at the time, working with government and military agencies, and thought the treatment could offer a respite from the many cases of PTSD he witnessed.

Salt Works features three float rooms with custom-built, open tubs. Many float centers use smaller, enclosed pods or tanks, and Anderson wanted to keep his open to alleviate claustrophobia concerns. Customers not keen on the idea of floating in complete darkness can control the lighting, although the goal is to achieve sensory deprivation.

“After that initial music fades away, we successfully remove gravity, touch, light, sound – all of those worldly things,” said Anderson.

Anderson was raised in St. Pete (he and Amy were high school sweethearts) and said he loves his community so much he put it in the name of his business. He said he is passionate about working with local veterans suffering from PTSD and also has a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Floatation therapy and sports have a longstanding connection due to the perceived benefits to athletes.

Navy SEALS also use sensory deprivation tanks to help soldiers quickly master foreign languages. According to We Are The Mighty, operators are put into a “state of optimum physiological and neurological relaxation” and then introduced to new content. Combined with next-generation biofeedback – something Anderson also hopes to expand on – the process reduces the time to learn a foreign language from six months to six weeks.

Anderson said his favorite float center location is at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The institute conducts long-term studies on the mental and physiological benefits floatation therapy provides, and Anderson believes health insurance will eventually cover its costs.

“This industry is in its infancy – it’s just getting started,” said Anderson. “We’ve floated over 8,000 people, and our biggest ROI is word-of-mouth.”

Anderson calls Salt Works a float center, as it is somewhere between a clinic and a spa. Newcomers receive a tour of the facility, and customers can pay for a single, hour-long float session or monthly packages. Memberships offer a steep discount and are completely transferable. Anderson said that allowing members to share visits with friends increases community outreach.

Rather than franchising, Anderson said his focus is on expanding the St. Pete location. He hopes to soon open Salt Works around the clock, seven days a week. He said perpetual availability would double his patronage, without building another facility. Anderson also noted the center is across the street from St. Anthony’s Hospital, where many people work late hours in stressful jobs.

“I know how hard it is to go from that high-adrenaline work and trying to cut it off …,” said Anderson. “This is a place to process and transition back to the regular world.

“From hospitality workers, first-responders and healthcare workers – there are enough people to fill my tanks during those hours.”

Anderson said creating, running and operating the center takes time from other floatation therapy endeavors he would like to pursue. He hopes to outsource some of that work to other people who share his passion for the concept and turn his focus to educating the community about its therapeutic benefits. He also wants to create a mobile app for Salt Works and a research facility in partnership with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the Innovation District.

Most of all, Anderson believes St. Pete is uniquely suited to become a leader in the burgeoning floatation therapy industry.

“I had someone come in and say, ‘this place is so St. Pete,’” added Anderson. “I like that. I take that as a great compliment.”

For more information on St. Pete Salt Works, visit its website here.

 

 

 

 

 

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