Nikki Wenzelspratt was sold on the benefits of sitting in a Himalayan salt cave long before she decided to bring the experience to Peoria.
“When I first came across one in Naperville in 2011, I was looking for something that would be relaxing and stress-relieving, but it was so much more than that.” Wenzelspratt recalled with a chuckle.
“It really opened up my sinuses and was so unlike anything I had ever done. I wanted to just go back regularly even though it was more than a two-hour drive, and my family kept asking what was so special.”
Despite her strong reaction to the experience and a long-held desire to do something in the entrepreneurial field, it took about six years for the former teacher to have a light bulb moment that led to her opening the Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave at 1314 W. Pioneer Parkway on Feb. 1.
“I kind of always wanted to open my own business, but it actually didn’t hit me until last summer when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, a salt cave.’ Then I moved quickly because I was afraid if I waited any period of time someone else would open one up here because they are just now starting to pop up in smaller areas around the world,” said Wenzelspratt, who had taught high school-level childcare and development classes for 21 years in Chillicothe.
She hired the Canadian company Select Salt to construct her cave, which took about a month to build.
The walls of the cave are lined with pink Himalayan salt rocks and salt bricks, while the floor has white Himalayan salt pebbles, about 11,000 pounds worth in total all imported from Pakistan. In addition, a halogenerator pumps pharmaceutical grade salt into the air.
“As you breathe in those tiny particles, they go down into your lungs where they help to clean and purify,” Wenzelspratt said. “So basically, if you have any kind of breathing issue, such as colds, allergies, asthma, sinus, COPD or bronchitis, it can help with that.”
Salt caves are not required to be certified in any way, and there are currently no evidence-based findings to create guidelines for patients and clinicians about their use, according to The American Lung Association website at www.lung.org. The American Lung Association encourages anyone with health concerns to consult with their doctor first, as does the Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave website.
While there were the normal challenges and hoops to jump through when opening up a business, Wenzelspratt said her biggest concern was whether the business would play in Peoria.
“Bringing in something new, you never have any idea of how it’s going to go, so that was the scariest part: just wondering if this going to be something people want,” she said. The answer, apparently, was yes.
“Business has been fabulous,” Wenzelspratt said, noting that she has met or exceeded weekly quotas she had set for herself to cover expenses.
“My goal was to have about 20 people a day. We’re only open five days a week, and there might be days when I only see 10 people, but that’s OK because we have some Saturdays that are completely booked with 60-plus people, so it always works out,” she noted.
A 45-minute session that costs $25 starts at the top of every hour. The business is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The cave holds eight to ten people typically, though a few more can be squeezed in for groups that reserve a private session.
As far as customer feedback, Wenzelspratt said, “I can off the top of my head think of two people in the hundreds that have come through so far that said they didn’t notice any benefit. The majority of the people that come through say they feel more open and it’s easier for them to breathe.”
Occasionally, people will struggle with the concept of sitting quietly in a zero gravity chair without their phone for 45 minutes, she noted.
“We ask that they don’t take in their cell phones, not just for the relaxation component but also because salt can corrode their phones. A lot of people are like: what am I supposed to do for 45 minutes? But people are actually kind of amazed at how quickly the time goes by. You just lay back, relax and breathe,” Wenzelspratt said. “It’s kind of unique because it doesn’t seem like there’s much to it, but the benefits are wonderful.”
Social media reviews for the Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave have been overwhelmingly positive, with many customers raving about the long-lasting relaxation it creates. Customers have come from as far away as Indiana and Champaign.
“My daughter and I went on my birthday. I was hesitant at first and it took me a few minutes to relax, but I loved it. You need to try it at least once. I will go back,” wrote Teresa Beitz-Williams in her review.
While Wenzelspratt isn’t able to get in the salt cave herself as much as she’d like because she’s busy running the business, she said she does get in at last once a week and has stopped needing an over-the-counter allergy medicine that she had taken for years.
“I think I could live in there if it was possible,” she said.
With three part-time employees currently, Wenzelspratt anticipates possibly adding to the staff if business keeps up or grows. She’s also investigating the possibility of adding a yoga class in the cave and building a second salt cave that would double as a massage room.
For more information about the Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave, visit its Facebook page or website at www.peoriasaltcave.com or call 309-839-8354 to book an individual or group session.
—Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave business offers relaxation, rejuvenation–