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Float Tour 2016 Blog

Texas

Texas, the land of the Alamo (never forget), the largest textbook manufacturer in the United States, and home to notoriously controversial Presidential candidates. It is one of the most populated states in the union and has incredibly diverse economy as the largest land trade route in the U.S.: just about every major industry has some representation there. So, while the stereotypical cowboy hat wearing Texan does exist, there are a wide range of divergent cultures culminating in all the major metropolitan areas.

Floating has found a home here in the big cities: Dallas, Austin, and Houston. It has several centers that started as holdouts of floating from before 2010, but new centers are popping up on a regular basis.

Dallas

Population: ~7.25 million including surrounding area

Float Centers: Around 5

Known for: Dallas Cowboys, Hub of international trade, AT&T, TI-84 Calculators

Expanding an Experienced Center

The Float Spot Frisco Texas

Float Spot Flower Mound Texas

The Float Spot – Frisco, TX 

(New location in Flower Mound)

Number of Tanks: 4 at each center (8 under the brand)

Years in Operation: 5

Tactical takeaways: Find what works and replicate it. Forget the rest.

Other Services: Water massage

Ray Thoma started The Float Spot about 5 years ago, and was at the Float Summit in San Francisco where Graham and Ashkahn first met some of the early adopters of floatation prior to the huge boom in the 2010s. At first glance, you wouldn’t think of him as a float center owner. He dresses business casual and unassuming; when speaking he’s more than a bit sarcastic. All of this is secondary to his passion for floating and getting people in the tank, and floating has been good for Ray. In fact, he just opened a second location about 5 months ago.

Both locations have four Float Pods and two water massage tables. It’s pretty impressive that he can run floats in the same building as the tables. The high pressure water system that shoots rhythmic jets of water feels relaxing, but sounds like a jackhammer – a jackhammer that hates the quiet. His soundproofing is up to the task, though, and Ray says they don’t disturb his floats at all.

He also runs 30-minute floats as one of his options, which is rare to see among centers. Ray says that it appeals to the tech industry professionals who come in on lunch breaks to float. In his experience, once people start there, they’ll often come in for longer and longer sessions.

Their back hallways have large panes of glass where customers are encouraged to share their experiences. Lots of places have float journals, but those aren’t as visible or visually striking as these. It’s a really cool feature that cultivates a floating community and shares their experiences with the world.

The community has responded very positively to this type of engagement, and we saw it first hand. We had a small interview with Ray while he was at the shop and one of his floaters came out and joined us – he had just floated for the first time the previous week and started coming every day. He was so enthralled by his time in the tank that he wanted to share his experiences with us. He’s even in the picture with us out front!

Not to be confused with…

Float Away Spa

Float Away Spa – Highland Village, TX

Number of Tanks: 2

Years in Operation: 1

Tactical takeaways: When it comes to business names, be mindful of generic naming conventions that could have unintended consequences.

Other Services: Massage, massage chairs

Not to be confused with Floataway, the tank manufacturer, this ambitious center has been around for just about 9 months. Sean is the sole owner and operator of the Float Away Spa at this time, and he’s enjoying every minute of it!

He has two tanks in this modest space just outside of Dallas, but business is good. He’s just now learning how friendly everyone in the industry can be, but he’s eager to meet more people passionate about floating.

With the inviting atmosphere of his cozy two tank center, Sean has some exciting years ahead of him. Thank you for letting us come tour your place even though you just met us – it was really a pleasure!

Finding Peace After Having to Rebuild…

Pete O'Brien

@Peace – Colleyville, TX

Number of Tanks: 2

Years in Operation: 8

Tactical takeaways: Setting high standards for yourself can elevate the industry around you. @Peace has helped many Float Centers get started and they do so happily.

Other Services: Massage, Manufacturing

@Peace has been around long enough to have some of their regulars go on to open their own centers and even have those centers’ regulars open new centers. Simply put, they have grand-centers. Pete and Donna O’Brien have made a habit out of being generous and cool; it’s hard not to love people who let you borrow their truck and show you card tricks until 3 in the morning.

Pete built his tanks himself and sells them to other centers as well. The design is inviting, with lighting controls inside the tank and glass doors, so people who may be uncomfortable about floating at first can feel at ease.

@Peace has overcome some obstacles in their time, as well. Only a few months ago, their center was ruined by flooding. In renovating, they essentially had to build out whole portions of their center again from scratch. They’re back up and running now, though, and the new construction looks better than ever.

Floating into the World of Radio…

Adrift Float Spa

Adrift – Dallas, TX

Number of Tanks: 4

Years in Operation: 5

Tactical takeaways: Success comes in many different forms. Sometimes that means picking one path over another.

Other Services: Massage

This is a first on Float Tour, but we visited a center that is actively being sold. Adrift, started by Bernadette Fiaschetti, a serial entrepreneur who started the Pizza Patron and Wing Stop franchises before Adrift Float Spa. The reason for her success seemed to us to be her standard of excellence that she holds her businesses to. Her attention to detail in everything from the art that decorates the center to the salt/waterproof float rooms sets it apart as more than just a building with some float tanks in it.

She’s also a successful radio show host, which is suddenly demanding more of her time, hence the reason she’s selling Adrift. It wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, especially since the business is doing well and she loves her clients, but even Superman struggled with having two identities. So she’s looking to move on.

If anyone reading this would like more information, go to the contact page on the Adrift website and send along a message.

Austin

Population: ~2 million in the surrounding area

Float Centers: 3

Known for: Awesome music/film festivals (SXSW y’all!), home to many floaters’ favorite supplement company (Onnit), and legitimately the home of the slogan machine “Keep ____ Weird”

Doers of Awesome Things…

Zero Gravity Institute Austin Texas

Zero Gravity Institute – Austin, TX

Number of Tanks: 4

Years in Operation: 3

Tactical takeaways: The skills from past experiences often shape your current ones.

Other Services: Massage, Tank manufacturing

Kevin Johnson and Carol Turner Johnson are musicians-turned-float-tank-owners. Their band was called Big Circle Texas, and they, were on track to becoming top level performers, touring with Dave Matthews Band, Cake, and Blues Traveler among many many others. They are also world class spelunkers. Apparently they just love to do awesome stuff.

Kevin and Carol opened the very first float center in Austin, the Zero Gravity Institute, and they set the bar high. They also manufacture their own tanks, paying rigorous detail to functionality and controls. The housing snaps together, making it a singular unit that’s easy to construct and maintain. Kevin sees himself in an ideal position to innovate float tank designs since he runs a center himself and knows what he wants to see. He’s implemented separate changing rooms for his tanks, helping reduce changeover times.

In his early years, when not on tour, Kevin Johnson was a contractor in Austin, and he got extensive hands on experience building sound studios with top of the line soundproofing.

Kevin has been an avid floater since the 80s, when he got a job at the now defunct Altered States float center in Hollywood. The vibe there was much different than float centers today. It was essentially an apartment building in which three residences were converted into float rooms. There were 2 tanks to a room and lots of people openly taking psychedelics before and after their floats. He left that life some years ago, but started his center up just a few years ago to bring floating back to Austin.

Just to recap about how awesome Kevin Johnson is: contractor who can build perfectly soundproof rooms, spelunker deeply interested darkness and isolation, and avid floater for the past 30+ years. It’s almost like his entire life was training to build float tanks…

Floating in Liquid…

Liquid Floats in Austin TX

Liquid Floats – Austin, TX

Number of Tanks: 6

Years in Operation: 1

Tactical takeaways: Sometimes the people closest to you can be the most surprising.

Other Services: Massage, Cryotherapy (Coming Soon!)

Now the largest float center in Austin, Liquid Floats just opened 9 months ago and it’s already doing stellar things. The space itself is gorgeous, with a warm and earthy design that’s incredibly spacious and comfortable.

Sean Thompson started the business because floating helped him deal with chronic pain. He became enthralled, noticing not just how it changed his life, but by everyone else he saw try it. He approached his father, Bruce, about opening a center, expecting a lot of pushback and confusion given how small floating was at the time. What he didn’t know was that his father was an avid floater back in the 70s before commercial floating was even a thing – he built his own home tanks to get his float on with the help of Dr. John C. Lilly himself!

Liquid, of course, uses professionally manufactured tanks instead of the home built ones from back in the day, but it’s great to have a resource on hand that has such an elaborate history of the float world. It’s a good match. Even in such a short time, Bruce and Sean are doing well enough that they’re already set up to expand, potentially even opening a second location.

Houston

Population: ~2.25 million

Float Centers: Around 6

Known for: Uhh… Ever heard of a little thing called NASA and the Apollo program? Yeah. I hear they sent Tom Hanks into space, or something… a little respect please.

Floating in Space City…

Space City Floats in Houston Texas

Space City Float Center – Houston, TX

Number of Tanks: 4

Years in Operation: 1

Tactical takeaways: Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from existing centers – also, don’t be afraid to actually take their advice to heart!

Other Services: Sweet massage chairs and a jellyfish lounge

Michael Black, owner and founder of Space City Float Center, loves the city that he lives in and is proud of its history. When he fell in love with floating and decided to open a float center, he wanted to incorporate a part of that history into his space. The aerospace theme of his center really strikes at this. It’s clean, cool, and futuristic – plus, the Zero Gravity tanks that he uses come from nearby Austin, so he’s keeping it local.

The Jellyfish Lounge is a set piece that’s particularly cool. I would love to end every float there. It’s got cool neons and a nice relaxing vibe to go along with their post-float tea. Plus, who doesn’t love jellyfish?

Michael started out getting as much advice as possible before opening his center. He came out to the Conference Workshop and consulted extensively with Zero Gravity to see how their center was built out. He did his absolute best to follow the recommendations he received to the letter. As a result, he has impressive soundproofing, waterproofing, and salt-proofing, all housed in a gorgeous space that he designed himself.

Floating and Cryo…

KOLD floating and cryotherapy

KOLD – Houston, TX

Number of Tanks: 2

Years in Operation: 1

Tactical takeaways: There are more and more places housing cryotherapy and float therapies under the same roof – keep an eye on these as synchronous services in the future (thanks, Joe Rogan)!

Other Services: Cryotherapy

KOLD is an integrated Floatation and Cryotherapy center. We met Anthony, the proprietor there, and he eagerly talked to us about the business. They’ve been open since December, and they have two I-sopod tanks, with a clever design on the spa packs. Since there’s just two of them, they’re able to actually contain the spa packs themselves on the lobby side of the wall in soundproofed wooden enclosures, which reduces noise pollution in the tank room itself.

Anthony also invited us to step in the Cryo chamber, which we were all too eager to try. We hopped in and were blasted with rejuvenating aerosol nitrogen. Lots of people have asked us what it was like. Unanimously we agree: It was pretty cold. We also felt energetic for several hours afterwards. And while I have chronic joint pain, after the cryo chamber, I felt as loose and limber as I do after a massage.

It’s all very difficult to put into words. Luckily, we got pictures.

In the Biz Since 2008…

Original Float Houston

Float Houston – Houston, TX

Number of Tanks: 2

Years in Operation: 8

Tactical takeaways: If you’re passionate about floating and running a center, the most important thing is to never stop introducing people to the tanks.

Other Services: Just Floating

Michelle over at Float Houston is one of the old guard of floating, opening in the early and rugged days of 2008. She runs her two tank center out of her home, with the goal of opening her own, more commercial center in the near future. Her clients enjoy the warm and friendly environment and appreciate having someone with so much experience in floating to be there to help.

Michelle was another float owner who Graham and Ashkahn met first in San Francisco at the Float Summit back in 2011. It was excellent getting a chance to catch up, eat several pounds of crawdads, and also to see our first Floataway Tranquility tank that opened up from the side (rather than from the front). Thanks for everything Michelle, and best of luck with your future expansion!

Issue #11 is coming up…

That’s it from the Lone Star State. While it’s true that they love their trucks, their football, and their guns, Texans apparently also love floating. With two major manufacturers in the state, as well as some of the longest currently running centers in the industry, Texas is set to be an established hub for years to come.

From here, we’re traversing into Louisiana, onto Georgia, and wherever else The Minister takes us!

Until issue #11…

 
 

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