Chicago is home to one of the oldest float centers still in operation – SpaceTime Float Tanks. We had the misfortune of timing our visit as they were moving to a larger location, the only time in 34 years that they have ever been closed. It is with great regret that we were unable to see their historic float center in operation. They were trailblazers even before there were trails to blaze – so many float centers in the entire Midwest trace their roots back to a single float at SpaceTime.
Because we stuck around to hold our third workshop here, we had some time to explore the city. Unfortunately, we only got to visit a handful of the 9 centers we know of in the area.
As a city, Chicago is a complicated place. It’s ranked as one of the most corrupt cities in the United States but is also a cradle of culture, art, and entertainment. It is, perhaps, because of such a dichotomy that Chicago struck us as a particularly beautiful and interesting place.
Slinging Salt in Second City
Population: 2.7 million
Number of float centers: 9
Known for: Home to many powerful people throughout history including Al Capone, Barack Obama, and John Cusack.
The New Kid in Town…
Gloria Irwin of Float Sixty is a powerful, unstoppable force who bends maelstroms to her will. If this seems like hyperbole, take a look at her float center. It’s located underground, deep in the urban sprawl of Chicago right next door to a popular nightclub, and is regularly booked out a week ahead of time. Not everyone could pull that off. Gloria’s float tanks were too large to fit into her freight elevator so, when they arrived, she hired piano movers to get them down the stairs of the main entrance, knocking out a number of walls in order to get them through.
The float community in Chicago is just starting to develop beyond a handful of centers, and Gloria is helping nurture it. Even while running her center full time, she insists on setting aside some time to make sure that everyone in the float community feels welcome. She hosts monthly meetups to share stories, rant about salt destruction, and get a chance to talk with people who also appreciate floating.
Gloria has a background in data management for information security companies, giving her a breadth of experience that she’d like to see incorporated into the float industry. She sees the Muse headband as an excellent tool that pairs well with the float industry and is a strong advocate for getting it into more float centers (see Float Tour Blog #17). Beyond being super cool and personally useful, it opens up opportunities to record the differences in the brain, pre- and post-float, to track trends in activity. The opportunity to explore that kind of data is intriguing.
We owe Gloria a lot for helping us out during our visit. She let us stay in her condo by the pier and even helped us find a venue for our Workshop. She also introduced us to Italian beef steak while we were there – how we had gone so long without experiencing it is a crime that the West Coast will have to answer for. Thank you, Gloria! You made our visit incredibly easy and memorable.
Checking out the Consultants in Chicago…
Lindsey and Paul opened Anicca on April 1st, 2015. They joke that April Fool’s Day is the perfect day to open, because “you have to be a fool to open a float center.” As former Apprentices, they’re grateful they got a headstart on the technical aspects of operating and maintaining float tanks. When they saw the timeline for how long it takes to open a float center, they thought to themselves, “4 months? No way we’ll take that long!” Looking back on it, with a buildout that took 13 months, they realize just how optimistic they were.
After all the hard lessons they’ve learned and the incredible help they’ve received, they don’t want anyone to go through opening a center alone. To that end, they started offering consulting for residential and commercial float tanks. They call their consulting side of the business Float Serv, with the goal of helping people avoid some of the common pitfalls that they narrowly (or not so narrowly) avoided.
For residential consulting, they offer to help with as much or as little as the clients want, including equipment recommendations, float room design, installation, regular maintenance practices, and even providing salt. They help take all the complicated guesswork out of owning a float tank inside your home.
Commercial consultation takes this assistance to the next level: they welcome clients into Annica to let them see what the day-to-day operations are like inside a functional float space (complete with a float in one of their float rooms). They’ve even designed their own training courses for how to manage and operate a float center.
Getting into consulting is no small undertaking. We’re happy that Paul and Lindsey have taken up the reins for the Midwest. It’s a reflection of their passion for the industry and we wish them well.
The Doctor is in!
Number of tanks: 1
Years in operation: 6
Tactical Takeaway: Wellness has its own multiplier effect, and introspection pairs naturally with therapy.
Other services: Infrared sauna, BioMat, Massage, Chiropractic services, psychotherapy, motivational and coaching services.
Chicago Stress Relief Center was started by Dr. Howard Weissman back in the ‘80s and is dedicated to helping people overcome many types of severe stress, specializing in OCD and PTSD treatments. As a holistic psychologist, he provides treatment without pharmaceuticals, focusing instead on psychoanalytical therapy which, to him, is the safest and most effective treatment for dealing with any sort of trauma.
Howard has been floating for decades with his brother, the other Dr. Weissman (Darren Weissman of the Lifeline Center), at SpaceTime in Chicago. When his practice was going through renovations in 2010, Howard decided to get a single Samadhi tank installed (he eventually ended up selling his Samadhi to one of his clients and trading it out for an Ocean Float Room).
Since the float room is integrated into his therapy, he needed to create a custom-made intercom system to speak with his patients during their float. He’s found that, in the relaxing atmosphere of sensory deprivation, his patients tend to be more honest and open during their sessions – not just with him as their doctor, but also with themselves.
Although our visit was brief, it was truly inspiring getting to spend time with Howard. He’s a kind, insightful man who has dedicated himself to a worthwhile cause. We’ve experienced plenty of floaters who could use a therapy session after getting out of the tanks – it’s nice to find a place where that’s provided. It is a natural combination and it seems like only a matter of time before more licensed psychologists adopt the practice.
Taking Buoyant Bounds in Brew Town
Number of float centers: 3
Known for: Historic Breweries, The Harley Davidson Museum, and it’s large scale old European village.
Accounting for Floating
Andy knocked it out of the park with Float Milwaukee! He’s another former Apprentice and took his training to heart, starting with his building choice – an old warehouse that was little more than a concrete shell with gravel floors. This allowed him much more freedom to build out his center exactly how he wanted instead of competing against the building’s previous design. He even has the one thing we’ve always wished we could install: a giant spray nozzle built into the ceiling (as you can see from the pictures, Ashkahn loves it)!
Andy was a corporate accountant before opening his float center, but he’s wanted to open his own business for a long time now. Fortunately, this type of work gave him an extra leg up in creating a startup – but he wasn’t sure what the business was going to be.
He heard about floating and decided to come out to the Conference in 2014 to learn more. What he saw there sold him on building a float center more than any profit & loss statement or industry report: the people were happy and were genuinely enjoying each other’s company! There wasn’t the air of competition or that drive to crush smaller businesses that he saw time and time again in the corporate world. He didn’t even need to float to know that this was the industry for him.
Since then, he’s floated more times than he can count (pretty impressive for an accountant) and it’s completely changed his worldview. Things are going really well – his biggest problem, now, is to decide whether he wants another float room or an infrared sauna.
Making the World a Better Place, One ‘Me’ at a Time
Chad, Kayla, and June started up A Better Me Spa after Chad and Kayla discovered floating at SpaceTime in Chicago. They’d been hoping since 2010 that someone would open a new center closer to them, but no one did. After several years of planning, trials, and securing financing, they were finally able open up A Better Me last December.
A Better Me offers a unique service at their center – their AVACEN machine. It’s essentially a localized sauna for your hand. It seals a cuff around your wrist, warms up your hand, and gradually lets the warmed blood flow to the rest of your body. It may sound odd, but apparently the effect is incredibly soothing. It’s intended to treat inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis. It’s especially helpful for people who can’t use traditional saunas or don’t want to go through the process of undressing and showering just to get those benefits.
Even in this short amount of time, they’ve fallen in love with running a float center and have focused on making it a comforting place that’s uniquely their own.
It’s a Mad Mad Madison World
Number of float centers: 2
Known for: Capital of Wisconsin, home to University of Wisconsin, known as “The Berkeley of the Midwest” whatever that means.
The Griffin Behind the Greg
Greg Griffin at Float Madison opened his center just two months prior to our visit! He’s a strong proponent of building an online community and giving back to those who helped him open. If you’ve ever posted to a Facebook group or an online forum about floating, odds are good that you’ve run across Greg.
He shared with us something we don’t hear often during build outs: praise for his contractors! They were efficient, helpful, and eager to take his suggestions. It seems that every float center has horror stories to share. Greg’s are pretty unusual, and he didn’t waste any time in sharing one of his most painful with us.
Allow me to set the stage:
It’s late on a Friday night, Greg has just finished a three-day soft open and is testing his washer and dryer that he had installed in his basement. For some reason, while he’s running the washing machine, his utility sink in the basement starts to overflow. Immediately, he calls his plumber. The plumber tries to snake the drain, but it hits something so hard it damages the drill. He then tries to send a camera down the drain, but is unable to see what’s causing the blockage. The plumber recommends contacting the city about what might be blocking the main, but it has to wait until Monday.
Monday morning, Greg gets to his float center early and already his plumber, his contractor, his landlord, and an official from the city are all out front (in any other circumstance it sounds like the setup to a good float center joke). The city official found out why they were having problems with their plumbing: when they built the neighboring building and attached it to the water service, they accidentally sealed off the sewer access to his building. All of his sewage was essentially seeping into the ground and piling up. Once they discovered it, the city immediately set out to reattach the pipes, but it did delay his opening by about two months.
Greg takes it all with a grain of salt, and he’s grateful to be open. He’s still planning on building out at least one more float room, but thankfully it sounds like the hardest parts are behind him.
Factoring in Floating…
Maria at Float Factor is a nutritionist and dietitian by trade and has devoted her life to finding non-intrusive ways to improve people’s outlooks and well-being. She’s always known that what people put into their bodies greatly impacts their health but, until she found sensory deprivation, she didn’t consider that what we see and hear might be just as impactful as what we eat or drink for our overall health.
Maria’s first float was about a year ago and, shortly after, she knew she wanted to bring it to the rest of her community. At the time, there weren’t any float centers in Madison, and she thought it was the perfect community for a center. People in Madison lead active, healthy lifestyles geared towards less traditional wellness modalities like yoga and acupuncture. Having lived in the world of alternative health for a long time, it made perfect sense for Maria to bring floating to the people she knew could use it the most.
She partnered with her co-founder, Owen, and set out to create the best and most peaceful center possible. To make sure the community was involved, they created an artist program to help decorate their space.
Thank you for following along with us through this section of the Midwest. Chicago taught us a lot about the past and the future of floating. Even though we couldn’t visit SpaceTime, they were a big influence on our trip out here. Many of the centers we visited had customers that were SpaceTime loyalists, only coming to a different center because of the renovations. It was fascinating to hear about so many people who have been floating regularly for 10, 20, even 30 years!
In our next section we start pushing further west, through tornado alley, starting with Missouri and into Kansas. We’ll try our best to make it into the Land of Oz and, if we do, we’ll be sure to report on how their float centers are doing. St. Louis has a surprisingly strong float community, as well as a distributor for a major manufacturer from England. It sounds like a lot of area to cross, and it is (cities are pretty far apart out here), but The Minister Winchester knows the way.