Passing Through the Gateway to the West
St. Louis, MO
Number of float centers: 2
Known for: The gateway to the West, blues music, and The City Museum – the real greatest place on Earth.
We now follow the trail of our ancestors, Meriwether Lewis & William Clark, whose expedition started in St. Louis and would, eventually, lead them to Oregon – just like us. Except, unlike them, we didn’t actually start in St. Louis, don’t have a tour guide from the Lemhi Shoshone tribe, and aren’t carrying flintlocks (except for Graham).
To me, St. Louis has always been “The Gateway to the West” first and foremost, and I didn’t think too much about it until we got here. We only had a short amount of time (as per usual), but we did get to visit the fantastic and surreal City Museum, which was like stepping into the mind of a delightful madman. It was so impactful, I have forever changed my opinion on the city that could nurture such a wonderful oddity.
From here, we’re headed to Kansas City, which has Missouri’s oldest running float tank along with a hip new float center. The city evolved from distinct boroughs, creating sharp divides among the population. Oddly enough, the float centers sit on opposite ends of the city, mirroring these cross-sections of culture.
Home of the American Ocean (Room)
Float Shiloh is run by Cheri and Loek Koene, who are also the distributors for Ocean Float Rooms in the USA. As such, their center doubles as a showroom for the latest models of their tanks. It was great getting to see the new features and the aesthetic changes they’re implementing to help their products fit into just about any float center. They even have multiple types of flooring in their rooms to help demonstrate effective options for prospective float center owners.
Their grand opening was highly anticipated and they booked themselves out several weeks out. With the St. Louis area being relatively unfamiliar with floating, it was certainly a welcome surprise.
As distributors, they feel a responsibility to make sure that their customers are going to get the best float tank for their needs, which means a lot of homework. They are constantly educating themselves on different regulations for float tanks across each state, county, and municipality – especially challenging since many health departments are actively redrafting regulations as the industry develops. They have a sense of professional responsibility to share as much of this information as possible with people who are new to the industry. For example, a health department may require auto-dosing for disinfectant, and the customer may not know that some tanks don’t do that, or even that it’s required. It’s these kinds of pitfalls they’re trying to help people avoid, even if that means someone will end up going with a different manufacturer.
On top of all this, they’re still running a float center! It’s all worth it, though. Cheri beamed with pride as she showed us her wall of success – an impressive collage of all the installations that Ocean Float Rooms U.S. has done so far.
The Heart of St. Louis…
F.L.O.A.T. has earned a reputation as one of the chillest places around. Even in the Chicago area, people were telling us we needed to check it out. Walking in was like walking into a giant living room – couches, blanket forts, and a chalkboard wall absolutely covered in elaborate, fundamentally temporary, artwork. The upstairs to their center has several massage rooms and a large community/yoga room. They even have an entire rooftop that they may convert to a party and/or garden area (they’re not sure which yet.) Couple all this with a really cool, community oriented vibe and we can see why people were talking about it.
They’re already in the process of opening a second location on top of doing the renovations to expand their current space – bringing their little party to more and more people. Unfortunately, this meant that we didn’t meet the minds behind F.L.O.A.T., but we did get to see their influence on their relaxing space.
The Best Little Float Center Outside of Town…
This quaint, little, single-tank center, Drift, just opened a couple of months ago. Stephanie, the owner, heard about floating from her husband, who became interested in it from Joe Rogan. After talking about it for years, they tried it for the first time a year ago at SpaceTime in Chicago. While her husband was slightly underwhelmed by the experience, Stephanie absolutely loved it. She was a massage therapist at Massage Envy at the time but was looking to start her own practice.
She was already looking for spaces when she found out that a family friend had a building open on the edge of town. It had been lying dormant for a decade when Stephanie approached her. Her landlord – a friendly octogenarian who owned several pieces of real estate – had heard about floating on the news and had actually thought about turning this building into a float center, but couldn’t manage the day-to-day operations. The serendipitous meeting unfolded beautifully, and Stephanie is now running a single tank and massage center. In time she’ll expand, but she sees this as an excellent opportunity to finally run her own business.
In the Middle of Missouri
Number of float centers: 1
Known for: University of Missouri, Stagecoach stop on The Oregon Trail
It May be Infinite, but it’s not a Jest.
Tumbe at Infinite Wellness also became aware of floating through Joe Rogan a few years ago, but he couldn’t find anywhere to float nearby. The closest place at the time was SpaceTime. It took him some time to prepare for the trip, but he made it out there, tried it, loved it, and decided to open his own center. It took him over a year to actually open his doors, but it’s been a life-changing experience. Before this, he never thought he’d own his own business.
He’s formed a friendship with a mutual acquaintance of ours in Columbia: a former Float On Apprentice, Noah (who’s opening another center just down the street). Tumbe and Noah each love having someone close to talk shop with and say that it’s incredibly helpful to have someone nearby to discuss waterproofing and maintenance. Sometimes, though, we just need a friendly neighbor to lend us a cup of salt.
Prior to this, Tumbe was a social worker for at-risk youth. He really cares about the kids that he worked with in his community, and they’re still an important part of his life. Now, he’s getting those same kids into his center to float, giving them an opportunity for self-reflection. They’ve even helped decorate Infinite Wellness.
Finding a Little Clarity…
Number of tanks: 4
Years in operation: 0
Tactical Takeaway: Experimentation and innovation are more work upfront, but can drastically improve efficiency in the long run.
Other services: Just floating, so far
Connor Knabe showed us around the recently acquired space that will soon be Clarity Float Spa, a joint venture between him and our former Apprentice Noah Barnes. They both went to the Conference in 2014, but the two didn’t meet until they were both looking to buy real estate in Columbia for a float center. They immediately recognized the benefits of joining forces and resolved to make the best center possible.
Connor has a bit of experience on this front, as he’s been able to start a small scale automated float center out of his apartment with a Zen Tent. It’s a trial run on a system that he intends to implement in their 4 tank center. Equipped with a complementary system of motion sensors to turn on the pump after the floater gets out, turn on the lights, and play exit music, it’s easily the most technologically advanced home tank setup we’ve seen.
This super duo brought another duo – Josh Ben and Thomas Blower (who weren’t available during our visit) – to round out the Clarity Float Spa Dream Team®. Each of them brings their own strengths to bare, and together they hope to do more than just provide an awesome place to float; they want to innovate the industry through automation, data tracking, and next level service.
Fun Fact: Kansas City Does NOT Span Two States. They are Two Separate Municipalities.
Kansas City, MO
Number of float centers: 2
Known for: Barbeque, jazz heritage, and fountains.
Working on the Language of Floating…
Blake, at Floating KC, has been deeply interested in meditation and mindfulness in his day-to-day life for quite some time. For years, he used his meditation to shut out distractions from the outside world and, at some point, started gradually reducing his sensory input during his meditations. He started innocently enough, finding the quietest room in his house to meditate – before long he’d gotten rid of all the light, and even set the thermostat in the room to skin temperature. It wasn’t until he was floating in his bathtub, which he’d filled with epsom salt, that he realized he was creating a sensory deprivation tank.
When he decided to build out a center, he sought advice from Kevin Johnson at the Zero Gravity Institute (who we visited back in Issue #10). His priority is ensuring that the feeling of isolation starts as soon as you check in, so all pre-float and post-float areas are separated. He finds that this simple practice helps first time floaters feel less self-conscious about the experience.
Blake, as a float center owner in the midwest, constantly battles with public perception of floating as a “fringe” therapy. The most useful tool he’s found to combat this is the language he uses. His background is in neurolinguistics, so he’s very conscious of the subtle impact of word choice. For example, he actively avoids the phrase “sensory deprivation” and opts instead for “sensory reduction”. For those that are completely unfamiliar with floatation, he’ll often describe it as “the ideal sleeping condition”.
“Just like while we sleep, we’re trying to reduce the amount of light and noise we’re exposed to, even a mattress is just another means to reduce the effects of gravity on our bodies.”
Blake says that these changes make all the difference, and he’s turned skeptics into believers with just a few quick turns of phrase.
The Oldest Float Center in Kansas City…
Number of tanks: 1
Years in operation: 9
Tactical Takeaway: Sometimes you just want to share a beautiful experience with the rest of the world.
Other services: Massage, facials, nail services, waxing, spray tanning, chemical peels, seaweed wrap, botox, laser hair reduction, ViPeel
The Spa at Briarcliff is nestled into one large wellness facility. The spa is designed to look more like a villa in Tuscany than a spa in the midwest. The elegant draperies, soothing music, and friendly staff help to transport you away from the hectic life of the modern Missouri sprawl outside.
They have a single Float Away tank in one room of their spa. They don’t aspire to offer a complete sensory deprivation experience, instead focusing on the relaxing floating environment and the benefits of epsom salts for their clients. While they may not be float purists, they have been introducing people to the salty waters of the float tank for nine years – longer than anyone else in Missouri.
Floating in the Only Tank in Nebraska…
Jeremy Warner started Escape Pod Floatation Tanks shortly after going to the Float Conference in 2012. Prior to the Conference, he had never floated and knew next to nothing about float tanks. At the time, he owned his own business as a carpet cleaner and was looking for more meaningful work. He briefly considered opening a float center but quickly became more interested in manufacturing his own tanks.
His first tank – The Explorer – is made of powder coated stainless steel with sectional panels for easy storage and transportation. He was interested in creating a functional tank that would be durable and affordable, with the hopes of making floatation more accessible to people just starting out.
This philosophy has carried over into his second tank – The Aphelion. It’s definitely a dash in a different design direction – we’ve never seen anything like it. It’s made of a plastic blend that’s molded in a single piece. This means there are no seams, it’s lightweight, and it’s lightproof. After getting to try out the tank, we were pretty impressed by just how simple and efficient it was.
He has a third model – The Urth – that takes Aphelion’s concept and simplifies it. While it doesn’t come with a light, sound transducers, or vibration isolation pads, it’s still an incredibly spacious 97 by 56 inches (the same as the Aphelion). It’s the most affordable model, and Jeremy hopes to see it become a popular option for folks who want to purchase a home float tank.
Issue # 20 is a Wrap!
We’ve officially made it through the Farm Belt. The rural lifestyle out here, without all the noise and bustle of the big city life, seems to shift the focus much more on the health and wellness aspects of floating instead of using it as an escape from urban aggravation.
We now detour from the Corps of Discovery trail and head due west, going into Colorado Territory. I know what you’re thinking – “it’s not really following a trail if you only hop on and off of it arbitrarily.” That may be so, but even these few miles shared with those courageous pioneers brought out something of our heritage.
We’re eager to make our way into Denver, which has one of highest densities of float centers in any city in the United States. It’s a town built on isolationism, music, and the love of nature. Missouri was as hospitable and as lovely as everyone has always said it is. Thank you so much to everyone for showing us around and opening up your centers to our Tour.
Until Post #21…