Interview by Jefferson Ellison, done in partnership w/ AVLtoday.
Ah, the spa. A place of solitude, wellness, and luxury. Or is it? Settling into their second year of business, Sauna House is aiming to make the spa a part of the lifestyle of everyday people and they've got the science to prove it. I typically offer a long introduction to provide context to the interview and explain how I know a person so when my interview seems biased, people know why. But to be honest, I don't know this man. I've never met Andrew Nehlig and I've never been to his business. All I know is that the website is lovely, the science seems legit, and my friend's ex is in his marketing pictures, (super awk). That being said, after doing this interview I have every intention of spending my life at Sauna House. Andrew was open and honest, he believes in his product and quite frankly, his argument for why cold plunges and saunas are basically a necessity to everyone's wellness journey checks out. So while I don't know him and I can't vouch for his place of business, come this time next week... I hope to change that.
How long have you all been open?
We opened Feb. 1st of 2019 so we had just finished our first 12 months open when covid rolled in.
What inspired you to open up Sauna House?
My personal experience, I fell in love with sauna and cold plunges after I got sober. They were a healthy state-changing experience that left my body and mind feeling comfortable, relaxed, and at one with the world. I knew that facilities like mine existed all over the world in a way that was more affordable and accessible. Wellness as a way of life isn't something normal in America. I wanted to normalize bathing culture stateside and provide a, social, healthy, technology-free, an experience that friends and family could share together. Sauna and cold therapy burns a ton of calories but it's passive and relaxing, not intense and strenuous.
What makes your establishment different from fitness center saunas?
Fitness center saunas lack proper etiquette. People don't shower before entering which is just really gross honestly, people are fully dressed, use their cell phones and it's kind of a mess typically. We do sauna and bathing culture with a lot of intention, you head over to the gym thinking, work hard, effort, strenuous. You show up to Sauna House thinking, chill, relaxing, clean, refreshing.
How has Covid-19 changed your policies and the nature of your business?
We've decreased volume, gone 100% reservation-based, previously walks ins only for the bathhouse, we made the infrared sauna a private experience. We added a ton of air filtration both UV and HEPA to make our facility have the cleanest indoor air in Asheville.
It feels like your Sauna concept is less of a “spa day” and more of a wellness treatment that people can introduce into their standard self-care routine. Is this how you imagine people would utilize the space? How often would you suggest someone coming into the sauna?
It is how I imagined it, less of a spa day, more of a monthly or bi-weekly self-care ritual with friends and family. It depends on what they have in mind, people come sauna for all kinds of reasons, Lyme disease, inflammation, stress, depression, or just to have a fun day with friends. So if you're just trying to unwind and check in with your body I'd say once a week or twice a month is a great start. We have a number of people who come 3 times a week and a large customer group who just comes 1 time a month. For optimal health benefits more is better especially if your lifestyle doesn't involve a lot of other physical exercises.
I am hearing a lot recently about the benefits of transitioning from hot to cold temperatures quickly. I see you offer that at Sauna House. What exactly does it do?
Besides making the immune system crazy strong???? Well, Check out this page here!
What would be the best of your services to do on a date at Sauna House?
Just a normal bathhouse visit, or a couples massages if you want to go big!
You also have a product line, Bathe Daily. How did the decision come about?
We started making our own organic massage oils and it just expanded into relaxing mineral salt soaks, scrubs, and organic oils. People seem to be really into them so we started selling online and wholesale.
Are the products for home use or are they meant to be used in the sauna?
The oils are best after sauna session! With all the sweating and showering the skin can get a little dry after sauna so it's nice to put some amazing organic oils on.
What is “bathing culture”?
Bathing culture is a celebration of our global history and cleanliness. Before hot running water we mostly bathing in lakes, rivers, oceans and so forth. Many Asain cultures have cleaning rituals that are very sacred. Most of Europe comes from roman era bathing cultures, Roman influence has stuck around mostly in turkey and Russia. Here's a few articles we've written on international bathing cultures. Each area has a fascinating history with hot and cold experiences and its one of my favorite parts about this industry is the diversity in traditions around the world.
Is your goal to bring “bathing culture” back into the avg. a person's life?
Yes, I want bathing culture in America to become a normal way of life, facilities like this have existed for millions of years, not until it came to the United States did it become an expensive thing done by the elite. Bathhouses around the world were and still are places where people come together to cleanse and socialize regardless of wealth or backround.