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Adding On to the Bottom Line

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: March 30, 2010, from the April 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Ruby Room Guest Room

The guest rooms at Ruby Room supply a comfortable place of respite for Chicago visitors who are seeking a less structured, more free-form environment with spa services available.

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After doing plenty of research on the Web and getting estimates and advice from a variety of overseas salt cave designers, she decided to hire a Vermont-based holistic doctor as a consultant to build the 12-foot by 26-foot cave, which is made up of 10,000 pounds of Himalayan salt on the walls, as well as a layer of salt on the floor. Himalayan salt is often considered the highest quality of salt for its therapeutic benefits and its resilience, being as old as the Himalayan mountain range from which it is mined.

Although the initial investment of approximately $200,000 sounds like a lot to handle, Buckle got a loan and completed a business plan in which she expects to see a return in three to five years. However, the current interest and return visits are making her return-on-investment seem easier to obtain than first expected. A 45-minute session costs clients only $20, and they are available at various times per day for a maximum of eight people at a time.

Clients are asked to wear white socks in order to keep the floor salt clean, and after entering the cave, they find a seat in a comfortable chair and wait for the lights to dim. Then, a recorded voice starts a brief guided meditation and LED lights in the constructed white stalactites on the ceiling twinkle in time with the sounds of ocean waves. Clients lay back in the reclining chairs and relax, breathing in the salt-satiated air, until the session is completed. “After 45 minutes, our clients are ready to face the world,” says Buckle, who is also finding many are returning to enjoy the salt cave’s benefits.

There is very little immediate overhead and no additional esthetic staffing needed with this model, although Buckle plans on replacing the floor salt in two to three years. Also, she is learning as she goes and adapting the room’s temperature for winter-in-Chicago temperatures.

“People who have driven by my spa hundreds of times wonder what the salt cave is. They end up buying things out of my gift shop, and I’m able to introduce my spa services to them,” Buckle explains.