It's one of the hottest tickets in Mt. Juliet and has caught on like wildfire. And while Third Coast Salt is a fledging business and will soon mark just a half a year open on North Mt. Juliet Road, its patrons are a loyal group and espouse the virtues of salt therapy - for both the body and the mind.
You might detect a bit of a Louisiana twang in owner Shari Arnold's accent. Though born in that grooving hot-melt state, this mom and entrepreneur spent her growing years in 'Hotlanta' and ended up in Tennessee 11 years ago.
No, she's not a rebel, but an intensely independent woman who has brought a unique, European-style respite, healing aspect to the heart of Mt. Juliet. When she opened Third Coast Salt it wasn't like anything found anywhere around here. Now that the cat's out of the bag about salt therapy, others have joined this holistic health craze.
"Well, we know there's an East Coast and a West Coast, and now Nashville is dubbed the 'Third Coast,'" said Arnold, who is mom to Maggie, 10, and Jack Ryman (yes, after the auditorium), age 9.
She targeted 'Third Coast Nashville,' and went a little east to plant her happening, emerging business.
"It's the best, hippest coast out here," she said. "More and more people are discovering the benefits of salt therapy!"
Mid life crises?
"No way," said Arnold. "Many people could say that. I simply wanted to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to heal and care for people. And, be on the cusp of the health industry."
For years, Arnold wanted to have a day spa. But she didn't think Mt. Juliet was ready for it. So she segued to a place where residents relax and heal themselves."
She rented several suites in the Smoothie King (former bank building on N. Mt. Juliet Road) to offer salt therapy for the young and adults. She shares the suites with like-minded businesses.
Salt can be good for you
The technique has been used thousands of years in Europe and the Middle East. Rather than ingesting salt, spa patrons relax in rooms made of it and breathe in misty, salty vapors to clear their lungs and purify their skin.
"It's known as halotherapy, after the Greek word halo, meaning salt," Arnold said "Breathing in salt can help cure a lot of modern ailments that come from pollution and stress. It is especially good for helping chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma, allergies and bronchitis."
And for people not suffering from allergies, it's simply relaxing and meditative, said Arnold.
She said visitors can experience the ultimate in mind, body, and soul cleansing, while relaxing in comfy leather lounge chairs.
"Escape the pervasive lure of everyday technology in our relaxing salt therapy room," she said. "Micro particles of salt are dispersed throughout the room, creating a rejuvenating negative-ion environment. Following the 40-minute session, you'll breathe easier and leave feeling wonderfully relaxed."
To California and back
The journey to a holistic salt therapy business in Mt. Juliet began when Arnold spent almost a decade in Los Angeles in the film and television industry.
"I would say I was trained in my craft, a member of the Screen Actor's Guild," she said. "I love comedy and was cast in anything I could get a role. I survived the major strike and then was told if I didn't get into the Reality TV aspect I had no work. That true actors didn't have a chance. That was predicted to last 10 years."
She eventually made her way to Nashville and got a job at Gaylord Entertainment (Opryland). Her job was in their training and development department. This was 11 years ago. She's since had her children.
"They are my everything, my whole focal point, they are incredible people," she said.
Soon she got a job as Lifestyles Director at Del Webb in Mt. Juliet. She loved it. She started with 200 residents and ended with 2,000. She created programs, built relationships, and secured the brand.
"I knew I did what I was supposed to do," she said. "I knew my work was done, I had perfected everything. It was my time to move on."
Arnold's always been a gambling type of woman in the game of life.
Because health and nutrition were her calling, Arnold went back to school with a "hunger for knowledge."
She joined a prestigious institute and attained a degree in Integrated Nutrition. She graduated in March 2016.
She resigned her job at Del Webb and pursued further education in the health field and ended up a certified health coach from a prestigious program and became a state board aesthetician.
It was the springboard to Third Coast Salt.
Exactly what is salt therapy?
"We are all familiar with salt therapy, whether it's exfoliation scrubs, smelling salts and more," she said. "They are good for our veins, we use saline salt in our eyes, we gargle salt, spoon it in our bath, we use Epson salt. Salt is restorative. Rejuvenating."
At Third Coast Salt, Arnold has two halogenerators that heat pharmaceutical grade salt, then grind it and disperse into the air. She has both youth and adult rooms for therapy.
The therapy helps the lungs and people with respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma, bronchitis, CPOD and other illnesses. But, she stresses it's meditative and helpful for healthy people eager to renew, restore and meditate.
"You know how you feel when you go to the beach," she said. "You think it's the sand and wind, but really it's the salt from the sea in the air."
Her "adult" room is 400 square feet with a huge "wow" wall of salt blocks in their natural shape. They set the mood and she can change the color when asked. There are 10 leather recliners and plush blankets and reflective music for meditation. All electronics are off, people can read or meditate. It's a 40-minute session.
There's also a youth room where children can get therapy with a parent to supervise (free of charge).
"It's a totally different atmosphere with upbeat music and a salt box for them to play," Arnold said.
Whitney Simpson is an advocate for the therapy. Her son Drew was struggling with allergies. He had a long undiagnosed nut allergy.
"This therapy helped with the pressure and pain," Simpson said.
Success story, one patron at a time
From birth, Major King, 9, has dealt with severe allergies.
"You name it, and he is basically allergic to it," said his mom Heather. "No, they aren't seasonal, but year-round. He's allergic to grass, hay, mold, all sorts of things. And sadly he has food allergies as well."
At their last well child checkup, his pediatrician indicated they've done all they can for Major who is on allergy shots, steroids and special creams to help heal his eczema. Heather will never forget Nov. 11 when on a wing and a prayer she stopped by Third Coast Salt.
"I had heard about the healing aspects and thought how could it hurt?" said Heather. "I had heard about the respiratory benefits and the relaxation aspects."
It didn't hurt, and it helped. A lot.
"Within 30 minutes he was soothed, and without putting anything into his body," said this grateful mom.
They now go almost every day of the week and Major's skin is nearly healed. And while he's still on all of his prescribed meds, the salt therapy is the only thing that improved Major's fragile skin. They go for sessions together and Major plays in the salt box in the children's room and they bury their feet in the salt. She highly recommends the therapy and feels it's been almost like a miracle for her child.
Business grows naturally
Many of Arnold's customers are repeats and as word has spread, going to Third Salt is oftentimes part of a pampered day out. Groups of woman book a session, enjoy their time at the salt spa and then go have a nice lunch. A lot of patrons are from Del Webb and the therapy is just as popular with men as it is with woman and children.
"I have one group that calls themselves the 'Ole Geezer's,'" laughed Arnold. "I still think we are somewhat of a hidden jewel in Mt. Juliet. But, it's getting out a lot and it's inspiring for me to read all the success stories shared on social media."
Arnold said so many people want to pop a pill to fix things like allergies and chronic illnesses and her goal is to share salt therapy with everyone.
She said about 60 percent of her patrons use her salt rooms for healing and ailments and about 40 percent use the rooms for stress release and relaxation. Many bridal groups book the room for a pre-wedding respite.
Arnold has expanded her services, as well as her retail element. Salt lamps are a hot seller, as well as salt soaps, edible soaps and a natural makeup line. What separates her business from others are her monthly offerings. The third Saturday of every month she has an acupuncturist visit which has grown in popularity. The fourth Saturday of the month she partners with Unity Yoga Room and she turns her adult salt therapy room into a yoga studio, complete with salt. Next month Arnold will launch her Meditation Club with Mary Ann Chambers.
"I'm really excited about a focus group we have now," she said. "It's on my heart to offer a special day for autistic and special needs children. This is such a naturally calm environment and being here helps ground these special children. "They love the pink salt wall and like to touch it. It makes my soul happy to have them come and visit and I hope it takes off really well for them here."
Another added element is her new gratitude garden area where she has blinged out pens and small notebooks. Visitors are encouraged to write down what they are thankful for and drop into either the "love," "peace" or "new beginnings" jars.
"If I get just one new customer a day, eventually there will be a whole tribe!" she said. "I'm excited to touch the lives of people. I want to touch the heart and soul and make people feel better. This excites me."
Cost is $30 per session, or you can purchase a monthly membership. For the youth room it's $30 per child and a parent escorts free.
For more information, go to www.thirdcoastsalt.com
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org