By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
It’s a spring day on the Hip Strip and Matt Gangloff has just received the keys to an empty retail space still cluttered with power tools and paint supplies. But come July, the construction site will become home to a hip new day spa where customers can repose in isolation.
Gangloff, a two-tour combat veteran and his fiance, Savanna Scotson, are chasing a dream in opening their futuristic spa, one that’s intended to help the city’s overworked denizens unplug from their daily stresses and reacquaint their mind with the body, and their body with the mind.
How’s that possible?
“Float tanks, or isolation tanks, are a new kind of therapy that are emerging in the consumer market,” Gangloff said. “They’ve gained a lot of traction in Portland and Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and Boston – both coasts – and they’re starting to work their way in.”
Gangloff described the tanks as pods filled with saltwater upon which the customer becomes buoyant. Inside awaits an environment void of light and sound.
“There’s this sensation of complete separation from gravity, this zero-gravity environment,” he said. “It’s heated to 93.6 degrees, which is about the surface temperature of your skin. After some time in this tank, you can’t tell if it’s water or air against your skin. You can’t tell if your eyes are open or closed.”
Gangloff believes the resulting sensation coaxes the body and mind to relax. Deprived of stimuli and entertainment, he said, the brain turns its thoughts to the body and its chronic aches and pains. Life pulls into perspective.
“It’s the most meditative experience you’ve ever had,” said Gangloff.
Gangloff served as a combat engineer in Iraq with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, spending 27 months on tour seeking out improvised explosive devices.
On the job, he became acquainted with stress.
“I didn’t know how it effected my life and how detrimental it really was,” he said. “When I started to realize these things and look for other therapies that would help me, almost nothing else worked. This totally natural, really fun and cool thing did. It’s when I got into floating.”
Soothing though it was, the experience wasn’t enough to alter his immediate future. He moved to Missoula shortly after leaving the Army and earned a degree at the University of Montana in management information systems.
His degree landed him a job working at a downtown technology consulting firm where he served as a strategist and project manager. The job included long days and evening hours working from home. The nature of his chosen occupation and the mood of those around him suggested that stress was a universal trait.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “Everyone has this kind of stress they deal with in their life. Everyone has those aches and pains, those daily life annoyances.”
It wasn’t until Scotson was out selling medical devices one night that Gangloff had his awakening. After a long and difficult day, he came home, sat on the couch and turned on his favorite pod cast.
It was Joe Rogan talking about the man he’d seen in traffic – the man pounding on his dashboard and cursing at the other drivers. Rogan’s message sunk in.
“’You know how this happens?’” Gangloff said, reciting Rogan’s message. “’It happens because people go to this (crummy) job they don’t like for 10 hours a day, five days a week and they get two days to recover before going back. If you don’t want to be that guy, do what you love in life.’”
The message hit home, bringing tears to Gangloff’s eyes. He’d forgotten he’d ever had a dream, opting instead for long days at the office with little time to unwind. And if he’d forgotten his dream once, he feared, there was a chance he might forget it again.
Gangloff quit his job the next day.
“He’ a huge planner, so for him to make that decision and to know how powerful that moment was for him, I said ‘okay,’” said Scotson. “We don’t have kids and we don’t have a house. If we’re going to do it, it’s got to be now.”
Enlyten Lab was born.
“I did that thing everyone talks about – don’t quit your day job to pursue your dream,” he said. “We did it and here we are.”
Gangloff stands in an empty room off Higgins Avenue, his retired bird dog Annie exploring the new digs. Given the construction in progress – the painting, tin ceilings and framing – it’s hard to imagine the future.
But Gangloff and Scotson have it all mapped out.
“We’ll set up sunlamps for people in the winter to get some Vitamin D,” he said, noting the natural spring light filtering through the windows. “This whole wall is going to be retail. We’re going to sell health foods, supplements, personal care items – all natural and organic; things to help people increase their performance.”
Enlyten Lab will be plumbed for four float tanks, though the business will likely open with two. The inclusion of a masseuse or wellness provider may also come in the near future.
By July, the couple hopes to offer customers the latest in relaxation, a place to unplug, reset and recharge. With keys in hand, Gangloff has already taken what he considers the biggest step of all.
“More than anything, it’s getting over yourself, pulling the trigger and jumping in,” he said. “It’s why almost no one does it, because that part is really hard. From that point, everything else can be done with tenacity and hard work, but it’s making that jump.”