A customer relaxes inside an infrared sauna pod at Touch-Free Wellness Spa in Towson.
By Ethan McLeod – Associate Editor, Baltimore Business JournalMar 5, 2021, 7:00am EST
Michael Dent is the owner of Touch-Free Wellness Spa, which opened on Allegheny Avenue in downtown Towson in January.
How did you decide to get into the spa business?
I have had a background in wellness for the past 20 years. This [space] used to be a yoga studio called Charm City Yoga back in 2014 and then it was bought out by YogaWorks.
I have been certified to be a yoga instructor and have a background for the past five years in teaching children yoga in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. I passed along my company literally a month before Covid hit. I sold it to somebody for a dollar. It’s the kind of thing, I have a good name and I could have sold it for more, but that could have taken a year. I didn’t want to go down that road. I just wanted somebody to carry on my company. It was called Twinkle Twinkle Yoga Yoga.
Over the past year, I had wanted to start some type of wellness business. I’ve lived out in California before and seen a lot of the high-technologies that I have here at the spa. When Covid hit, I figured these technologies might be appreciated because they are healthy modalities in helping people cope with life. They’re spa treatments that make you happy. I figured this was the timing to open this up to the public. And when my favorite yoga studio, when I heard that they were leaving, I wanted the space, along with the location right on the circle in the center of Towson. Things just came together.
How did you go about picking your technology to do this?
I headed out to California to spend some time visiting wellness spas and I narrowed it down to what I thought were the healthiest technologies, which you could feel instant results from. The technologies are the infrared sauna pods, which have a breathable, full-body cryotherapy chamber — because usually cryotherapy is not breathable, you have to have your head outside of the chamber — and there’s lymphatic compression massage systems; I have vibro-acoustic lounge beds with LED healthy light; we have a hydromassage chair; we have a room with an anti-gravity robotic massage chair.
A lot of these products are European. They’ve been modernized, but they’re practices that have been around for 20, 30, 40 years.
We’re creating a body transformation program, which involves laboratory-engineered supplements according to what your body seeks. We’re gonna be sending away one saliva sample to the lab to formulate the nutrients that are going to be used with some of the fitness apparatus in our spa to allow your body to become healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Who else is working there with you?
What’s nice about this is we don’t require human practitioners. People here are just serving for customer support.
I have had Marangely Quiñones, my girlfriend for almost a year, as an integral part in hands-on operations in building the business. She is my right-hand woman in getting everything up and going from day one.
What other kinds of investments did you have to make into this space?
During Covid right now, we’re very serious about keeping the place looking clean and beautiful and following the protocols. We have UV pathogen-sterilizing light in the ventilation system, along with pathogen and virus/germ air ionizers in each room. The contractors that built this place said with what we’ve put in the air ventilation system, it would sterilize the air circulated in the spa, but I wanted people to feel more comfortable so I went the extra step and bought some high-end air ionizers that people could see and feel safe.
How much of an investment was this?
This has been about a half-million-dollar project. The equipment alone is about $200,000, but that’s not a lot. Hyperbaric chambers can be a quarter-million dollars. I don’t have that here. But I still invested in the most modern equipment to stay ahead of the game.
I’ve also invested in the artistic design of the spa. We feature a local artist’s art at the entrance of each room. In the anti-gravity robotic chair room, I have a copper water fountain with the art of a galaxy next to it. The hydromassage room has a copper water fountain with a blue heron along the shore of the ocean. When you get into the infrared sauna pod rooms, with a very hot red light, I’ve got painted metallic sunbursts on the walls.
What’s on your horizon for 2021?
I’m very excited just from the feedback with how everybody has responded to the concept. I want to prove this for a year, with the option to open three or four more of these locations around Baltimore. I believe that even post-Covid, people are still going to be very cautious about self care, their health, being around people they don’t know, and when people are looking for a healthy spa treatment, they may gravitate towards a private room with calming and healthy technologies as opposed to having a practitioner apply a treatment without knowing what the health is of that practitioner.
These concepts were here before Covid and did very well. They will do exceptionally well during Covid, and with the mindset of everyone, this should be a new horizon of understanding for the years to come, not just 2021.