2 new businesses open in downtown Johnson City

Zach Vance • Jul 28, 2018 at 1:12 AM

The growth of Johnson City’s downtown district has continued over the summer months, as evidenced by the recent openings of a massage therapy practice and a bar and lounge.

Soon, they’ll be joined by a decor and dining shop.

Founder Craig Roberts and CEO Paula Dukes opened The Salt Mind Experience at 207 N. Boone St. Suite 1300 earlier this month and celebrated the endeavor by hosting a grand opening ceremony on July 20.

“We are just excited to be joining the downtown community, and we really want this business to represent Johnson City and bring something new and different,” Dukes said.

The wheelchair-accessible massage therapy practice specializes in halotherapy or Himalayan Salt Therapy, a holistic method that involves relaxation while breathing in salty air. Additionally, the venue’s seven trained therapists offer a variety of massage modalities.

“The way we look at and do massages is a little different,” Dukes said.

“I mean there are other massage places, but most spas seem to spoil you, and we try to spoil you, too, but we try to help you with recovering from injuries. One of our mottos is ‘self care is the beginning of health care.’ So we want to help people take care of themselves so they can be better for their families, jobs and communities.”

For anyone booking their first massage, Dukes recommends customers contact them first so to personalize the experience.

Massages can be booked for 30-, 60- and 90-minute sessions. The Salt Therapy Experience also offers a four-handed massage involving two therapists. Various events hosted at the massage venue include: salty yoga, meditation, Wine Down Wednesdays, Girls Night Out, Afternoon Siesta and Morning Gratitude sessions.

Roberts, who has worked as a massage therapist for 26 years, first got the idea for The Salt Mind Experience while visiting The Center for Massage and Natural Health in Asheville. Next door to the business, Roberts and his daughter found The Asheville Salt Cave.

“We had heard about this and we were in love. The vision started to come together about expanding the practice and adding Himalayan Salt Therapy in our own unique way. Here we are over 9 months later and the vision is a reality,” Roberts said.

Before opening, Dianna Cantler, downtown development director for the Johnson City Development Authority, said the owners of the Salt Mind Experience participated in the Authority’s “Co.Starters” class, a nine-week cohort based program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships and tools to turn ideas into a sustainable business.

“They’re going to be starting out on good, solid footing because they’ve had that extra business consulting from the program,” Cantler said.

A few blocks down the street, another new business, the Wonderland Lounge & Bar, opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday.

Cantler said the business just held its soft opening and plans to host a grand-opening event sometime in the future.

Outfitted in vibrant decor, the Wonderland Lounge & Bar offers a unique atmosphere to enjoy a drink or meal. In addition to beer, wine and cocktails, the bar serves a variety of food, including sandwiches and kabobs.

In just a few days’ time, the business is already receiving rave reviews from customers for its colorful furnishings and food.

“The food that was served for us tonight at the tasting was all amazing,” Brandi Honaker wrote on Facebook, rating the Wonderland with five stars. “The inside of the lounge/bar is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!!! So many colors all thru the bar and such pretty tables that changes colors! Beautiful LED lights all around, paintings on the walls, LED fireplace and marble floors that we're so pretty!! Love it!!”

Another small business, called Tennessee Homespun, 120 W. Main St., will also be opening its doors soon, Cantler said. The decor and dining shop will sell furniture and crafts, as well as serve customers home-styled southern cuisine.

Construction on a row of historic buildings on East Main Street are also nearing completion, Cantler said, which could pave the way for even more business opportunities. Those buildings include the old Betty Gay building, the former J.W. Hunter building and former Liberty Theater.

“There are several buildings that are nearing the end of construction that will be able to be leased, which is really exciting. Because part of our issue has been (too many) buildings that have not been up to code where people could move a business in. Now, we’ll soon have several options available,” she said.

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