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Published February 19. 2022 6:25PM | Updated February 19. 2022 9:01PM
Monika and Aaron Marketos pulled into a driveway in Pawcatuck on Thursday afternoon, as a passerby did a double-take at the wooden, barrel-shaped contraption being pulled by a trailer. Homeowner Christina Pimental came outside in a bathrobe, ready to make use of her rental: a mobile sauna.
Pimental, who owns the boutique Christina's Ltd. in downtown Westerly, recalls that she first saw the mobile sauna while driving over a bridge in Pawcatuck and thought, "What is that?" (For marketing purposes, it helps that it says bringmesauna.com on the side.) She first rented it for her birthday in December.
"It was so relaxing, and you feel good for like a week," Pimental said. "Your skin feels so good."
The setup is simple: Monika and Aaron level the sauna trailer to be stable, put out a stepstool to the entrance, and feed wood in from the outside. They provide wood so clients can keep it going during the course of their rental, which is typically from about 4 p.m. one day to noon the next.
Monika said the optimal sauna temperature is about 185 to 200 degrees. Traditional saunas like this one get hotter than infrared saunas.
They also put out a small Rubbermaid tub so people can take an ice bath if they want, and leave a plastic version of a vihta, a handheld birch "sauna whisk" or "bath broom" that is meant to be soaked in water and lightly lashed on the skin.
Their company is called Bring Me Sauna.
Monika grew up in Poland, and while it's no Finland in terms of ubiquity of sauna use, she noted that saunas are more commonly used in Europe than in the U.S.
"Sauna, it's such a lifestyle decision. You're doing this for your mental health, you're doing this for your muscle recovery," Monika said. She added that she loves the relaxation and the focus, as the heat means you're not distracted by anything else. Studies also have shown that sauna use can have positive impacts on cardiovascular health.
Monika said she immigrated to the U.S. in 2008 "to start a new life" and became a citizen last year. She and Aaron, respectively 36 and 43, met at a young professionals meeting and have been together for five years, married for two.
Monika got a membership to the Ocean Community YMCA just to use the sauna, and said she met one of her best friends in a sauna. But the sauna at the Y closed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Monika was trying to figure out if she and Aaron could put a sauna in a corner of their house, but when they heard about a mobile sauna more than a year ago, she thought, "This is it."
The couple went to Vermont to pick out wood, and Aaron made the sauna himself, which Monika said was "amazing to watch." They own Sign Guy and Sons in Westerly, and Aaron said growing up in the sign business, he learned about design and engineering.
"We wanted this to be a really beautiful, appealing, traditional sauna," Monika said. It can fit six people at a time.
They got Bring Me Sauna up and running at the end of last summer, and in addition to bringing it to individual homes, they've brought it to the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce's Sunday Funday series in downtown Westerly and to the Country Wellness Center in North Stonington. Monika said a local real estate agent used the sauna during the blizzard a few weeks ago.
The website saunashare.com shows mobile saunas that service a total of 14 states, with the most in Minnesota; Bring Me Sauna is the only one listed that's based in Connecticut or Rhode Island, though the Hudson Valley-based SpaFleet Cloudberry also services Connecticut.
The cost for a daily rental is $375 Monday through Thursday and $475 Friday through Sunday. There is no delivery fee within 15 miles of Westerly.
It takes about one hour from delivery to be ready for use. Monika's recommendation is for people to stay in for 15 minutes at a time and then spend at least 15 minutes outside the sauna before going back in.
The only sad part for her, with renting it out? "I would love to use it every day."
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