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Mountain Home Magazine

Taking the Waters in Watkins Glen

Well over a century ago, a man named William Elderkin Leffingwell read a newspaper report about the discovery of some very special water in Watkins Glen, New York. It seems that during an unsuccessful search for oil, the drilling revealed at 1,600 feet another liquid—a mineral-laden water that, upon scientific analysis, was said to rival the curative powers of the waters at Germany’s Nauheim Springs, which was the spa destination of the time. William and his cousin, Dr. James A. Jackson, had been operating the Jackson Health Resort in Dansville, a small town northwest of Watkins Glen, but had been looking for a site for a new facility. William was evidently intrigued enough by what he read to visit Watkins Glen; it wasn’t long after that the Glen Springs Hotel and Sanitarium opened and began attracting a regional and international clientele.

Fast forward from 1890 and you will find the newest opportunity to “take the waters” in Watkins Glen at Inner Peace Floats, 111 West Fourth Street. The business is a collaboration between three brothers—A.J. DeSarro, Clayton DeSarro, Danby DeSarro—and their mom, Kathie E. Notarfonzo. It found a home in a building that A.J. says was once-upon-a-time a family-owned liquor store. The family was the DeSarro family. Most recently a quilt shop, he says the big open space “seemed like it was waiting for us.” A.J. says he had heard a podcast about flotation therapy and its benefits; after doing some research the family went to a facility in Rochester and floated together. There were a few other instances of serendipity which convinced the family to take the plunge, so to speak, into the floating business. So far, so good.

“This was our first summer and we’ve enjoyed having people stop and ask questions,” says Clayton, who shares the daytime shifts with A.J. Kathie still has a full-time job elsewhere, so she takes on some of the weekend work; Danby also has a full-time day job but has, and continues to be, in A.J.’s words, “a huge help.”

So, of course, the big question for the uninitiated is “what is floating?” 

“Floating doesn’t do something to you; it’s more like it takes things from you,” A.J. explains to a first-time-floater (that would be me).

What kind of things?

Oh, things like stress, anxiety, toxins, pain, icky stuff you don’t need that can make you feel bad.

As for the mechanics of it all, the descriptive literature refers to “tanks” filled with highly concentrated magnesium salt water, but the floating spaces at Inner Peace—there are two right now—are more like shallow pools, tiled, wide enough that when you stretch out your arms you can’t quite touch the sides, long enough that, unless you’re quite a bit taller than I am, your toes and head can’t simultaneously make contact with the top and bottom. The lighting is subdued; you can make it completely dark if you want. The ceiling is pale and curved and is nowhere close enough to make you feel at all claustrophobic. The water feels quite warm at first, but after a time your body and the water become the same temperature—warm, still, but almost like an extension of one another. You’re buoyant. And it’s quiet. So, so quiet.

“Sometimes a silent environment is not what people are used to,” A.J. muses. “The fundamental thing is for people to come back inside themselves, to look inward. There seems to be a need for this now.”

“Here it’s just really relaxing,” says Clayton, who is one of his own best customers as he tries to float at least once a week. “We’re seeing people come out [from floating] in a different frame of mind. We’re happy about that.”

There are other offerings a float at Inner Peace Floats. Kathie, a health coach, provides what she describes as a “weight loss resistance discovery session” during which she’ll “walk you through a process” to help you figure out why you can’t shed those stubborn pounds. There is massage available, as well as integrated energy therapy, a kind of body work that gets the “issues out of your tissues” once and for all. There are yoga classes, with individual instruction as an option. Floating appointments can be had 24/7.

“It’s pretty simple at the moment, but I feel like we’re just getting started,” A.J. says. They will have the upstairs space available for their use in the spring, but they’re not sure yet what they’ll do with it. There is a small kitchen on the main floor already, and there is talk of some cooking happening, which is interesting as A.J. and Clayton were both line cooks at a busy Watkins Glen restaurant. “We want to be able to offer people some nourishment when they come out,” he adds.

Inner Peace Floats visitors can also purchase essential oils, T-shirts, therapeutic bean bags (heat them up, put them on sore spots, and wait for that lovely “aaahh” feeling). But, seriously, more than any of that is the simple, peaceful feeling you’ll experience almost as soon as you walk in the door. The fragrances, the lighting, the décor, the music are all there for your benefit, to give you, as A.J. says, “a time and space to collect yourself.” Nor does any of it have to be over when you walk back out the door. “May people question your smile” is the blessing I was given when I left Inner Peace Floats.

To make an appointment, call (607) 535-6287, or just stop in. 

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