Duluth Builder Capitalizes on Sauna Surge
Though 2020 is finally in the rearview mirror, the anxieties it ramped up won’t disappear soon. A Duluth company thinks it has a solution.
“The sauna’s the best way I’ve known to soothe the stresses of the modern world,” Justin Juntunen says. He’s not talking about one of those toaster-oven-sized heaters you stick on the wall and cover with a handful of stones. He means the real Nordic thing: a cozy cedar structure with an authentic sauna stove, big rocks, and proximity to snow or a body of water for the proper “hot and cold” experience.
Since 2018, Juntunen’s fast-growing startup, Cedar & Stone, with around 10 employees and a quarter million in revenue, has operated a community structure in Duluth’s Canal Park that visitors can rent for a true sauna experience.
In 2020, he branched out into constructing custom saunas for those who want a touch of Finland by their home or cabin. Expect to spend $30,000 to $60,000 depending on how you outfit it.
“What’s driving sauna nationally and worldwide right now are the wellness benefits, which are being talked about and researched” by entities like Mayo Clinic, Juntunen says. Those studies highlight “the things that my grandparents always said about sauna.”
But not just any sauna. “If you don’t know sauna culture,” Juntunen says, “you’ll say, ‘Well, an infrared sauna is really cheap and that little thing would do the trick.’ But I’d reply, ‘Sure, microwaves can make you food and you’ll get calories. But you don’t get a steak dinner from a microwave.’ ”
And though sauna is thought of as a seasonal pastime in the U.S., Juntunen says he “saunas” more in the summer than in the winter.
While most of Cedar & Stone’s installations have been regional, customers from Florida and California who’ve found the company online are ordering. Juntunen says they want structures “that are designed well and are going to last.” In other words, with the same durability as the worries of the world.
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This story appears in the Feb./March 2021 issue with the headline “Sweat It Out.”