Mobile sauna business heats up for O'Hara resident
Have sauna, will travel.
O’Hara resident John Barbour has added the wow-factor to many parties with his portable sauna, but the business serves other purposes.
Some people want to experience health benefits. Others might want to try the roving sauna before installing their own, permanent hot box.
Barbour travels with a white box-trailer, inside of which is an 8-by 6-foot room appointed with western red cedar benches. The room seats up to eight people.
In one corner is a small stove fed with birch logs. There also is a small dressing room.
Barbour transports his tiny piece of paradise with a white van emblazoned with his Warm Timber logo.
He started this business four years ago after handing off his investment firm to son Sean.
“I wanted to get out of his way. He had been working with me for 10 years,” Barbour said. “But I didn’t want to stop.”
Building saunas now keeps him busy. Initially, he had professional carpenters show him the basics. Today, he continues to use an Amish shop to help him create.
He has built sauna rooms from Minnesota to Maryland, including several locally in Glenshaw and Squirrel Hill.
Building these luxury rooms keeps him active and moving, during both summer and winter. Barbour had a showroom in the O’Hara commercial corridor near his Oakhill Manor home but went mobile for better business.
The sauna-on-wheels has taken on a life of its own, in addition to being a model for clients who hope to add a permanent fixture to their home.
It takes less than an hour for set up and heats up to 185 degrees with a dry 15 percent humidity.
Barbour has popped up in the unlikeliest of places with his sought-after room. He’s set up at block parties, fishing camps, the Fox Chapel Racquet Club and a commercial event in Aspinwall.
The Carnegie Mellon University grad is a true believer in the benefits of saunas, saying, “People have known this for thousands of years. In Finland, it’s part of life.”
Barbour said he’s not sure where this second-life business is going but knows he’s enjoying it.
Sharon Drake is a contributing writer.