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Business Briefs: Hyperbarics spa moves into new Oakland location

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Alex Williams sits by a hyperbaric chamber; she recently opened a larger spa in Oakland. Photo: Courtesy Alex Williams
Alex Williams sits by a hyperbaric chamber; she recently opened a larger spa in Oakland. Photo: Courtesy Alex Williams  

Bay Area native Alex Williams two summers ago opened her Holistic Hyperbarics spa in a small Albany storefront. At the time, it was all the business owner could afford.

As word spread about the spa, it took off attracting not just people suffering from various ailments and injuries but also professional athletes from the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors. Williams, 33, who is queer and was a triathlete in her 20s, had first discovered the healing benefits of hyperbaric chambers from her coach, who owned their own chamber.

"It is widely known in the athletic community as a secret tool. It is like legal blood doping because it puts so much oxygen in your blood," said Williams, noting that Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps brought his own chamber with him to the Rio games.

A former EMT and an in-home birth doula, Williams was participating in a queer wrestling party in March 2017 when she tore her left shoulder. It prompted her to buy her own hyperbaric chamber in order to speed up her recovery.

"My doctor said it would take six to eight months to heal it. I healed it in just over five months," recalled Williams, who spent an hour a day in the chamber.

The experience led her to scrape together enough financing to open her own hyperbaric spa in a 400 square foot space. Looking to expand the business, she found a larger 1,000 square foot space with an outdoor patio to relocate to in Oakland's Sante Fe neighborhood near the border with Emeryville.

"It feels like coming home," said Williams, who grew up in Oakland and Gilroy and is living again in the East Bay city. "It feels like I am in the right place making something available to people that regularly wouldn't have this as an option. It feels more right than ever before."

Williams lives with her wife, Tiffany Paul, a social worker, and their hairless cat, Loretta, and hairless dog, Olive. When not focused on her business, she is uploading photos of her furless babies to their Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/olive.and.loretta/

This past Sunday, Williams cut the ribbon on her new location, which is decked out with hundreds of plants to recreate a relaxing, organic atmosphere.

"I love this space. It is an eclectic building that we have made our own. It is really earthy," said Williams. "I have a firm belief we heal in places we are comfortable. I tried to build a space that really delivers that for people."


The new Holistic Hyperbarics spa. Photo: Courtesy Alex Williams  

Due to the move she was able to upgrade to larger hyperbaric chambers that are sizeable enough for people to sit up in and stretch out while inside. They have Wi-Fi so people can bring in their tablets and other devices.

"It is like a comfortable submarine but there is no water involved," noted Williams. "It is pretty spacious."

Each treatment requires a two-hour appointment. The time spent in the hyperbaric chamber lasts 75 minutes, and the spa requests people spend upward of 10 minutes relaxing afterward so they "can come back to earth," explained Williams.

"People feel really euphoric and awake," she noted.

A medical prescription is required, and if someone needs to see a doctor, the spa has medical advisers and prescribing physicians on staff. Health insurance plans will often cover hyperbaric treatments for a limited number of conditions as approved by federal health officials. But it is also used for myriad "off label" conditions, and in such cases, patients will need to pay for the services out of pocket.

"It is a lot like any kind of medical treatment. We want to make sure it is right for them, so we do a screening," said Williams.

Introductory sessions cost $250 and regular sessions then cost $220. The spa offers discounted packages of 10 ($1,980), 20 ($3,740), and 40 ($7,040) sessions.

The spa is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. It is by appointment only and does not accept walk-ins.

To learn more about the spa, or book an appointment, visit https://www.hh-bayarea.com/

In seeking renewal, Castro CBD narrows focus
As it seeks renewal over the coming months, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District plans to narrow its focus to its core responsibility of cleaning the sidewalks in San Francisco's LGBT district.

The CBD was launched in 2005 in order to provide cleaning services that the city itself was unable to pay for, from daily sweeping to power steam cleaning of the sidewalks on a regular basis along the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street. It also cleaned the Market Street sidewalks between Castro and Octavia Boulevard.

Over the years the CBD expanded its focus to include attracting new businesses to the commercial corridors and providing entertainment in its public plazas as a way to drive foot traffic to the neighborhood. It also added artwork and plantings to the area.

Now, as it asks property owners within its boundaries to renew it for another 15 years, the CBD has decided to dedicate the money it will receive from property assessment fees that will be increased toward cleaning services. It will no longer use the money to pay for entertainment or additional security, but could provide those amenities if it can obtain grant funding or donations to do so.

"Everybody knows what we do is clean, clean, clean, clean," said CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello at this month's Castro Merchants meeting.

Aiello was making a pitch for why merchants, who may have the CBD fees passed onto them, should talk to their landlords and encourage them to support re-upping the CBD. It first needs to have property owners who account for 30% of the assessed fees to vote in favor later this year. If they do, then a second vote will be held in the spring, which requires a 51% threshold to be met in order to renew the CBD.

The CBD plans to expand its boundaries slightly along Noe, 16th, and 17th streets in order to incorporate several blocks along the side streets where businesses are located and would benefit from its cleaning services. It will also institute a three-tiered assessment plan with those property owners on and around Castro Street paying more, while those along or near Market Street paying less because they will receive reduced services.

"The streets were very dirty before the CBD," said Terry Asten Bennett, whose family owns Cliff's Variety on Castro Street. "I am willing to pay for it because of the importance to the neighborhood as a whole."

To learn more about the CBD, visit http://castrocbd.org/

Got a tip on LGBT business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com


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