The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Money

June 26, 2014

Almost Heaven goes around the world

— People around the world can relax a little more thanks to a Greenbrier County manufacturer that ships barrel saunas to six countries.

Almost Heaven Saunas Inc., makes the saunas in off-the-beaten-path Renicks Valley and ships its products to Finland, Mexico, Norway, Qatar, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. But wait, there’s more. Company president Rick Mouw said Wednesday that Almost Heaven will begin shipping to the Ukraine soon.

The company was recently honored by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as one of the state’s Top 100 exporters.

“West Virginia has shown the world that we have the quality products, services and workforce to compete in the global marketplace,” Tomblin said. “Nearly 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. West Virginia businesses that export enlarge their own markets while they also expand our state’s economy and support jobs here at home.”

Mouw said he’s owned the company for about 17 years, and while the products have not changed a great deal since the previous owners began manufacturing there in the 1980s, the big difference is marketing.

“The online market developed,” Mouw said. “(That’s where) we’ve really seen growth.”

Almost Heaven also has dealers who sell the spas, he said.

A dozen employees at the plant in Renicks Valley assemble the spas to a certain point, and it’s up to the purchaser to finish the project, which the company’s website says can take a few hours. The spas come with videos and instruction manuals, which are available in the languages of each of the countries where they are shipped, Mouw said. However, assembly is so easy, according to Mouw, that the English version can be used, even for non-native speakers.

Spas are made of high-priced, high-grade red cedar imported from Canada, which Mouw said contributes to the beauty of the product.

Although Almost Heaven doesn’t prescribe the spas for health benefits for individuals, the website says that several can be gained from a spa session, including weight loss, arthritic relief, toxin release and respiratory effects, but the sure thing seems to be relaxation.

“Most people report stress reduction after using a sauna as well as feeling more relaxed and refreshed,” the website says.

The company’s success is an indication that the state is full of opportunities, according to Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Steve Weir.

“I think it’s indicative of the type of opportunity you can find in the Greenbrier Valley and West Virginia,” Weir said. “Businesses can reach an international market and do it successfully.”

And Weir also chalks up some of Almost Heaven’s success to the people who work there and the spas themselves.

“They’ve got a good quality workforce and they make a great product people recognize and want to buy,” he said. “And that’s something you just can’t beat.”

Other exporters from the region that were honored by Tomblin include:

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