The rural Franklin County town of Montgomery is earning a reputation as a destination for people seeking alternative wellness options. It all started nearly three years ago with the opening of the Vermont Salt Cave.
Sarita Khan said she and her husband came to Montgomery, a small town just southwest of Jay Peak, for the same reason many outsiders settle here.
"We came to ski and never left," she explained.
They bought some properties, including a barn and commercial building on Main Street in Montgomery Center. A few years ago she came up with an unusual business plan for the barn.
Khan imported 24,000 pounds of salt from Poland and created an indoor salt cave. She installed a pair of waterfalls and a halogenerator, which pumps salt air into the cave. Kahn said halotherapy such as this is sought out by people with all sorts of ailments, from respiratory problems to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"People thought we were crazy when we opened up here, 'cause it was a significant financial investment in a town of 900 people," Kahn said. "We said, 'Well, we'll build it, people will come.' And so far, so good — people have come from all over."
The cave found a clientele, and now the local naysayers seem to be nonexistent. Lynda Cluba, a lister in town, said she hasn't heard a skeptical word about the salt cave.
"I've never heard any — I mean it's just, that's the type of community we are," Cluba said. "We're very blessed to have that as part of our community, and I believe that it [the salt cave] does bring people in. I can't say for sure how many, but when I go there I often see people who are from Burlington, who are from other parts of the state, who come here just because of that."
Now Khan is looking to bring other alternative wellness practices to the area – massage, acupuncture, yoga and herbal medicine.
Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant Jennifer McCluskey grew up in New Jersey, but came to Montgomery as a farmhand – to live in a yurt and help out a local homesteader. She opened her wellness business at the Salt Cave last month.
"It just seems like people flock here ... and there's something about this community that just draws certain people in and people who are, you know, looking to better themselves in that kind of way," McCluskey said.
Khan has a vision of making the salt cave a destination for people seeking alternative wellness treatments. And while Montgomery might be a little out of the way, she thinks it's the perfect spot.
"We just love it here," Khan said. "The people, the community – it's paradise."