The owners and staff of Capitol Cryo stand next to Salem's only cryo tank, which exposes users to temperatures well below zero for its purported health benefits. From left, co-owners Lynn Rouse and Tanah Lines, Assistant Manager Elisabeth Jones and Manager Hannah Schmidt. (Jake Thomas/Salem Reporter)

Tanah Lines has no shortage of people who want to pay her business money to step into a chamber that’s colder than any place on Earth.

Lines is the co-owner of Capitol Cryo. Located at 365 Ferry St., it’s the only business in Salem that offers cryotherapy, an extreme yet increasingly popular treatment that purportedly improves circulation, helps with pain management, relieves inflammation among other benefits.

Developed in the 1970s by a Japanese doctor to treat arthritis, it commonly involves standing for three minutes in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen vapors that can drop as low as -220 degrees Fahrenheit. Celebrities and athletes, including NBA star LeBron James, swear by it. So does the small staff at Capitol Cryo.

“It almost feels like you took 10 espresso shots,” said Elisabeth Jones, Capitol Cryo assistant manager, who added that she uses cryotherapy instead of over-the-counter medications for pain. “But it’s healthy. You don’t get the jitters.”

After an uncertain year, Capitol Cryo now has appointments booked seven days a week with people wanting to use the chamber or receive treatments that involve ultra-cold temperatures directed at targeted areas of their bodies.

Capitol Cryo opened in 2016 and Lines started working there two years later as a technician. At the time, Lines was a stay-at-home mom looking for a part-time job. She tried cryotherapy for the first time during the job interview.

She described feeling scared as the booth filled with frigid air. But she also felt an immediate energy boost and a tingling sensation in her legs. She soon fell in love with cryotherapy.

“It was so interesting,” said Lines. “I loved how different it was. I love the people, and I love helping people feel better and look better.”

After its previous owners decided to sell Capitol Cryo, Lines and her mother, Lynn Rouse, went in together and bought the business in 2019. Then Covid hit and along came restrictions on businesses, particularly customer-facing ones like Capitol Cryo. Between March and May of last year hairstylists, tattoo artists and other businesses offering personal services were shut down.

But even after restrictions were lifted business was slow to pick back up. Hannah Schmidt, Capitol Cryo manager, said when she started working there during the fall they would have sometimes as few as one client a week.

The company secured a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan that was forgiven and helped keep the company open, said Lines. Even with the loan, Lines, like other business owners, faced uncertainty.

“At that point, it was tough,” she said. “I had absolutely no money.”

Rouse and Lines said they tried different advertising campaigns to drum up business but none worked. Finally, they tried a different marketer who told them to expect to be busy. “We thought, ‘yeah, we’ve heard this so many times,” said Rouse. “But we had so many customers.”

Rouse said that while the cryo tank draws people into Capitol Cryo, many customers have become more interested in other services. Capitol Cryo offers local cryotherapy, which applies ultracold temperatures to shoulders, ankles or other achy body parts. Its cryoskin treatment applies cold to other areas of the body to trim fat or improve skin tone.

A session in the tank is $50 (first time is half off). A cryotherapy facial treatment is $35 and a cryoskin treatment is $350 (discounts are offered for multiple treatments).  

Also offered is a cryotherapy facial where a wand chilled to -150 degrees Fahrenheit is rolled over the customer’s face as a way to treat acne scars, sun discoloration or other blemishes.

“I love the cryo facials,” said Lines. “I can feel my skin pucker. It's relaxing.”

Lines and her staff say the treatment helps the body process out toxins. Recently, a group of track athletes from Eugene preparing for Olympics trials came into Capitol Cryo and said the treatment helped their performance.

However, cryotherapy is still not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The science on whether it provides health benefits remains unsettled.

That’s not stopping people from seeking it out. Lines said that as Salem prepares for Covid restrictions to be lifted, customers have been more interested in looking good than feeling good and are seeking skin treatments over getting in the tank.

“But getting in the tank is really advantageous,” said Rouse.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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