Chris and John Sapwell didn't expect to buy a former brothel when they looked for somewhere in Whangārei to house their new health therapy centre, Mind, Body and Salt.
It has been their dream for more than a year to set up Northland's first ''halogenerator'', a giant salt grinder that produces fine powder which is then dispersed into the air in precise microscopic salt particles and concentration levels, to be breathed in by clients.
More later on the salt powder treatment that nursing lecturer Chris Sapwell says, ''changed my life''.
The Sapwells bought the well-known, two storeyed building in Walton St where mainly night work took place upstairs in the Golden Palace while long-time hairdressing salon Headliners occupied the ground floor.
It could be said the building has been dedicated to the body, leisure and pleasure for decades. In the 1950s it was a hospital board building, according to the records.
Since the Sapwells' purchase late last year, it has been gutted and both floors have had a complete refit.
Upstairs used to be many-celled with a row of small rooms, reception desk, a common area with a pole in the middle and mirrored walls, and a ''grotty'' shower/room toilet. It is now a clean, bright, white, welcoming open space with large, wide windows and a great view of the area, soon to be the home of InnoNative, a gym and fitness centre run by Oriole and Ralph Ruka who have leased the space from the Sapwells.
Conversely, where downstairs used to be an open-plan layout, a series of reception and therapy rooms have now been erected.
''We were working downstairs one day when an old chap walking by stuck his head in and asked if the new rooms meant the upstairs business was expanding,'' Chris Sapwell said.
Since Easter, the Ruka whānau and friends have been busy on the leased gym space upstairs, to be called Common Grounds, and the Sapwells' family and friends busy downstairs.
Work to be done before Northland's rail is upgraded - KiwiRail
''The entire building is dedicated to health and wellbeing, and the vision is that other people will work with us,'' Chris Sapwell said.
As well as the 12-seater salt room, three other rooms downstairs are set aside for an acupuncturist, sports massage and aromatherapy massage, who are all ''ready to start work''. Other rooms will be available for booked sessions with outside therapists.
The Sapwells have recently installed the ''halogenerator'' and a huge air conditioning unit which will ensure air exchange every hour.
Halotherapy (halo is salt in Greek) is a growing international health therapy using salt's antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, combined with its ability to help remove airborne pathogens, decreasing allergic reactions.
Chris Sapwell said it is an effective therapeutic choice for people with asthma, bronchitis and COPD.
''I know, because my asthma, eczema and allergies were out of control before I started using halotherapy in Auckland just over a year ago. I use to get two or three sinus infections every year. I haven't had any of it this year and have hardly used my inhaler.
''Salt has always been used for health. We gargle it, we wash wounds with it, we bathe in it.''
Since her course of salt room therapy, her husband John, who works in IT, has also tried it and is now a huge supporter.
A trained nurse, and nursing lecturing at NorthTech, Chris Sapwell said she wouldn't endorse all alternative, natural or ''complementary'' therapies, only those with proven benefits.
Not all health or wellbeing problems required prescriptions for drugs, she said.
''Our philosophy is quite unusual. We don't see ourselves as alternative or complementary medicine. We see ourselves as aligned and in partnership with western medicine.''
Both Sapwells will continue their day jobs after the centre opens.
There is another stream to business, the Toromai Trust established by the Sapwells and friends to raise and manage a scholarship for Year 13 and first year tertiary arts students.
Artwork by students in that qualifying group will be displayed in the reception area and halls of Mind, Body and Salt, and for sale. A portion of sales money will feed into the scholarship, aimed at helping young Northlanders study art - an education area where there is currently no locally sourced scholarship.
Sarah and Stuart Selkirk, whose first-year arts student daughter, Josie, designed Mind, Body and Salt's signs and logo, are also on the trust.
''It's a true whānau collective and a very important part of what we're doing here,'' Sapwell said.
Both the new businesses and the trust centred in the refurbished Walton St building will officially in two weeks.
• Northland businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If you have a business story to share please contact Lindy Laird, Ph 09 470 2801, or email firstname.lastname@example.org