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This article was published 5/12/2019 (297 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A therapeutic thermal experience originating in Asia has arrived in Winnipeg to salve the aches and pains of Prairie winters.
Guoqing and Ziyi Xu are the father-son duo behind the city’s first Korean jjimjibang spa, located at 1931 Pembina Hwy. Speaking in Mandarin, and translated by Ziyi, Guoqing said given the length and depth of winter in his adopted province, the jjimjibang experience is one Winnipeggers will come to appreciate.
"The winter in Winnipeg is very cold and in the wintertime there are few places for people to relax or to have fun," Guoqing said. "We want to provide a very good place in Winnipeg for people to relax."
The Xu family immigrated to Winnipeg from Jiangsu province in eastern China about four years ago. For 10 years, Guoqing, 50, had owned and operated a similar jjimjibang spa in that country, before deciding to pack up his family and head to Manitoba, a province he chose for the rolling prairies.
Hot Snow Spa opened its doors to the public in late September following a year of renovations to transform the former nightclub and lounge into an oasis unlike other facilities spa-goers may have experienced inside the Perimeter Highway.
Inside the 10,000-square-foot spa, four sauna sections surround a central courtyard with suspended ceiling lights simulating the sky. On the south side are seven individual infrared sauna alcoves, long enough to rest horizontally. Across the courtyard, which has a seating area and traditional Chinese and Korean board games, are three mineral heat therapy rooms.
The first, a dry sauna lined with Himalayan salt stones and adorned with bags of Chinese herbal medicines reaches temperatures of about 40 C. The salt stones are said to have restorative properties when heated at such temperatures, Ziyi said. Next door is the Afghan jade stone room, where the mercury also hovers around the 40-degree mark. Last, the Japanese Ganban-yoku room features three heated stone beds and a pool of heated stones.
The uptake of jjimjibang by Winnipeggers has been slow, the pair acknowledge, but they are hoping folks will warm up to the brand-new spa experience, which costs less than $30 for the day.
Where the familiar Nordic and Finnish spas emphasize quiet contemplation, outdoor hot pools and wooden saunas, jjimjibang is a laid-back alternative, simultaneously promoting socialization, mineral heat therapy and relaxation.
The concept is hugely popular in China and South Korea, where some spas have karaoke, widescreen TVs, overnight accommodations, nail services and food service in addition to the saunas. Guoqing and Ziyi have adopted some of these elements in their facility, with a 24-seat dining room and small snack bar, as well as multiple massage chairs and a rest area with a massive television.
"This business is the first one in Winnipeg and it’s new things for the Winnipeggers, and it’s very slow to have international people to come," Guoqing said.
"Maybe they haven’t known this before, but we’ll try it, and slowly they’ll come to try this business," added Ziyi, 20.
Hot Snow Spa joins an expanding cohort of businesses operated by Chinese immigrants along the south Pembina Highway strip supported by a growing immigrant population, said IDO Media general manager Fisher Wang.
"The University of Manitoba area is the new Chinatown," Wang said. "It’s where Chinese people live, rent and shop."
Founded in 2013 by Wang, IDO Media is Winnipeg-based marketing company that connects Chinese-Canadian consumers and entrepreneurs with mainstream Canadian markets. It also hosts the annual Manitoba Chinese Business Gala.
The Chinese-immigrant population in Fort Garry has increased significantly in recent years, Wang said, with provincial immigration policies encouraging the growth, and families settling in the area and ultimately setting up shop.
"That’s why Chinese businesses are choosing particularly the south Pembina strip to open their business — to attract Chinese customers," he said.
Hot Snow Spa has also been welcomed by the Chinese-immigrant community, he added, as few jjimjibang facilities operate west of Ontario.
"I can’t believe we have a facility like this in Winnipeg," Wang said. "It’s definitely something to feel proud of."
As they continue to promote the jjimjibang experience in Winnipeg, Ziyi said they hope to develop the facility further by adding an ice room, as well as three hot tubs to the outdoor patio.
"We hope most people can come here and have the experience and provide advice, so we can make it better," he said.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
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