By Steve Graff
Khalil Robinson’s search for better health is what led him to open his own wellness center.
The medically retired U.S. Navy petty officer didn’t feel like himself after taking so many prescription drugs for his post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses, but found great relief and calm in the alternative therapies he had experienced back in the states. So last year he decided to bring them home to Guam.
His business, the Latte Stoned Wellness Center, is a private club in Sinajana that offers a variety of holistic and alternative therapies, all new to the island.
There’s the salt cave, also known as speleotherapy, which dates back centuries to Europe and is believed to have a host of benefits, including relief for asthma and bronchitis and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The oxygen therapy oxygenates the blood and is said to relieve stress, muscle pain and headaches, for example. And the newest addition, sensory deprivation, offers clients relaxation, mindfulness and pain relief by floating in 10 inches of salty water in an enclosed tent. They also have hydrotherapy, cryotherapy and medicinal cannabidiol — which has been shown to alleviate anxiety and insomnia, among other ailments.
The New Orleans native — who runs the center with his wife, Jerrica Toves — bought the former day care space in January 2017 and spent six months renovating it.
Soothing scents and tranquil music now fill the air throughout — from the salt cave, with its pink Himalayan salt floor, zero-gravity chairs and red glow to the ocean blue room that houses the floating tent. Motivational signs with sayings like, “Follow Your Dreams,” and recognitions earned during his years of service as an aviation ordnanceman decorate the main room and kitchen area. An executive chef prepares and brings meals to clients, too.
“It’s something different,” says Robinson, 35, who also works as an underwater weapons technician at Polaris Point. “There is a lot of [these centers] in the states, but none were here.”
Why did you start the business?
When I retired, I was diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression and social anxiety, so I started looking into alternative therapies when I went home [to Louisiana].
I tried sensory deprivation, the salt cave, and by this time, I was on eight different medications. So I started digging more into what can help without breaking down my body, [because all those drugs] were taking away from me as a person. I couldn’t really communicate with my wife, with the family. It was making more of a vegetable, rather than being the person I really am.
I started looking for something because I couldn’t travel back to Louisiana every time I wanted to do these therapies. I was originally supposed to put a salt cave in my office at home. And just have the float tent in my house. And my wife was like, “Well, you might as just put it here for everyone.”
How would you describe your services to someone off the street?
We educate, we meditate and we medicate.
As soon as you walk through the doors, you are going to get a full education [about] every single therapy we have here. That’s the good thing about it. Since it’s a small place that is run by me and my wife, every time someone comes in, they get the same thing and [any] new information. So if someone is coming in here just to see the [alternative medicine] products, they still get the whole tour.
It’s always personal.
What is your client base?
We are pushing a little over 300 clients.
We have business owners, politicians, people who just need that relaxation and people with the more serious ailments.
We do have tourists who come from the [Philippines], like people who have cancer and are looking to get away from the chemotherapy. And we have people come from Australia.
And it’s not just for adults, is it?
We see a lot of kids here with bronchitis, eczema, hives.
Parents put their kids’ bathing suits on, especially if they have eczema. They play in [the salt cave]. We have the little sand trucks for them. We have had kids do oxygen therapy for respiratory conditions. We’ve had kids, five and above, do the float therapy and the horticultural therapy garden.
We also have people who bring their kids who fall on the autism spectrum. One of the kids who has autism said they love this place because it has no wind. He just sits here and traces out the whole [salt] room. That kid comes once every two weeks. It’s a sensory thing as well.
What are the challenges of starting and running a business like this on Guam?
Getting other people to see the vision. When you are bringing something new to some place, it’s always difficult … It’s just getting the public to see what exactly it is. And what we are here for.
Most of our clients come from word of mouth. If you go on Facebook and read our reviews … it’s not just a place you come to get a service and leave. It’s more of a connection. It’s a deep-down type of thing.
I wish I could put it into words. Even seeing how people talk about the place, it chokes me up. These are people who really, really appreciate it and look for this type of tranquility.
Find joy in the journey. That’s what I’ve been doing, finding joy in the journey. You find your passion, you find your purpose. My purpose is helping [people on Guam]. Whoever comes over here and looks for the help. That’s what I need to do.
What’s in store for the future?
We have Latte Stoned Louisiana already getting started … My niece is actually starting it up. We are going home in December. My wife will be there two weeks, but I will be gone for six months to help get that location started up.
And when I get back, we’re going to open up a naturopathic retreat center for … addicts or the people who want to get away from drugs.
[The center would] offer medically supervised detoxification and natural drug rehabilitation, with the addition of helping all who come through the doors transition back into society with tools to succeed.
Photos by Steve Graff