Finlandia/Harvia Sauna USA Offers Tight Focus On Quality, Craftsmanship
Family-owned and operated, Finlandia Harvia Sauna USA, based in Portland, Ore., has been manufacturing authentic Finnish Saunas since 1964, and is currently the oldest U.S. sauna manufacturer that still operates under its original ownership.
Portland, Ore. — Economic conditions may have put a damper on discretionary spending in the U.S., but the penny pinching hasn’t stopped Finlandia/Harvia Sauna USA from succeeding in an industry niche that revolves around luxury, relaxation, and good health.
As the only sauna manufacturer that still uses the original industry standard of true 1-inch x 4-inch (11/16-inch thick) wood paneling, Finlandia procures about 500,000 board feet of raw materials annually, primarily A grade Western Red Cedar, which comprises 85 percent of the firm’s annual lumber purchases. Finlandia also procures Alaskan Yellow Cedar, California Redwood and Western Hemlock.
“We buy A grade, all clear, lumber with no knots in it,” said Reino Tarkiainen, company owner. “Our customers are very discerning and our products top notch, so the lumber has to match our specifications.”
“We’ve definitely felt the pinch of the downturn,” said Tarkiainen, “but at the same time, there’s always a contingency of people who love our saunas and benefit from our master craftsmanship. Those are the folks that we’re targeting and working with as we have a tremendous amount of return customers.”
Family-owned and operated, Finlandia has been manufacturing authentic Finnish Saunas since 1964 and is currently the oldest U.S. sauna manufacturer that still operates under its original ownership. Located in the heart of U.S. timber country, the company builds standard and custom, precut and prefabricated saunas out of premium, clear Western Softwoods.
Finlandia’s products can be found in homes, hotels and resorts, athletic clubs and government military bases throughout North America.
A native of Finland who grew up in the “sauna culture,” Tarkiainen runs the company with his wife Marilyn, vice president; their son Terri, treasurer; daughter Tanja Atkinson, secretary; and their son-in-law Tim Atkinson, vice president of sales. The 16-employee firm operates from a 50,000-square-foot plant that runs one shift daily, five days a week.
Wood aroma is also important, according to Tarkiainen. “Our endusers enjoy sitting in saunas where the wood is soft, beautiful in color, and good smelling,” he said.
Finlandia’s products can be found in homes, hotels and resorts, athletic clubs and government military bases throughout North America. The firm has its own sales force and also works with dealers that sell the manufacturer’s products to their end customers. “You’re likely to find a sauna in many expensive homes,” said Tarkiainen, “and in many moderate homes where the owner just enjoys a sauna and the benefits that it provides.”
Saunas are relatively new in the United States. Early Finnish and Swedish colonists made their own saunas but usage of the heated rooms did not grow much beyond those immigrants until the late 1950s and '60s. “Whether early Finns knew it or not, they had discovered a very healthy ritual,” said Tarkiainen. “In America, saunas then became popular for their relaxation and many health benefits.”
Finlandia’s saunas are being used in some unusual places, including the McMurdo Station at the South Pole in Antarctica, where one of Finlandia’s products was sold and installed. When the Russian and American astronauts were returning from space they demanded to have a sauna at Houston Space Center, so Finlandia rushed one out there for them. The firm has also sold saunas to many diplomats, athletes and movie stars.
Finlandia’s saunas are being used in some unusual places, including the McMurdo Station at the South Pole in Antarctica, where one of Finlandia’s products was sold and installed.
“We have been involved with some unusual and rewarding sauna projects during our nearly 50 years in this business, such as detoxification programs in the U.S. and abroad,” said Tarkiainen.
Setting Finlandia apart from its competitors in the sauna niche is the fact that the company promotes “authentic Finnish saunas” and imports all of its sauna heaters from Harvia Oy in Finland, “because their heaters are unequaled in quality and in providing the right climate for the bather,” said Tarkiainen. “We take our quality and workmanship very seriously and our customers have come to appreciate that from us.” That level of dedication helps Finlandia differentiate itself from manufacturers that use inferior materials and heaters in their saunas.
Finlandia’s chief competitor is not a sauna at all, but a product called “infrared.”It is sold by numerous companies in the U.S. and consists of a wooden room with calrod or carbon panels built into the walls in various places. “Infrared is falsely sold and advertised as a sauna but can’t be compared with a sauna, as there are no heated stones which supply humidity when water is poured over them,” Tarkiainen explained.
“Infrared is a very cheap product imported from China, then marked up to a very high price (so very lucrative for the seller),” he continued. “Unfortunately, many consumers don’t do their research and are misled.”
A long-time member of the National Association of Home Builders, Finlandia plans to stay the course and continue offering high-quality saunas to a wide range of customers.“Business is steady but we’re still waiting for a turnaround,” said Tarkiainen. “In the meantime, we’ll stick to what we do best and continue educating our dealers and endusers on the value of authentic, Finnish saunas.”
A Finland native, company owner Reino Tarkiainen, grew up in the ‘sauna culture.’ He, his wife Marilyn, and their children run the company together.