Inside Body By Brooklyn

Body by Brooklyn opened months ago, and I still haven't been. I had planned on it, but I just keep forgetting it's there. I did take a tour once, and the facilities seemed amazing. Yet it does seem a bit mysterious and those who have gone say a few things seem a little "off." Thankfully, reader mizbrooklyn gives us the DL on what goes on inside:

BODY BY BROOKLYN. 275 Park Avenue

It's not that every neighorhood NEEDS a place to get a massage, but since even the pets in Clinton Hill have a spa, I was excited to notice Body By Brooklyn's ambitious opening last spring. Truth was, I missed having a local place to go when my back felt crunched-up, and if a spa can make a go of it in a building overlooking the BQE...well, it can probably make it anywhere. I've been to BBB a number of times by now, more out of neighborhood loyalty than anything else -- but I'm still convincing myself to like the place.

First, the concept. If you've ever been to a really high-end spa -- think "Ten Thousand Waves" in Santa Fe, NM or even "Juvenex" in Koreatown -- the idea behind BBB will be familiar: you're supposed to spend a couple of hours here, having a drink or a snack, getting a massage, maybe plunging in their pools or sitting in their sauna. There's a big room filled with magazines -- and a bar! -- just for lounging. If you're there for a "spa day", you're supposed to use the locker room to strip down, and pad around the building in a robe and slippers. (If you're there for just, say, a waxing, they'll show you right back to your room.) In Santa Fe, I found this idea kind of novel and fun -- in Brooklyn, I have to say, I found it a bit...weird.

It didn't help that the whole place is eerily quiet and empty, even on weekends. With every room appointed in couches and poofs from West Elm, it's a bit like being in a furniture showroom after midnight. Mostly naked.

So far I've gone for a waxing and a massage. The good news is that this place is spotlessly clean. Having gotten manicures and at places I cringe to remember, there's something great about walking into a truly pristine space in the middle of the city. Service has always been fairly friendly (spas not being known for their warmth), and the rates are reasonable. But there is definitely something a bit fishy going on that's hard to put my finger on. Despite the prominently posted signs asking patrons to keep their bathing suits on (which really make you wonder why they're there in the first place), the one time I wandered into the bath area, I was greeted by a pair of naked (male) buttcheeks. I quickly fled, not knowing if this was a cultural miscommunication -- BBB is a Russian-style spa -- or a health code violation. The naked guys definitely seemed to have more run of the place than I did.

The massage wasn't bad but definitely wasn't like any other massage I've had, featuring an unexpected neck-cracking session and lots of limb-pulling: you shouldn't go in expecting Swedish Massage, even if you say you're there for deep tissue work, like I did. Then again, the first time I went to a Korean spa and had a body-scrubbing, I was pretty weirded out, too.

Mostly, the owners of BBB seem to be just figuring out how to market themselves and get customers in -- in a way, they seem to still be figuring out what customers they WANT to get in. Are they going super-high end? For the first few months there was a whopping cover charge levied just for entering the place -- suggesting they were going for the (maybe non-existent) high-luxury client. It seems like that charge has been dropped since the summer -- but BBB is still figuring out how to get things done.

I think what this place needs, more than anything, is more local patrons to make it their own: it seems more like one person's vision of a spa than a reflection of the neighborhood growing up around it. But I may go back with friends -- there is something irresistible about having a massage - or waxing - within 10 minutes' walk.