Written for MyCentralJersey.com
EDISON – MyCentralJersey.com entertainment and business columnist Bob Makin does not look like the kind of guy who goes to the spa.
With a burly beard and larger-than-life personality, I was surprised when he raved to me about Island Spa in Edison, a Korean spa that offers six dry saunas, massages, facials, body scrubs, hot tubs, Korean restaurant, juice bar, group sleeping rooms and more.
“I was having a really rough week, so I stopped by Island Spa one day,” said Makin. “I saw this sign there that said something like, ‘Need a vacation? You don’t have to go far,’ and I realized that it’s true — going to Island Spa is like a mini vacation.”
Island Spa’s bright, open, modern and squeaky-clean layout in a 32,000-square-foot building hidden inside an Edison mall and full of relaxed, barefoot Central Jerseyans in Island Spa robes — which make it appear like an island getaway — is no accident.
“Every day, we all deal with the stressors of life,” said Connie Lee, marketing director of the spa and Middlesex resident. “We are moms, supermoms and career people. What the owners wanted to do was create a space for everyday people to come in, release their stress and be on a mini vacation.”
Island Spa, which is owned by several Korean and Central Jersey-based companies, also mimics a faraway vacation in that spa-goers can stay at the spa overnight on Friday or Saturday nights and some holidays at the 1769 Lincoln Highway location for only an additional $10 to their $29 to $35 general admission fee.
Lee said that business people passing through Edison commonly use this feature, opting to spend only $45 to stay at the open-365-days spa rather than spending $100-plus to stay at a local hotel.
“You can go anywhere and spend $100 to thousands a night and with that, you get a room to shower, sleep and have a drink,” said Lee. “Or, you can stay here for $45 and use the saunas and other wellness facilities like a hotel. What hotel is going to let you use the sauna at 11 p.m.?”
With the $29 to $35 admission fee, which all guests regardless of whether they have booked a service or not are required to pay, visitors can stay from 8 a.m. to midnight on weeknights. Plus, the spa utilizes a virtual wallet bracelet for all guests — similar to what an inclusive resort would use.
Also, unlike most other spas, the low general admission fee, which doesn’t require guests to purchase an additional service, makes it surprisingly affordable for the average person. Lee said that about 40 percent of people come to the spa without an additional service booked — they come to use the six dry saunas with various temperatures, benefits and island themes, take a nap in the sleeping rooms, watch some television, get work done or hang out in the hot tubs.
However, some who come to the spa with the intention of just using the general admission also end up booking a service as well, which is why the spa can usually accommodate walk-ins — a welcome change from the typical spa appointment, which takes a week-plus to get an appointment.
The most popular-booked spa service is the 90-minute Korean body scrub, in which the guest soaks in one of four different baths before a spa therapist uses a special textured glove and technique to remove external impurities from all areas of the body and improve blood circulation to the skin’s surface, leaving them with smoother, healthier skin. Some of the other services include shiatsu, Swedish and deep tissue massages and facial treatments.
Island Spa, which fetches about 3,000 weekly guests in the winter and 1,000 in the summer, with between 300 and 500 being regular visitors, didn’t always enjoy such popularity. However, after about a year and a half of business and growth through social media and word-of-mouth, they are already at the point where they are thinking about where they could move to accommodate more than the current 655 people at a time.
“We have had days when we first opened that we had two people walk inside and it was very nervewracking and we wanted to cry,” said Lee with a laugh. “But we stuck to it and we have become very popular as an ‘inclusive resort’ right in Edison.”
Where: 1769 Lincoln Highway, Edison
Hours: 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 24 hours Friday into Saturday and Saturday into Sunday
Cost: General admission costs $29 on weekdays, $35 on weekends
Contact: islandspasauna.com, 732-253-7379