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By Samantha Chapnick

Every once in a while I discover a spot that reaffirms my choice of profession. NY Spa & Nails is one of those places.

Given the Internet and plethora of people contributing to travel Web sites, it’s becoming harder and harder for this travel journalist to have a true find: A spot that is still so obscure it hasn’t been blogged to death, reviewed on TripAdvisor, advertised, or pushed by a team of high-priced publicists.

NY Spa and Nails — at 25 Thompson St. in lower Manhattan — is not only a find, its one of the special ones I’d normally consider too good to share, lest the catapult from obscurity to mainstream destroy what makes it fabulous in the first place.

It’s ideal for busy people who want a no-nonsense outstanding massage at truly bargain prices. As of writing, 30 minutes is $28 and 60 minutes a more fabulous $48.

I didn’t work up the courage to even enter until I’d walked past on three separate days and had a horrid chair massage a few blocks away.

From the outside it’s a typical New York manicure spot. Peer in the window and it looks more like someone’s apartment with two pedicure chairs stuck against the wall. Only three women work there, only one of which speaks much English, but I’ve tried to learn enough Mandarin to show my respect for these very very hardworking ladies (Thank you is pronounced: Shay-shay, and I am still working on "feet and scalp for 30 minutes please").

Skeptically, I went for a 10-minute reflexology. Her pressure was strong, she touched all the right spots and took her conversation level cue from me. I left feeling recharged but still hesitant. One good quick reflexology does not a repeat customer make.

Yesterday I decided to go for my second treatment, and this time I agreed to shed my shirt and shoes for a 30-minute scalp, back and feet treatment. This meant graduating to the only other room in the spa — a small appropriately dim room with a realmassage table and piped in meditative music — and getting changed in a spot best described as a cross between utility room, kitchen and storage closet.

After 10 minutes I added 15 minutes to my time, and then when my 45 minutes were up I added 10 more — stopping only because I had a function to attend. She seemed to be combining some form of acupressure with soft tissue massage — the overall feeling being one of such profound relaxation that I barely noticed the time had passed.

There’s a time and place for the spa experience offered by a Ritz Carlton or Mandarin Oriental type ultra-luxe spa. I love cucumber water, fawning staff, private pools, aromatherapy, and 10,000 square feet lounges with tastefully appointed furniture as much as anyone. And that’s not what you get here. If getting changed between a shower curtain and microwave isn’t your scene, skip this spot.

On the other hand, for those times when you just want a great massage without the fluff, this may just become your favorite New York spa.

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Tagged: FREE!

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