Sneak Preview: Lunar Massage Opens On-the-Go Shop Catering to the Twentysomething Crowd

A new massage business opened recently in DC—and no, it’s not the kind of “massage parlor” that DC has long had a bad rep for.

Lunar Massage, across the street from several new condo buildings and the new Safeway at Fifth and K streets, Northwest, showcases 20-foot ceilings, oversize windows, and hardwood floors. Small screens separate two massage areas from a central section of massage chairs and a small desk that serves as an office and reception area. The only goods for sale (other than massages, of course) are a small selection of T-shirts and photographs by the same artist who completed the not-yet-hung wall art.

Joanna Robinson, a 28-year-old former fundraising specialist, channeled her entrepreneurial drive by launching Lunar Massage, a small shop at the corner of New York Avenue and Fifth Street, specializing in seated-chair and fully clothed table massages for on-the-go professionals.

Robinson wasn’t a fan of spas, she says, but she did like health-and-wellness activities such as yoga and Pilates. After originally scouting opportunities to buy into a franchise chain such as Massage Envy, which operates several branches in Washington, Robinson decided that there was still something missing. The clientele for those chains tended to be middle-age suburban women, and she wanted to capture the twentysomething demographic in Washington.

Her studio, she says, is a “middle ground” between a spa and the seated-chair massage or tiny massage clinics set up in malls or offices. Each of her seven on-call therapists is a licensed practitioner trained in therapies such as medical massage, sports massage, and shiatsu. The price starts at $26 for 20 minutes and goes up to $108 for 90 minutes.

“People are intimidated by the spa,” Robinson says. For a twentysomething male, the idea of popping in after work to fix tense shoulders is acceptable. Getting those same guys into fuzzy robes and slippers for a turn with scented lavender-oil rubdowns is next to impossible.

People of this generation work all day in front of computers and then come home to Facebook, blogs, and Twitter in front of the television in their group houses at night—they’re stressed, overworked, and under-rested, and most can’t afford or aren’t inclined to spend their weekend days at a spa.

In the coming months, Robinson hopes to offer after-work happy hours to draw more of the young crowd, with wine and short introductory chair massages.

When I visited, one client who had seen the spot from her nearby apartment was walking in for a 45-minute session and another was booked later that afternoon. After less than a week in business, Robinson says she’s seen walk-ins, cold calls, and even online bookings (available via, including five appointments on Sunday. Robinson says that even in a tough economy, she thinks that her midrange prices and services will keep people coming in.

If the business keeps moving along well, she hopes to open as many as five more locations within the next few years in and around DC.

First-timers receive $5 off a 60-minute massage.

Lunar Massage, 1101-A Fifth St., NW; 202-560-3575;
Open Tuesday through Friday 11 to 8, Saturday and Sunday 11 to 5.

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