Get your socks off
Bustling Central district might seem like an odd place to get your Zen fix. But look a little closer and you'll notice plenty of foot massage dens scattered around the popular night time destination. The latest addition is Ten Feet Tall in the L Place.
The centre, which opened two weeks ago, is owned by Gilbert Yeung Kei-lung, whose other ventures included the hip nightclub Dragon-i, pool hall and lounge Tazmania Ballroom and ramen restaurant chain Miso Cool.
Yeung says well before he started Dragon-i he had planned to open a foot massage centre. 'I'm a big fan of massage. I get a foot massage almost every day,' he says.
Whether for passion or business, Yeung has invested a lot in the venture. The two-floor, 8,000 sq ft massage centre set him back almost as much to set up as one of his nightclubs.
'I believe it's a great business idea because Hong Kong people work hard and play hard. Foot massage is good for your body, and all you need to do is sit back, enjoy the service and walk out all rejuvenated,' he says.
Recently, reflexology has been gaining traction with the party crowd looking for an alternative way to unwind and detox after a night on the town. Yeung's latest venture is tapping into that market.
During our recent trial at Ten Feet Tall, the masseuse explained how different 'zones' on your foot affect your visual, digestive and respiratory systems.
Ten Feet Tall also caters to the night owls, with showers and lockers available for customers who just want to take a break between the office and party hopping.
There are rooms set aside for the female customers, Leung says. 'Many of the girls don't want to share a room with the guys because they want to just sit back and relax and they don't want the boys to see them without make-up on.'
Yeung adds that over the past few years 'clients are getting younger and younger. Lunch hour is usually the busiest, and then after 9pm. Sometimes we have customers coming back after they've had a few drinks. We are open until 2am.'
At Happy Foot, business has really stepped up since Jack Leung took over in 2003 during the Sars outbreak. It has since expanded from a sole centre on Wellington Street and now has several branches around the city. In Central alone, it has three branches and up to 120 reflexologists on a busy day.
'Competition is keen because the entry barrier is relatively low and there's a lot of demand, especially in the Central area,' says Leung.
Office workers constitute a main portion of the clientele, which also includes tourists and retirees.
Michele Wong, a 27-year-old banker who works in Central, goes for full body massages in Happy Valley almost every month. She also has foot massages in Central, and usually takes a friend or two.
'Mostly because it's close by, and it's not too time consuming,' she says. 'I often meet up with friends after work and go for a session.'
Fun Feet manager Jenny Yau says some customers come with their friends and hang out, especially at the Wyndham Street branch. 'Others even host parties in our rooms.'
Meanwhile, Yeung's operation features hip designs, gadgets and equipment that aim to appeal to the younger crowd. Chargers for iPhones and BlackBerry handsets are available for customers, and there are rooms with projectors and iPhone-compatible stereos.
The interior design is inspired by the Caribbean, with a beige and organic colour scheme. It was designed by French duo Patrick Gilles and Dorothee Boissier, who also worked on Yeung's restaurants and bars, including Busy Suzie and Miso Cool.
'I want it to be younger and more modern and clean,' Yeung says. 'It's certainly not super luxury, but the materials we use here are all carefully selected; everything you see, smell or step on was carefully chosen.
'This place is designed based on the lifestyle that I and my friends enjoy. We can have a boys' night out here watching a football game and get our feet rubbed, and girls can throw their friends a bridal shower here.'