BY HEATHER CASSELL
Celebrity service without the price. Seriously, that’s what clients get at a Mission District spa, In-Symmetry Wellness Spa, which specializes in warm welcomes, a pleasant environment and making peoples’ bodies feel good in San Francisco.
CEO Candace Combs’ vision has been to help create a life of balance and healing for her clients — from average Janes to celebrities who drop in — ever since she ditched the tech industry in the late 1990s.
Candace, 43, has been a body worker to movie and rock stars and everyone in between for 15 years.
Working with celebrities was about connections through her ex-girlfriend and former business partner, who was a structural body worker. Candace was already working with k.d. lang whenever she came to San Francisco. Candace, a New Orleans native who knows music, and her brother, Dave Combs, 28, who is the general manager of In-Symmetry, said they followed the stars to success.
“I’ve worked on a lot of people really [in Hollywood],” says Candace, who had nothing but good experiences with actors. “Hollywood stars were great.”
Candace escaped her conservative family and came to San Francisco when she was 21 years old. Not knowing what to do with her life she accepted a job at Microsoft in Seattle. She spent a year there before returning to San Francisco to ride the dot-com wave. She got out just before the boom went bust in 1999.
After years of feeling good after her morning yoga classes and monthly massages, she found herself staring at the computer monitors she was busy swiveling around managing quality control and realized no matter how much her pay cut would be she had to get off the wave.
“I just didn’t want to do it anymore. It felt soulless … with those screens just glaring back,” says Candace. “I just realized at that moment I’m not doing anything for the world and I’m not helping people. I just didn’t want to do it anymore.
“I was doing a ton of yoga, a lot of acupuncture and a lot of massage,” says Candace, who developed a passion for the healing arts so much that she graduated from the San Francisco School of Massage.
She and her then-girlfriend and business partner decamped from San Francisco to Hollywood where they set up In-Symmetry, as the wave crashed against California’s shores.
The women’s goal was to work with bands on tour and Broadway productions, but the business grew beyond their imaginations. They began receiving calls to work at 3 a.m. regularly. One year they were the masseuses during the Academy Awards, says Candace and Dave.
Two years in Los Angeles was enough for the women, who became only business partners in 2004, and they returned to San Francisco and set up shop in Potrero Hill, says Candace.
The business grew with waiting lists stretching out three weeks for each of them. She hired staff to pick up the overflow, turning In-Symmetry into a full-fledged business. In 2010, Candace bought her business partner out and moved the spa to its current location at 650 Florida Street, Suite D, where it’s been for nearly three years.
Candace has been in a relationship with acupuncturist Courtney Moore for the past five years.
Today, In-Symmetry is home to 25 part-time masseuses, three full-time employees, including Candace, Elizabeth Markham, 30, who is the managing esthetician, and Dave.
Clients are loyal to the business. It’s the only place that Sunny Schwartz, 59-year-old veteran criminal justice professional with the City and County of San Francisco, and her partner Lauren Schwartz get their massages in the city, she says.
“It’s just a fabulous feeling walking in and certainly more so leaving,” says Sunny.
“Generally, after a massage you feel better, but I feel like I can skip down the street afterwards,” says Sunny, who can’t praise In-Symmetry enough. “I know that sounds hyper enthusiastic, but it’s true.”
More than eight years ago a friend referred the couple to In-Symmetry when Lauren was pregnant with one of the couple’s children. They haven’t gone anywhere else since then.
“I’ve never had a bad massage there,” says Sunny, who goes in when she has muscle spasms, sports issues, or simply needs help relaxing. “Every single time I walk away feeling so much better and virtually cured of my ailment.”
Greg Sherrell, co-host of the “Fernando and Greg in the Morning Show” on 99.7 NOW, agrees, adding that he likes In-Symmetry’s convenient hours and availability on Sundays.
“Their services specifically dictate the kind of massage that I want,” says Greg, 40, who works with In-Symmetry’s masseuses depending on his body’s needs. “There are times when I just want to come in relax and zone out and there are other times when I’m in training mode and need specific work in certain parts of my body.”
Greg stumbled upon In-Symmetry one lazy Sunday about five years ago when he was searching for a last-minute massage, but it was “impossible to find anyplace that was open on a Sunday,” he says.
Then he found In-Symmetry and immediately booked an appointment. Like the Lauren and Sunny he hasn’t gone anywhere else in the city since.
The spa’s masseuses specialize in customized deep-tissue and sports massage that incorporates hot stone therapy along with esthetician services using medical-grade and organic skincare products.
“We are really about wellness. We are a results oriented spa,” says Candace, who helps match clients with the masseuse on her team that is right for them while keeping prices down, without giving up the high quality.
“We are never going to be Union Square prices,” says Candace. “We are just not that. We are a come in, we don’t care who you are let us help you,” type of spa.
Spas in San Francisco’s tony and touristy shopping district, Union Square, easily start at $155 for a 50-minute non-member deep tissue massage or $180 for a 90-minute deep tissue massage with hot stones. For similar services, In-Symmetry charges $90 for a 60-minute deep tissue massage with hot stones, or $125 for 90 minutes. Hot stones come included in every massage.
Candace also gives back to the community. She donates upward of an estimated $20,000 annually to kids’ education, dogs, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, she says.
“Everyone is so happy to come in here,” Candace says. “When they walk out they are so grateful and we all need it. Touch is unbelievably important.”
Make an appointment at In-Symmetry, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Get rubbed at InSymmetry.com.
A version of this story was originally published by the Bay Area Reporter.