Massage center raises neighbors' questions


Sunn Express Oriental Spa couldn't be less interesting, as storefronts shops in a suburban strip mall go.

The cream-colored Venetian blinds are drawn, the glass door is covered and, were it not for two yellow signs, the place could pass for unoccupied. Many people in the residential neighborhoods around the Finksburg spa wish it were.

Sunn Express is a massage center. It opened its doors in June, setting up shop in the Tower Center at the intersection of Suffolk Road and Route 140. The strip mall contains a child-care center, a beauty salon, a karate studio, an insurance office and a scuba and ski shop.

Within a half-mile lie dozens of single-family homes. And in those homes are parents who are worried about what goes on behind the closed windows of Sunn Express.

"Almost everybody in the community is concerned," said Carla Woycio, a mother of three who lives on Suffolk Road in the Carroll County Trails subdivision less than a mile east of Tower Center. "We just don't know what's going on in there."

She and others in the subdivision have asked state police and the Carroll County state's attorney to find out what's happening in the spa.

"Why don't these people here let us know what they are doing there?" asked Doris Edwards, a community activist who lives on Clydesdale Road. "It seems odd that this business, a new business, would do so little advertising."

Neither State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman nor the state police would confirm the existence of any formal investigation of Sunn Express. But Mr. Hickman has, in the past two weeks, prodded the county's legislative delegation to introduce a massage parlor licensing law.

Inside the business -- one has to ring a bell inside the vestibule to gain entrance -- a customer is ushered past the reception area and down corridors lined with small rooms.

Asked about what can be done for neck and back pain, a woman who greeted the customer answered that she could perform a "finger-tip" massage or a "full-body" shampoo.

The woman, who was wearing a kimono-style dress, quoted the cost of the services as $60 for an hour or $40 for a half-hour treatment.

Frederick Baumgardner of Wheaton is listed as Sunn Express' resident agent in state corporation records. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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