When Jodie Kallas opened Yoga & Tea in Lynbrook in 2011, she had hundreds of hours of training and eights years of teaching under her belt, but she had no experience running her own business.
For years, the yoga instructor and 18-year Lynbrook resident had been eyeing the vacant motorcycle parts store located at 49 Atlantic Ave. Each time she was stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of Atlantic and Sunrise Highway, she would look at the empty building and imagine the possibilities.
"When I got over the fear of failing, nothing could stop me from opening this place," Kallas told Patch Thursday, as she spoke of her Atlantic Avenue yoga studio and café.
In three months, Kallas transformed the dingy cement-floored storefront into an inviting place, where adults and children could practice yoga, and then catch-up with one another while enjoying tea, smoothies and other healthy snacks. But on Sunday, she’ll have to say goodbye to it.
The demands of running a business, particularly in a weak economy, forced the mother of two to re-evaluate her life and her studio’s future in late 2012. Although business was slow in the beginning, Kallas saw a boom from January to June, but that ended when summer vacation began.
“Lynbrook becomes a ghost town in the summer,” she said. “I had never realized it … I was unprepared for that.”
During those warm summer days, the studio’s cash-flow quickly evaporated and when she stopped giving private lessons in order to devote more time to the business, the money really stopped coming in.
“By September, it became pretty obvious to me that this was not a good situation,” she says.
Superstorm Sandy didn’t help either. Although the studio lost power for five days after the storm, Kallas continued to open up, teaching classes to the few students who did show up, including some displaced from Long Beach. But once the gas shortage hit, people stopped coming.
Running both the studio and the café was also taking over Kallas’ life. In the 18 months her studio had been open, she had only taken 12 days off.
“I was working seven days a week and couldn't turn a profit,” she says. "There was no balance … I'm a mother, a wife and a person, and I like to do things, go places and take yoga classes and trainings myself."
As Kallas was pondering the fate of her business, she negotiated a deal with her landlord to rent the studio on a month-to-month basis and arranged to share the space with a yoga instructor displaced from Long Beach. But before the agreement was finalized, Kallas learned in late November that her landlord had instead offered to lease the entire property to the other teacher, who accepted.
The story doesn’t end there though. “There is a happy ending,” Kallas assures.
The situation led Kallas to connect with other yoga instructors, including two of her former students, and together, they formed a yoga co-op, which will be opening up a studio next month in ROK Health & Fitness (10 Ocean Ave.) in East Rockaway.
Unlike a traditional studio, each of the five instructors belonging to the co-op -- Flor Villazan, Kimberly Thiemann, Liz Tucker, Sasha Petukhova and Kallas – and any others who join, will pay insurance and rent space based on how many classes they wish to teach, and will reap the rewards of their individual efforts.
“There’s no one owner,” Kallas explained. “You are taking ownership for your classes, to bring people in and make people happy. From beginning to end, the teacher is the owner and that makes a big difference.”
When Ocean Avenue Yoga opens on Feb. 1, it will offer 15 classes per week at $10 a pop. (Drop-ins are welcomed and a ROK membership is not required.)
Kallas credits yoga for helping her start over again.
“If I just rolled up my mat and walked away, it would have all been for nothing,” she says. “I wanted to create something that’s all about the love, the practice and the joy without the headaches.”
She adds, “I don't feel like I failed. It was an experience, a stepping stone I had to do to get to where I am going, and it served a purpose for a lot more people than just me.”
For more information about Ocean Avenue Yoga, visit the studio's Web site.