Back in April, I posted that a building at 422 Connecticut Street was being restored and remodeled. At the time, I was aware that a yoga studio was destined to occupy the first floor commercial space. Soon after, I saw the signage applied to the windows, broadcasting that Heart Fire Yoga was on the way. Not only was a derelict building being brought back to life, the West Side would be getting another holistic business.
It turns out that a number of people were significant in getting the restoration project going. First, realtor Lauren Kostek, was the one who sold the building to Stephanie Bertsch, a yoga instructor from Rochester. Kostek is also a partner at Paradise Wine in the Five Points neighborhood. While paying a visit to the wine boutique, J-M Reed (realtor turned designer) ran into Kostek, who then connected Reed with Bertsch. That is how Reed came to be so involved with the design of the yoga studio, as well as two modern apartments – one above and one in back.
According to Reed, the building could easily have been demoed – it was in really bad shape. Apparently, the foundation had crumbled in the back, and the structure had to be raised 15 inches. The rest of the building was pretty much shot, which meant that the team had a lot of work ahead. At the same time, they were able to build out some really great stuff, with radiant heat floors, skylights, patio doors, argon gas-filled windows, etc. As the crew is wrapping up most of the renovation work, it is easy to see that this once butchered building is now a shining example of the potential of the Connecticut Street corridor.
As for Bertsch, she has an interesting story. While she hails from Rochester, she did live in Buffalo 20 years ago. She worked at Lexington Co-op at the time… when it was actually on Lexington Avenue. Eventually she made her way to Boston, Mass, before heading back home, to Rochester. All the while, her former life in Buffalo haunted her. She couldn’t get out of her head the comforting feeling that she had while she lived here – she loved this city’s sense of community, and she never found it anywhere else. That’s why she decided to move to Buffalo, to open her dream yoga studio.
When it comes to yoga, Bertsch says that she has a different take on it from the majority of instructors. Most of her classes are open to everyone. That means that there are all sorts of experience levels in each class, which she says is very open and inviting, and should not be at all intimidating. She says that a good instructor knows how to work the room. Bertsch specializes in 85 degree heated vinyasa (60 and 75 minute classes). She has also hooked up with her first local instructor, Molly Muffoletto, who will be teaching kundalini yoga on Mondays. There are also stretching and restorative classes, and gentle flow classes. She is also currently interviewing additional instructors, which means that a variety of teachings will be underway when the studio is fully operational. No matter the person’s age, skill level, and preferences, Bertsch says that she has incorporated a class for that ability.
More than anything else, Bertsch says that she wants to be open to everyone. She will even be offering scholarships to some people who are experiencing financial hardships. “It’s important to pay attention to your internal world,” says Bertsch. “A lot of people only care about what’s happening on the outside. I am creating a yoga studio where there are no excuses. Whether you can’t touch your toes, or you’re simply not familiar with yoga techniques – we’re here to help people remove the blocks that are preventing them from getting healthy.”
For 20 years, Bertsch has held her love of Buffalo in her back pocket. Now, she is not just joining the movement, she’s front and center. “Buffalo was always my favorite place,” she told me. “It feels good to be back.”