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Inwood Fire Leaves Yoga Instructor Determined to Rise From Ashes

By Carla Zanoni | January 6, 2012 6:59am
Marcela Xavier, 37, the owner of Bread and Yoga, which went up in flames along with eight other Inwodo businesses on Jan. 3, 2012, said she will rebuild in Inwood.
Marcela Xavier, 37, the owner of Bread and Yoga, which went up in flames along with eight other Inwodo businesses on Jan. 3, 2012, said she will rebuild in Inwood.
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Natasha Layne Brien

INWOOD — As the Inwood community continues to grieve the dramatic fire that devastated a suite of mom and pop businesses on Broadway, the owner a popular yoga studio is quickly working to get locals back on their mats.

Marcela Xavier watched her Bread and Yoga studio go up in flames on Jan. 3. She saw thick black smoke curl out of the building's windows, the flames lapping the brick and the rooftop. 

“My hope diminished once I saw the smoke and I realized the damage was going to be very bad,” she said. “Then the really big fire came and all the water.

"I then knew it was over.” 

After a sleepless night, Xavier said she spent Wednesday trying to make sense of the tragedy. 

But on Thursday, she got right to work making plans to get the studio back up and running. Although she has received many offers of help to open her studio in other neighborhoods, she plans to stay in Inwood.

“I’m committed to staying up here,” she said.

“From the very beginning when I started planning to open a studio, I was always sure I wanted to be here and contribute to the quality of life in my neighborhood and not someone else’s.”

In the two years Bread and Yoga has been in business, it has quickly become a central point for new parents, children and people wanting to learn yoga, the Brazilian martial art Capoeira, cooking and art in the community space. 

In many ways, Bread and Yoga is the culmination of Xavier’s life experience, with a pinch of her training as a yoga instructor, her love of good and healthy food — fostered during her childhood growing up in a large Italian family in Brazil — and desire to build a strong community for her family and children.  

With that vision, Xavier’s Bread and Yoga, with its large family-style table in one room and a yoga studio in the other, quickly became a central point for the community when it opened its doors in 2009. 

“When I walked into that space and did my first walk through, I knew it,” she said of the space that took her two years to find.

“That corner and that location, I couldn’t have asked for better. It’s 207 and Broadway, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Investigators believe the fire was sparked accidentally by restaurant cleaners wielding torches.

Xavier, who said her business is insured, said she is eager to get the space back up and running as close to its original location as possible. 

She said the day after the fire was a fog in many ways, but one thing she remembers was the constant beeping of her phone.

She had set up her smart phone to beep every time she received a tweet or message on Facebook, and before yesterday would receive a couple messages each day. 

But Wednesday was filled with a steady stream of chimes, something that forced her to stop, take a breath and reconnect with the dozens of people who checked in with her throughout the day. 

“The sound brought me to those messages, and it is really what kept me going [Wednesday] as I went through each one,” she said, adding that support like that has been instrumental in grounding her. 

“I was having a hard time finding the right words,” she said, “but now my mind is clear, my thoughts are more like, ‘OK, it's time to roll up our sleeves and move forward.” 

A fundraising effort for Bread and Yoga is being organized by friends and performers Karavan Kosmiko: Dana Hanchard, Jimmy Cruiz, Ruben Gonzales, and David Ellenbogen. The event will be held Friday, Jan. 6, at 9:30 p.m. at Le Chéile, 839 W. 181st St, near Cabrini Boulevard.

A community planning event to help all of the businesses located at 4945 Broadway will also be held Friday. 

A group of concerned residents called the Inwood Community Group plans to meet from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Parish House at 20 Cumming St., at the corner of Seaman Avenue.