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Pioneering East Harlem Yoga Studio to Close Sept. 14

By Jeff Mays | September 3, 2013 12:41pm
 Bikram Yoga East Harlem announced Monday that they would close Sept. 14, 2013 due to ongoing financial difficulties.
Bikram Yoga-East Harlem
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HARLEM — This yoga studio got stretched too thin.

The owners of Bikram Yoga-East Harlem plan to shut down the financially struggling studio Sept. 14, saying they can no longer afford to keep it open.

"We are writing to let you know that we are unfortunately unable to continue operating and maintaining Bikram Yoga East Harlem. After nearly 5 years of serving our community, we continue to be faced with issues that prevent the studio from being profitable," owner Stephanie Pope Caffey, who owns Bikram Yoga-East Harlem with her sister Jennifer Pope, wrote in an email to the studio's supporters.

"We have been pouring personal funds into the studio to keep it going for some time now. We can no longer do this," she continued.

Bikram Yoga-East Harlem opened in 2008 when there weren't many dedicated yoga studios in Harlem. As the neighborhood has gentrified, several other studios have opened their doors nearby.

The sisters grew up across the street from their East 116th Street studio in Taft Houses and said the business was the fulfillment of a dream of theirs to be able to help their community. They offered an $8 community class and special deals to introduce area residents and newcomers to the benefits of Bikram, which is a series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises that are practiced in a heated room. 

Pope Caffey has said that the studio ran into trouble in 2011 when Con Edison told the pair they owed $45,000 because their bill had been calculated incorrectly.

The sisters embarked on a fundraising campaign last year to raise $20,000 toward a total of $52,000 that was owed on the electricity bill, water bill, rent and back taxes. They received at least $11,000 in donations, but it wasn't enough.

"We have contacted teachers and fellow studio owners who we thought might be interested in buying the studio and taking over the lease, however we got no firm offers," Pope wrote in the email. "We are still open to selling it, however, we must announce that the studio will be closed as of September 14th, 2013."

The closure is another in a long line of black-owned businesses that have disappeared in the neighborhood as national retailers flock to Harlem and rent prices continue to rise.

Pope Caffey said she and her sister were sad to be closing the business.

"It is with a heavy heart that we must close, but I look forward to being able to still teach and share the yoga without the burden of ownership in the near future," she wrote.

"Jennifer and I can not thank you enough for the support you have given to Bikram Yoga East Harlem over the past 5 years."