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  • Dora

Closing West Seattle-how did we get here?

As a small business owner, I feel it is important to share our point of view, as I feel that our struggles are quite overlooked in this tech-heavy environment.

I will make it short and sweet because nobody likes to read a long sad story. And honestly, as hard as these years were, and as much as the pain is deep, these years also offered deep, meaningful friendships, connections that mean more than words, and pure joy. But yes, it also was fatiguing and demanding.

Bullet points are great organizers for thoughts, and since we all know the details from following the news, I feel that we understand each other from half sentences.

  • The longer Covid went on the more habits changed

  • Working from home caused online fatigue

  • Fear of Covid kept most people at home

  • Large corporations started producing Online replacements; they can provide cheaper memberships because they don’t have a brick-and-mortar overhead and play in large numbers. They can drive national advertisements and gain millions of users, thus able to offer services at a much lower price.

  • Teachers started offering free classes on social media – which from one perspective, is nice; from another, it kills their old brick-and-mortar workplaces.

  • Teachers also took this as an opportunity to change, branch out, and work independently. The longer covid went on, the more they felt they had to make a living independently of the studios. A totally normal reaction to circumstances, but unfortunately, with added harm to studios.

  • The fitness industry does not have a lobby representation thus, unlike the restaurant industry did not receive large sums in grants.

  • Seattle offered some small grants, not nearly enough to make a difference. With a monthly overhead of $15,000/month, receiving a total of $9000 in 2020 was nice, but not helpful. And in 2021 many of the small grants were focused on minority-owned businesses.

  • Then came 2021, and the staffing issues. Half our staff got stuck on the other side of the bridge. Many teachers moved out of Seattle and Washington State altogether. I tried and tried to hire new teachers in West Seattle, but between the bridge and the fear of yet another new variant kept new teachers home. Many of our teachers who wanted to stay on staff simply could never find time to teach; between kids with constantly changing school systems and working more hours, there was simply less time for yoga. It is astonishing I started with 28 teachers in 2019, and I was left with 3-4 regularly on schedule by 2022.

  • At this point, like all small businesses, I was 2 years into bleeding capital. So, of course, capitalism is capitalism, and teachers, franchises, and large corporate chains took the opportunity and started opening new businesses all over Seattle and Bellevue, wherever established family-owned studios gave up the struggle. That is just the unfortunate reality of business. But all this caused further staff erosion.

  • I guess it is natural; we all have dreams, and sometimes we don't dream the same dream. I always wanted to keep the yoga studio as classical yoga, a place for mindful, intellectually stimulating, traditional yoga. This is not everyone's dream. It is also not the easiest way to make a living. It is more popular to offer a good workout in a hip-fun modern environment, but that is not why I went into yoga. Some changes I just did not want to make.

  • Yes, I could have rallied and found anybody to cover classes, but we all know that Spira is Spira because of an experienced and amazing teaching team. I cannot put my name on a business that turns into a revolving door of mediocre teachers, entertainment, and meaningless exercise. Nor do I believe that Spira students would have been happy with that option.

  • Then came the homeless problem in West Seattle; we dealt with harassment and daily defecation on the window, back, and front door. That really just sealed the deal, we were already so tired.

  • Lastly, my parents are not young, and they developed many illnesses over the past few years, I have to find a way to not work every single day, including weekends.

So I hope you understand it was a tough and heartbreaking decision, one I wish I did not have to make. West Seattle has been my second home. Spira offered not just fitness but a refuge for the heart. Over the 11 years, more than 300 students participated in Spira's 200-hours Mindfulness and Yoga Journey, we had over 10,000 students cross our doors. Over 9 Thanksgivings the Spira community raised over $50,000 for various causes; from helping fellow yogis through illness and injury to helping a neighbor's business get back on its feet after a death in the family, to the Red Cross. The Spira Community made a difference in the universe; that is worthwhile to remember and celebrate.

Three couples found love and marriage, many found a healing space while battling challenges in life; from infertility to divorce, from challenges of family life to challenges in the work environment.

Spira has been "a church" for many of you, and those are not my words. I would never dare to use the word "church" if it would not be from my students' mouths. Over the 11 years, I heard it over and over again; "Spira is our church."

So I am sorry that I have to do this, it is shatteringly painful. But Spira will go on, you can find me online and in Issaquah. I will keep offering 200-hrs Mindfulness and Yoga, 40 Days of Introspection, and Nutrition classes, as well as yoga every single day.

Thank you for giving me the gift of teaching, Peace Be With You, Namaste

Dora - owner, teacher, amateur philosopher :-)

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