As Emily Bufler spent the day in Root Yoga studio packing up her business and sorting through items to sell, a former customer walked in. The woman had come to pick up her things she had left behind before learning the studio would be closing.
The woman told Bufler how much the studio had meant to her. The two women cried together, wishing things could be different.
Bufler is the former owner of Root Yoga, a staple in Oxford for the past five years. After looking for a career change following the birth of her first son, she got certified to teach yoga and started working as the manager of the studio.
About a year later, she bought the studio from its previous owners.
By August 2018, Bufler was the new owner of Root Yoga and began to invest all of her energy into helping the business grow.
She was more than successful. By last January, Bufler estimated profits were up 85% from January 2019. The studio offered almost 30 classes a week and employed more than 20 instructors.
“We were just doing really well, and I just thought this was going to be our year,” Bufler said.
And then, the pandemic hit.
Taking early precautions, Root Yoga closed March 14. Within a couple days, Gov. Mike DeWine made it mandatory for certain businesses to close, including yoga studios.
During the pandemic, Root Yoga offered free online classes through Facebook and Instagram livestreams. The studio also requested donations to help maintain the business while it was unable to make any profit.
The studio remained shut down until early June. After it reopened, only two or three classes were offered a week, and attendance was extremely low. Root Yoga hosted a few free classes uptown and even partnered with a local lavender farm, Lavendel Hills, to hold a few events, but it wasn’t enough.
After months of being closed, Bufler said people were still wary about coming back to the studio even after it reopened. The studio wasn’t able to get up to the same capacity as before and had made no income since March.
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Bufler said that with no end date in sight for the pandemic, she felt as though she was just digging a financial hole for herself.
Other factors also came into play. Starting in April, Bufler’s landlord had given her a 50% break on rent, but the remaining balance would all have to be paid eventually.
Or, in other words, now.
“My landlord basically has no sympathy for what’s going on,” Bufler said. “You know, they’re not losing anything out of this, and they also got a new tenant that they’ll have starting in November.”
Buffer said on Root Yoga’s Facebook page that because a new business has signed the lease, her landlord will be releasing her from the last 11 months of her contract. He also agreed to forgive $1,800 of her deferred rent off what she owes.
Local businesses have begun to rally around Bufler, who also recently had another child, attempting to raise money to help with her expenses.
Kathryn Marsman, the manager of Kofenya, reached out to Bufler to ask if she could start a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $3,000 as of Nov 2.
Mikah Pransky, an employee at Kofenya, was asked by Marsman to put together the GoFundMe.
“Honestly, it was super successful in my opinion,” Pransky said. “I didn’t know really what I was expecting from it, so I’m just really happy with how much money we’ve raised so far. Hopefully, there’s going to be more.”
Before the studio closed, Pransky attended classes at Root Yoga for years.
“Root has been kind of a home for me since I’ve been in Oxford, and I think that it represents a different part of Miami that a lot of people don’t see,” Pranksy said. “So I think that it’s really going to hurt the community.”
Bufler said she’s extremely grateful for all of the support she’s received but still upset she got into this situation in the first place.
“It makes me angry that a local business has to do this for me,” Bufler said. “It feels like something that would be avoidable if people were just doing what they had to do to make things work right now … It just feels sad.”
Bufler’s received numerous cards and messages from former customers telling her how much the studio meant to them. One even told her that the studio closing was like “grieving the loss of a person.” As she and many Oxford residents are mourning the closure of the safe space and sense of community they felt at the studio, Bufler summed up how she feels about the situation in one word: wrong.
“That’s just kind of all there is to it. It just feels unfair and wrong.”