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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mint Yoga Studio Hopes to Inspire Community in a Beautiful, Historical Space

Tiffany Brennan is owner of Mint Yoga Studio, the Hiland Building's newest tenant. 

A new yoga studio is opening in the Hiland Building and the space, a work in progress, beautifully illustrates the practice of yoga. First there was the demolition of the old (think: typical office space). Then, drop ceilings were removed, and beautiful, 13'-high ceilings were revealed. Removal of drywall revealed brick, plaster beams and arches, and ornate crown molding—remnants of what the Hiland Building used to be: a theater.

"From what I understand, the theater was a pretty impressive space, and could hold 700 people," Dan Gorman says. Gorman, along with David Hosea, own the Hiland Building. "I can't tell you how many people I've talked to in town that have fond memories of attending movies and live performances in that space. It's an exciting project to be involved with because the building has been a part of the history of this town for so long." 


Rekow and Stull Orthodontics used this space in the Hiland Building for nearly 30 years. Photo by David Rafie.

Today Stull Orthodontics exists at 637 Highland Ave. Photo by David Rafie.

became this:

Demolition revealed the Hiland Building's old grandeur. Photo by David Rafie.

Simply removing the drop ceilings made the space seem much bigger. Photo by David Rafie.

There is so much beauty within if we just take the time to find it.

Tiffany Brennan, owner of the studio, knows this to be true. Brennan spent 15 years as a marketer first on the agency side, then on the client side. She and her husband moved from Cincinnati to Columbus for 8 years. While in Columbus Brennan worked for Limited Brands. Once they moved back to Cincinnati Brennan, at this point a mom, quit working.

Never a lover of exercise, Brennan fell in love with yoga. As her body changed, Brennan grew fascinated with the physiology of it. "Perhaps it was intellectual boredom but I thought, I love yoga, I'm doing a lot of it, I'd like to learn a bit more." So she did. Brennan completed her first teacher training in 2014 and currently she's in the middle of her second teacher training. "In April I'll have 400 hours under my belt when I'm done," Brennan says.

Tiffany Brennan practices yoga personally, daily.

After her first teacher training Brennan began to teach classes at recreation centers and studios around the city. And in September she started thinking about her own space. Enter: Fort Thomas resident Nicole Schilling.

Four years ago Brennan, who now lives in Clifton, met Schilling at the Campbell County YMCA. Schilling's triplets were taking a gymnastics class with Brennan's daughter. (Brennan was pregnant with her son at the time.) The two bonded and a friendship formed. Fast forward to last fall. While at breakfast Brennan shared her studio idea with Schilling. "Oh, thank God," Schilling said. "Finally. I have a place that you have to look into." That space? The Hiland Building.

Schilling knew about the Hiland Building through articles she had read on Fort Thomas Matters. The two pulled up the Hiland's Facebook page and Schilling messaged Gorman and Hosea while still at breakfast.

Several weeks went by and Brennan continued to look for studio space around Cincinnati with her real estate agent. Things that mattered to Brennan: location, parking accessibility and visibility. Gorman, who had been busy with other projects, contacted Brennan and invited her to take a look at the space, which was occupied by Rekow and Stull Orthodontics for nearly 30 years.

"The space seemed like it was frozen in time," Gorman says. "The x-ray equipment was still there, the stations for each patient, the wallpaper and carpeting—it was all just as it was when they left a decade ago." 

Pushing panels of the drop ceiling up and peeling back drywall, Brennan caught a glimpse of the space's former grandeur. "I think you get a feeling about places, and I knew right away," Brennan says. Gorman says Brennan was able to see the potential from the beginning. Other things she liked: the amount of natural light, the existing tenants and the fact that many people in the community could walk to attend classes. Then Brennan's marketer brain kicked in and she did a competitive analysis. What she discovered was a plethora of fitness choices but few—if any—dedicated to only yoga.

Brennan signed the lease on February 1, thinking her studio would feature some exposed brick and pretty crown moulding."I couldn't have been prepared for what we uncovered," Brennan says.

Initially Brennan thought she'd have the studio up front to take advantage of the natural light from the windows. But upon uncovering the hidden architecture of the space, Brennan flipped the entire floor plan around. "It's a beautiful backdrop to do yoga," she says.

Brennan is hopeful to be open by May—preferably, Mother's Day. In the meantime she's launched a Facebook page revealing the name—Mint Yoga Studio. "I like the duality of the word, the idea that there is both an energizing and refreshing quality to mint," Brennan says. "I felt like that really lent itself well to how I personally feel when I do yoga and what it does for us." Her tagline: Energize. Refresh. Inspire.

A website is in the works and already, employees are lined up. Schilling will be helping with the day-to-day operations of the studio. Five teachers, including Brennan, are on board: Ali Kazik, Jenny Rice, Shannon Abbott and Jack Frank.

"It will be yoga for all," Brennan says. Multi-level, the instructors are trained in vinyasa flow and alignment based yoga. Brennan is planning on about 25 classes a week in the beginning, mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends. "Not every single teacher has the same background," Brennan says. "I like the diversity." All of her teachers are and will be Yoga Alliance certified.

Brennan met her future instructors in varied ways. For example, Brennan and Abbott connected through a mutual friend, Ryan Byers, pastor of Christ Church UCC in Fort Thomas. "When he heard she was wanting to open a yoga studio in Fort Thomas he gave her my contact info," Abbott says. "I was so excited when Tiffany called me to ask about meeting to discuss teaching at this upcoming yoga studio because I had been a founding yoga teacher at another yoga studio when I lived in Indianapolis and it was an exciting experience. Having this opportunity to be a part of an evolving yoga community in Fort Thomas is an honor."

Kazik shared similar sentiments. "I'm very excited to teach at Mint," she says. "I think it'll be a beautiful place to learn, grow and create a strong sense of community through yoga." 

Brennan says everything thus far has happened very organically. "I feel really lucky," she says. "I feel like the universe has just said, Here you go, make this happen. Every time [something negative happens] I just think, Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. The answer will reveal itself. Every time I've come to a point like that I've just moved forward." 

And so far, the answers have been revealed, beautifully. And by digging deep, Brennan is not only gifting herself a studio, but our community one as well.

"Yoga is about more than just the physical postures," Abbott says. "There is also an emotional and spiritual component that tends to get left out when practicing yoga at a gym or fitness center. Because of this, most people notice that the energy in a yoga studio is very different." In addition, Abbott says the two varying styles of yoga taught will allow each instructor to bring their own unique energy to the practice and to the studio. "This unique blend of energies is sure to bring a refreshing and renewing practice for those who join us on the mat," she says.

Tiffany Brennan with her two children and husband, Dr. Timothy Brennan. 

Perhaps most important to Brennan is building a community of people both from within and outside of Fort Thomas who will feel ownership in the space. And what a space.

"I think her studio will be one of the most beautiful spaces in Northern Kentucky," Gorman says.

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