WEST ORANGE, NJ — After being open for nearly three months, The Yoga Ground officially commemorated the grand opening of its 96 Washington Street location in downtown West Orange over the weekend with a celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony.
In Mayor Robert Parisi’s absence, West Orange Township Council President Jerry Guarino, accompanied by Councilwoman Michelle Casalino and Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWOA) Executive Director Megan Brill, welcomed The Yoga Ground owner Kristen Brunello to the downtown corridor. In addition to wishing Brunello continued success, Guarino also reminded her that members of the township council and the DWOA will always be there to help and to promote the newly opened business.
Guarino also complimented Brunello on choosing to open her business in downtown West Orange—especially within walking distance of the Edison Lofts, which is currently about 80 percent full, he said.
“More development is coming down Main Street,” said Guarino. “It’s going to [have] more people, more foot traffic, [and] when this intersection (Main Street and Washington) gets redone in the next year and the road diet gets put in, there’ll be so much pedestrian activity. It’s going to be very good.”
Brunello thanked the members of the community who came out to support the grand opening as well as the town for making it “as easy as possible” to open a business in West Orange.
Although this is Brunello’s first undertaking as a business owner, she has previously worked at and managed different yoga studios throughout Essex County as a certified yoga instructor for almost 10 years since she was 22 years old. However, Brunello noted that she prefers to make her own decisions about the direction of her business.
“I don’t like having to do decisions that other people have made that I don’t agree with, but I have to do anyway,” she said.
As an 18-year-old college student, yoga provided a source of community that not only helped Brunello heal from an eating disorder, but also inspired her to eventually create a business model that would allow her to give back by helping others like her when she wasn’t able to afford to attend yoga classes regularly.
“Because yoga helped me so much [when] I was 18 [and] I did not have a lot of money to pay for yoga either,” she said. “I worked at the studio in exchange for being able to take classes, and [now] we’ve got that program too.”
Not only are people afforded the ability to work in exchange for classes, but Brunello has also created a Community Yoga Bank for people who cannot afford to take yoga classes regularly.
“The idea was that for people who wanted to try yoga, but couldn’t afford it—or [for people who] love yoga but can’t afford it regularly—[they] could feel like they have access,” she said. “So it’s a pay-it-forward thing.”
There are currently 35 classes that have been donated to the bank, ready to be claimed by anyone who needs them to be applied toward yoga classes and workshops held at The Yoga Ground.
“It’s ‘no questions asked’ [and] I don’t care why you can’t afford it,” said Brunello. “If you think you need yoga every day, who am I to tell you that you don’t? One of the reasons why I created the yoga bank is to make yoga as accessible as possible for people, and this is just an easy way to do it.”
Brunello also noted that she created the yoga bank as a response to the rising costs of investing in the health and wellness industry.
Since the average yoga class can cost an average of about $25 per session, Brunello said that she feels good about having so many options for people to have access to her $16 classes, which are also available in Spanish.
On the opening of her new business, Brunello noted that she loves “having a storefront in a downtown area.”
“It’s just close to everything: it’s close to 280; it’s close to Orange, South Orange, East Orange, Bloomfield, Montclair and Verona,” she said. “It’s a really centralized location, which I really like as well.”
She also mentioned that she loves watching new businesses open in the downtown area and that she cannot wait to see who will end up moving into the currently vacant spots. According to Brunello, new businesses mean new collaborations, which promotes her idea of “conscious living”—or “being mindful about the way in which you’re living,” she said.
According to Brunello, conscious living his includes being able to bring the community together through community events such as the potlucks and workshops that she hosts at The Yoga Ground.
From June through September 2019, Brunello plans to host free yoga classes at Coeur et Sol, an Urban Farm in East Orange, on the first Saturday of every month. During the third Saturday of every month, classes will be held at the West Orange Farmer’s Market, which opens on Saturday, May 18.
Also in attendance at the ribbon cutting were Brunello’s parents, Mike and Lynne, who expressed pride in their daughter’s discipline, drive, vision and commitment to serving and supporting her local community.
“To see her dream come to fruition, I feel so blessed,” said Lynne.