Castle Community

Yoga Tribe Finds New Home at Castle Community

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Three years after launching her entrepreneurial vision, innovator Heather Ritenour-Sampson has found a new home for her business, Yoga Tribe. After growing her community for wellness in the former location of Cube Coworking on South Broadway, Ritenour-Sampson continues to expand her tribe alongside other like-minded creatives at the Castle Community.

Yoga Tribe, Ritenour-Sampson explained, is a yoga studio that provides a community for adults centered around health and wellness. The studio offers a variety of classes including restorative, yin, and vinyasa yoga and is open to people at all levels of yoga experience. 

“Fundamentally I want people to know that you are welcome here,” she said. “You are going to find all kinds of people [at] all ages and different physical ability levels.”

The first time Ritenour-Sampson tried yoga herself, which was incidentally from a rented VHS tape from her student union, she hated it. It wasn’t until after the birth of her first son that she got back into yoga again, this time having a much more positive experience through classes at the local YMCA. 

“It was hard. It was challenging. It confused me and frustrated me in a really good way because I needed that in my life at that time. And every single time I got done, I felt so much better,” she explained. “I feel that it started to get me more in touch with myself in ways that I hadn’t really considered before.” 

Propelled by a canceled yoga session at the YMCA, Ritenour-Sampson decided to get trained so she could teach classes herself. She enrolled in a weekend long training program to become a certified yoga instructor, eventually moving on from the “Y” to teach yoga classes with the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC).

Ritenour-Sampson said her time at RAC was incredible for mentorship and her own personal growth as a teacher. During this period, she also enrolled in an online coaching program to think about her career path. 

“What I realized from doing that process and kind of giving myself permission to dream bigger is that I was really treating my work like a hobby,” she explained. “I just had this feeling of really wanting to see what it felt like to do it on my own.” 

Ritenour-Sampson came from a very entrepreneurial family. She herself is artistic and innovative. Prior to opening Yoga Tribe, she was teaching yoga as a freelance instructor. She also does floral design and contract writing. In the end, opening up her own yoga studio, where she didn’t need to ask permission to do anything, didn’t seem like such a big leap. She felt the need to create something in the Rochester community focused on yoga that could bring people together to “laugh and cry and sweat and flow together.” Now, she has over five hundred hours of yoga teaching certification and is approved to teach others to become yoga instructors.

Three years after opening the business, Ritenour Sampson has learned multiple lessons.

“I feel like is has been baptism by fire for sure,” she laughed. “When I went into [Yoga Tribe] then and what it is now, the mission and values are similar, but the execution is different. I feel really grounded and I feel confident with what I am doing now compared to not really knowing and shooting arrows into the dark.”

A coach at her fundamental core, Ritenour-Sampson joked that “transformation is really my jam.” Connecting with people over a long period of time and witnessing their breakthrough moment remains her favorite part of yoga instructor life.

After growing Yoga Tribe for a few years on South Broadway, on April 1st Ritenour-Sampson moved her business just a few blocks north into the second floor of the Castle Community. She said the space and collective artistic community just feels right to her from a scaling standpoint. 

“For me being in a space with artists here, I feel like it’s going to help integrate who I am as a person because I am a writer, I play music and sing. I like to draw and paint and sometimes make things,” she said. “So I just feel this is more authentic to who I am. I really see yoga as a movement art and I see art as healing. So I just feel this is the right place to be.”

Castle Community Aims to Create Welcoming Location in Rochester for Art and Cultural Community

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Born from a shared passion, the Castle Community aims to provide a space for art and cultural community within the city of Rochester. Located in the historic Armory Building on Broadway Avenue, the Castle Community is open to all and aims to offer patrons a new experience each time they visit.

Castle Community’s Naura Anderson explained that the building actually came first, and then the idea for what to do with that space followed. In 2017, the City of Rochester released a Request for Proposal (RFP) application for purchase or lease of the Armory Building, piquing the interest of Rochester natives and real estate professionals Scott Hoss and Ross Henderson. Hoss and Henderson began brainstorming ideas to utilize the space to fill gaps within Rochester. The men brought Anderson into the mix to involve the art community in their concept. 

“For us, community has always been important, along with unique gathering spaces that were not necessarily event driven. A place where you can just come and hang out and feel welcome, meet up with people, meet new people, discover something new,” Anderson explained.

Anderson, who has a long background in the arts, was especially driven to create a space for artists at all different levels of their practice. 

“My big passions are community and art, and finding that place where those connect is great. That means supporting artists as well as exploring your own creativity and learning something new,” she said. “I think if we can challenge that creative side of our brain more often, we'd all be in a better place.”

In May 2017, Castle Community LLC submitted a proposal to the City of Rochester to transform the Armory Building into an art and cultural community center. The team was selected to purchase the building in July 2017. Castle Community LLC obtained ownership of the Armory in December 2017 and began the demolition process within the 104-year-old space in early 2018.

“A lot of the work was removing that inner shell to discover what was behind it. We knew that there was history in this building and we wanted to preserve and showcase as much of that as we could,” Anderson explained.

The building interior, Anderson said, was basically gutted, with drywall removed to expose brick, drop ceilings torn down, and layers of flooring ripped up to expose the original hardwood. 

The Castle team selected Benike Construction for renovation work in the space, which began in July 2018. Benike had also restored the Conley-Maass-Downs building just a few years prior.  

“[Benike] was an awesome team to work with,” Anderson said. “Working with them is what got the project completed on time, on a deadline, and in a way that surpassed our expectations for quality.” 

The Castle Community opened its doors for the first time in November 2018.

The first-floor of the Castle Community houses brand new restaurant Cameo, run by Zach & Danika Ohly. The second floor contains businesses Collective Books & Records, Latent Space, Neon Green Studio, Queen City Coffee & Juice, and Yoga Tribe. This floor also includes an open area called the Castle Commons, a community space with free public WiFi, tables and chairs, soft seating, and games, where anyone is welcome to work, play, meet, and connect completely free of charge.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit Threshold Arts, of which Anderson serves as Director, also leases space on the second and third floors of the Castle. Threshold Arts programs and activates the community and event spaces and manages the artistic programs within the Castle. Threshold Arts contains private artist studios, an event hall, gallery, community studio, artist makerspace, green room and a community darkroom. 

To activate the artist studios, Threshold runs an Artist in Residence program which provides local artists with subsidized space to make, show, and sell their art for a period of three to six months. This program was designed, Anderson explained, to ensure turn over and to open up opportunities for even more artists. Threshold is currently wrapping up their very first Artist in Residency cohort. Anderson said the contributions made by this first group, both in their art and to the community, have been incredible.

The Community Studio on the third floor is a conference-style room which is available for community groups to use for meetings at no charge. The 4,500 square foot event venue, Les Fields Hall, can accommodate up to 450 people and is used for concerts, weddings, banquets, and other community celebrations.

“It is truly a great community of tenants and partners within the building,” Anderson said. “And seeing the community that is developing within that has been wonderful. Seeing people come together, discover what we’re doing here, and return regularly is everything we dreamed of and more. We are developing relationships in the community that would not have happened without this space.” 

As the Castle Community continues to gain traction in the city, Anderson said to expect more art and additional ways to connect with the community at the space. 

“Little things are always changing around here, and our goal is for there to be something new to see or do every time you return,” she said. “We want this to be a place where people continue to come back to because they know it’s never going to be the same twice.”