WOMEN ABOUT (down) TOWN: Part 3

November 18, 2014

 Helen McLaughlin.

Totaling 23 years between them as residents of Charlottesville, Kelly Cox and Merrill Woodriff (Col, Curry '98) are perfect examples of women who call the Downtown Mall home. Co-founders and owners of bend Yoga, Kelly and Merrill approached their calling from decidedly different career paths. A licensed clinical social worker who, "on a whim," left Austin, Texas for Charlottesville, Kelly worked as a therapist in town for six years, primarily serving children in the foster care system. For two years, Merrill taught second-grade at St. Anne’s-Belfield School, having earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees from U.Va. The common denominator, of course, was their passion for bettering the lives of children and, as they soon learned, a mutual love of yoga. “Merrill and I both practiced yoga and often talked about the impact it made in our lives,” Kelly shared with me. “[In] using yoga through our respective jobs, we started to realize what an impact it can have on kids.” So, they formed bend in 2010 with the intention of providing a yoga studio in town for children and teens.

However, Merrill noted, “we had no idea that we would be crawling with babies and expectant mothers.” Prenatal classes and classes for new mothers had not been on their radar; however, both women quickly realized the need for such an offering in Charlottesville. “I am a big believer that it not only takes a village to raise kids, it takes a village to raise a family," Kelly said. "We try to offer as many supportive services to parents as we can. La Leche League and Birth Matters both use our space for monthly meetings and educational presentations; we also recently added a free weekly breastfeeding support group -- anything that can help our clients feel more confident and supported.” As their Mamaste prenatal class concluded one chilly Wednesday evening and pregnant bellies swarmed out of the studio, I met with Kelly and Merrill to learn about their suggestions for the U.Va. Woman eager to support the local economy. Helen McLaughlin: Where should she shop for a cozy sweater? Boots she'll wear well into her 30s? A small holiday gift for her best friend? Kelly Cox: BitterSweet is great for cozy sweaters; they also have a great selection of Frye boots. e.g. is a great option, as well. Rock Paper Scissors and O'Suzannah are both great locally-owned shops for gifts for your friends. Merrill Woodriff: I would definitely go to BitterSweet for both the cozy sweater and the boots; I've actually purchased both at this sweet boutique. Roxie Daisy [is another] great choice for buying gifts. [They] carry beautiful jewelry, fashionable scarves, and fun home goods.

HM: Complete this sentence: "If there's one thing worth ‘Instagramming’ on the Downtown Mall, it's __________." KC: I would say bend Yoga -- although I am a bit biased. The packed floor of The Jefferson during a great show or a snow-covered Mall are always good, too. (I love how quiet and peaceful the Mall feels after a snow storm.) MW: Families enjoying an afternoon stroll (after a yoga class at bend, of course!). HM: Your parents couldn't make it to Family Weekend, but they want to celebrate Thanksgiving here, in your college town! They've got Thursday dinner covered and a few touristy things on the itinerary for Friday, but they want you to show them around Downtown on Saturday. What can't they miss while they're here? KC: Just walking the Mall is a great activity; I am always so happy to see local people starting businesses. It's a great place to shop, as well. I look for new shops when traveling and avoid chain stores as much as I can; the Mall has several locally-owned stores. Restaurants are great --CommonwealthZocalo, [and] Red Pump are all favorites. Take them to a show at The Jefferson! MW: I would start with brunch at either Commonwealth or the Blue Grass Grill, followed by a walk around the Saturday City Market, and finally a cup of coffee from Mudhouse. Extra Credit HM: What percent Wahoo are you? (Even if honorary.) KC:  I feel like the odd man out on this one. Other than having friends who went to U.Va. or now work for the University, I am not much of a Wahoo. I really enjoy living in a university town, however, and can't imagine what Charlottesville would be like without it. MW: 100 percent!  

Read about more women business owners in this blog series:

Jacqui Bay Slusher of I Wear Blue Tights Elizabeth Steel of Darling

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