by Amy Rizzotto, E-RYT & Co-Owner of Yoga Heights
On a recent trip to Charleston, I did what I always do when I travel – wake up, find a yoga studio to try, take a class and chat with the teacher afterwards. As a studio owner and yoga teacher, I love seeing what yogis in other cities are up to and drawing inspiration from what they’re putting out to the world. While Community Yoga Charleston could in itself be the subject of this blog post, it’s a post-class conversation and where it led me that I want to share.
As I was talking to the teacher of a sweaty morning class, I was telling her that two former DC-dwellers – one a former yoga teacher at YHDC and one a former teacher trainee of Owner Jess Pierno – had moved to the area to open a cute little cafe.
“Harbinger?” I asked (butchering the pronunciation with my dormant Massachusetts accent).
“Oh, my goodness, I’ve heard it’s amazing. I’ve been dying to go!” the teacher replied.
Two others lingering in the studio’s communal space chimed in, emphasizing this sentiment.
My heart soared to think of a time, roughly two years ago, when Cameron (Jess’ former teacher trainee) and I sat down and she expressed her concept for a cool and welcoming cafe in Charleston, asking questions about how it went for Jess and I opening YHDC. She was so excited by the idea of it and here she had actually done it! With Greer (a former YHDC teacher with crazy good culinary skills) by her side, the dream had become a reality – they had made it so.
With Mary Oliver’s words – “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – in mind, I asked these amazing women to answer a few questions about opening The Harbinger Cafe. Here is what they had to say:
Photo credit: Charleston Magazine
Amy Rizzotto: What made you decide to take the leap and open up The Harbinger?
Cameron Neal: Honestly, it never felt like a leap. It felt like a thousand baby steps in the right direction. And the idea that there is absolutely nothing else I would rather be doing (or with anyone else for that matter) is quite a driving force. I feel like you YH ladies can relate. 🙂
Greer Gilchrist: It didn’t feel like a leap since it had been a concept Cameron and I had been talking about for so many years. By the time we were both down in Charleston everything lined up. Both of us always say this is the only thing we would do so after dedicating so much of our lives to our crafts it was just time. We were finally ready and as equipped as we would ever be!
A: What has been the greatest unforeseen challenge about starting and/or running the cafe?
C: We’ve only been open for 5 months but we both know the importance of self-care and rest to maintain our positive perspectives. The hardest thing for me always is allowing myself to take a break. I honestly love being at the cafe but I know exploration, travel and rest are important to keep me sane.
G: I’ve worked in food for so long so I was aware of a lot of the challenges we were about to encounter – I’m not surprised by how hard this industry can be. I went into this knowing we were going to work non-stop for many many months/years, and while Cameron and I can take on and accomplish so many things together the one thing we can’t beat is exhaustion. I’d say the biggest challenge is taking the time to sleep and rest and that’s not always easy to find that time.
A: What is your favorite part of the job?
C: I adore our community. Customers that came in on day 1 and have grown with us in these five short months– they take ownership over the space and the food– giving tours to their friends who come in who telling the next customer in line what they ‘absolutely must try’. It’s an incredible feeling to know you are providing such a safe space for community, connection, love.
G: Serving our community, hearing the crinkle of the paper bags as they fill with baked goods that we’ve made, walking to the back room and see it full of people talking, working and enjoying the space we’ve created.
A: How do you achieve work-life balance when your work is a manifestation of your passion?
C: Ah, the struggle continues! Greer and I consistently factor in work time outside of the cafe. We’ll talk about scheduling while we work out by Colonial Lake. We’ll meet at my Dad’s beach house. We’ll reflect on the week over dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The Harbinger is woven into the fabric of all lives. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
G: Balance is not my strong suit, but Cameron and I try to find time to go for a walk or run around Colonial Lake after we close the shop or head out to one of our favorite restaurants just to debrief or take a step out of our day to day. That’s helpful in working towards work-life balance and getting a new perspective while re-energizing.
A: Does your yoga backgrounds affect The Harbinger in any way? If so, how?
C: Most certainly. I am very externally stimulated. I process things by talking them through. I get my energy from being around others. Yoga has helped strengthen the internal processing powers, if you will. And through years and years of practice, I always made it a routine to carve out time for meditation, quiet the noise around me, move my body and clear my head.
G: Yes it does! Yoga has helped me so much with keeping things in perspective, being gracious, remembering to take deep breaths and knowing that we are capable of achieving so much. The practice of yoga has changed a lot for me but I take comfort knowing it’s a part of my daily life.
Next time you’re down in Charleston, SC The Harbinger is a MUST SEE/SIT/EAT experience. Their food is incredible, the ambiance is cozy and inviting, and it’s a place you’ll want to linger so bring a book, good conversationalist or creative work medium along for the adventure!