By Sarah Dowson
Recently hundreds of loyal natural-foods patrons were shocked and heartbroken to learn that Integral Yoga Natural Foods (“IYNF”), at 229 West 13th Street, had closed because of overwhelming competition in the changing retail landscape.
IYNF sold organic fruits and vegetables, prepared foods, freshly juiced vegetables, as well as flour, grains, and spices that one could purchase by the teaspoon or in much larger quantities in minimally wasteful packaging. It was New York’s only 100 percent vegetarian health food store. When it opened, 45 years ago, there were few stores selling natural foods, but now those products are widely sold by other retailers, including large chain stores, as a sign on IYNF’s door explained. The sign concluded with the phrase “Mission accomplished.”
The closing is not another story of rent gouging in the Village. The food store, a business, rented space in the building owned by Integral Yoga Institute, a nonprofit organization. “The rent that IYNF paid was far below market rate,” said Chandra/Jo Sgammato, general manager of IYI. “It was having financial problems for a few years, but so many friends, patrons, and staff valued its fair trade, locally sourced, organic foods, and healing supplements, that to close it was a wrenching decision. The products stood for the yogic principle of not harming any living being on the planet.”
The store was beloved by many in the Village, and one could get expert advice on the apothecary items from the staff and also from Manu Dawson, C.Y.N.Th., who will still be available for free mini-consultations at IYI on Wednesday afternoons from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“We want to assure everyone that the yoga institute is not closing,” Chandra said. “Nobody needs to worry. We teach yoga to people of all ages, sizes, fitness levels, and physical conditions. If you don’t think you can do yoga, come let us show you that you can,” she said. IYI is open seven days a week with competitive pricing. Scholarships are available, and there are volunteer exchange programs, as well as discounts for students and seniors.
Integral Yoga is dedicated to the practice and teachings of Integral Yoga as taught by Sri Swami Satchidananda, who came to the United States in 1966 at the invitation of the artist Peter Max and who gave the opening address at the Woodstock Festival almost fifty years ago. With a mission to facilitate an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life and to encourage interfaith harmony by respecting all the world’s faiths, Integral Yoga now has teachers and centers throughout the world.
“The closing is very sad, but now everyone knows what brown rice is, and organic food is everywhere. We all can be proud of IYNF’s success in that respect,” Chandra said.
IYI is seeking a new tenant for the store premises, a business or a nonprofit consistent with its values. Ideas from the whole community are welcome. People with suggestions may email email@example.com.