A year ago, Vermonters By Choice Jen Frey and Dave Jones opened Newfane Village Yoga. Like a lot of Vermonters By Choice, Jen and Dave came to Vermont as weekenders before moving here for good.
After four urban years working in London, even their home in Boston felt cramped, and they longed for more space. They looked for a second home in western Massachusetts before a friend suggested they turn north, toward Vermont.
Brattleboro suited their need for amenities, such as restaurants, shops, and a vibrant cultural life, and they quickly found a house in the West River Valley. By May of 2010, they started spending every other weekend in Vermont with Chloe, their lab mix.
To maximize their weekends, they developed a routine where Jen would take the commuter train out of town after work on Friday afternoons, and Dave and the dog would pick her up for a quick getaway. But Sunday afternoons arrived too soon.
Dave says, “We’d drive home on Sundays feeling miserable about going back to Boston.” They started taking half days off on Mondays, in order to prolong their time in Vermont. They started coming up every weekend whenever they could. And then, Dave thought he’d lose his job in a company merger. Jen’s job had flexibility.
In anticipation of becoming a one-income household, they knew they couldn’t keep both homes. Jen remembers, “It was a no brainer: we both wanted to live in Vermont. I was even willing to wait tables, if it came to that.”
But it didn’t. Dave’s job didn’t disappear; it got better: with an internet connection, he could work from Vermont. They sold their Boston house in a flash and moved full-time to Vermont in August of 2013.
Jen had been practicing yoga since 1998, and had just finished her teacher training when she arrived here. She started teaching yoga in West Brattleboro, but soon learned just how far fifteen miles could be in the snow. She wanted to teach closer to home and found a perfect place to start in a former one-room school that’s now a community center in South Newfane.
Jen’s Saturday morning classes filled up; she started teaching on Mondays and
Thursdays. She held classes right through New Year’s Day, by which time the room became unbearably cold. But Jen recognized the need for a local yoga studio, and she found the perfect property in a former antique shop in downtown Newfane, right next to the bank.
She and Dave bought the property in May and opened for business in June of 2014, proving the truth of, “If you build it, they will come.” In the first year, the yoga studio has grown and now offers thirteen classes a week. It’s been so successful, that Jen has been able to back off to half time at her other job.
“So far, so good,” she says. “I’m actually more focused and more efficient at work, because I know that at 3 PM I get to turn into a yoga teacher.”
Dave’s passion is softball, not yoga, but he’s a full partner in running the studio. “I was freaked out at first,”
he says. “It was nice to own only one house for a few months.” But he also admits, “I fell in love with the barn.” He’s taken charge of bookkeeping and accounting; he’s also the handyman. It’s an old building with a rental apartment, so there’s always plenty to do, including improvements they’ve already made to the yoga studio itself.
As wonderful as the yoga classes are, it’s the studio that’s become a social hub for the community, helping revitalize a village that boasted two inns and several shops until the double blow of the 2008 recession and the development of the nearby ski areas into destination resorts.
Initially drawn to the sense of history and place of Vermont’s village landscapes, Jen and Dave have become an integral part of village life, both in the town where they live and at their studio in Newfane.
Choosing Vermont was a life changer. Jen says, “I can’t imagine if we hadn’t done this.” Dave adds, “We haven’t looked back.”
Deborah Lee Luskin writes profiles of Vermonters by Choice, those people who have been enriching the Green Mountain State since Ethan Allen came here from away.