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Oct 01, 2019

The Secret History of “The Yoga Studio” Space on 31st Street & Ditmars

If you’ve been to The Giving Tree yoga studio—now just “The Yoga Studio“—on 31st Street right past Ditmars Ave, you may have thought the check-in desk looked better suited for (…)

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If you’ve been to The Giving Tree yoga studio—now just “The Yoga Studio“—on 31st Street right past Ditmars Ave, you may have thought the check-in desk looked better suited for a bar than a yoga space. And, you wouldn’t be wrong…

New owner Will Melo was intrigued by all the stories previous owner shared with him, and gave us an insiders tour on all of the space’s unique “secrets.”

Now, just to clarify, most of these details have been passed on through word of mouth, and we haven’t found any news articles corroborating these stories (as of yet). Also, a press officer at the NYPD said that “no complaint reports are on file for that address” (2256 31st St.) when we inquired. But, half the fun of having “neighborhood tales” is wondering just how true they are, right??

Remains of a Much Different Business…

The previous owner told Melo that a few weeks after she opened the place in 2009, a man named Tony came by and told her he had owned it before and shared that it had been a private, members-only “soccer club,” that had purportedly been raided for illegal gambling in the early 2000s.

The bar is custom-made, and Melo is a bartender by trade so he knows how expensive this intricate addition really is. The bar itself is made of solid granite, with one piece being about 10 feet long. You have to wonder how they even were able to bring it up the stairs and through the door (considering how incredibly heavy it is too)…

Behind the bar you can see water lines, a drainage system, and an ice machine hook-up, so you can see it was once set up as a fully functioning bar. There’s also an ancient security video system embedded in the wall…now sitting next to a sign that reads “Live each day with intention.”

You can also see crowbar marks on the door from when the police allegedly raided the place.

And, there was a supposed secret “cash stash” guarded by a Buddha figure.

That entire column is hollow, while the one mirroring it on the opposite side is solid. There are some extra rooms that Melo imagines were used for money counting, with doorways (that have now been closed over) that once led directly to the stairwell.

You can read even more about the reported gambling history in Astoria—though in a different area—in this New York Times piece about Albanian gangs.

A Yoga Studio that was “Meant to Be”

But the history of the space isn’t all scandalous. After taking over earlier this year, Melo realized he used to take Tae Kwon Do classes there as a child in the ’90s.

Melo, who grew up between Jackson Heights, Florida and Brazil, says that “Astoria feels the most like home” to him, which is what led to him and his wife moving here. They had been living in Long Island City, and since Melo had been practicing yoga for 15 years, they wanted to open a yoga studio in the neighborhood. Unfortunately right as they were looking, Amazon announced their (since-rescinded) headquarters construction project, and he said prices skyrocketed overnight.

The day they were having a conversation about giving up on the dream, Melo said he saw a Facebook post about The Giving Tree needing someone to take over the space within a few days. They knew it was meant to be.

The studio has been open since early April and it has been a “seamless transition,” as they were able to keep the existing yoga community intact.

“It’s the first job I’ve had that’s been fulfilling,” Melo said, who used to work in liquor sales. “Seeing people come in and they’ve had a tough day…I want this space to be an escape. My habits and way of thinking have slowly been changing as well, as this becomes my new way of life.”

Check out The Yoga Studio’s monthly schedule here, and check out their $39 New Student Special including unlimited yoga for three weeks!

And of course, take notice of all of the existing architecture as you do your “downward dog”…now you know a few more of the neighborhood’s secrets…

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