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Yoga studios reopen under new ownership

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | September 1, 2021 1:00 AM

Take a deep breath: Yoga Hive has returned to the Flathead Valley.

Two of the business's three yoga studios recently reopened after the Covid-19 pandemic forced yogis to roll up their mats.

In Columbia Falls and Kalispell, Yoga Hive put a full stop to classes last spring. Founder Mollie Busby held onto the Whitefish studio, but for a time she could offer only virtual classes.

In the meantime, Busby settled into a new full-time home in Alaska, 63 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

On June 1, Michelle "Shelle" Kuntz picked up where Busby left off. Previously a yoga instructor at the three Yoga Hive locations, Kuntz decided to step into a bigger role with the company.

Kuntz became the owner of Yoga Hive Montana, renovating the Whitefish studio and relocating the Columbia Falls operation. The Kalispell Yoga Hive is still closed, but Kuntz hopes it could eventually resume classes.

"One step at a time," she said.

Kuntz took a big step forward by offering Yoga Hive classes in Columbia Falls and Whitefish this summer.

The Columbia Falls studio stopped its classes in 2020 and moved out of its Nucleus Avenue space soon afterward.

Kuntz said she looked all over town to find a new space in Columbia Falls, since Yoga Hive was the only place that offered yoga classes in the small city.

Finally, Kuntz reconnected with Lisa Levdansky, the owner of the new Iron Hawk CrossFit on Ninth Street West. The pair knew each other from earlier in their careers, when they both worked at Hammer Nutrition in Whitefish.

Levdansky's new gym provided Kuntz with a space to restart yoga classes while she continues her search for a dedicated yoga studio in Columbia Falls. Kuntz said she expects to move into a new studio this winter.

"It will probably be a natural progression," Kuntz predicted.

The Whitefish studio is still in the same place, at the corner of First Street and Baker Avenue. Inside, however, some things have changed.

Kuntz renovated the entire space, converting the entryway into a retail space that offers yoga paraphernalia, such as essential oils and locally made incense burners.

"It all has a tie to spirituality," Kuntz said.

In the studio, Kuntz changed the flooring, the lighting and the paint job, adding a massive painting of purple wings to the wall at the south end of the space.

"I just made it mine," Kuntz said.

Her style is colorful and abstract, reflecting her yoga background. Less apparent is the significant business experience Kuntz also brings to Yoga Hive: She was the chief operating officer at Hammer Nutrition in addition to four years working at Microsoft.

"It was working just in the corporate world that I relied upon yoga," she recalled.

Under her leadership, Kuntz hopes Yoga Hive will provide a "sanctuary" for people like her, who come to practice yoga from all walks of life.

"This place is safe for everybody," Kuntz said. "We're for all ages and all bodies."

Yoga Hive's locations, pricing and class schedules can be found at yogahivemontana.com.