By SARA ARTHURS
The Lavender Hour is a yoga studio where community members can take classes.
It’s also a boutique selling items such as crystals, artwork, jewelry and scented soaps.
And it’s one of the ways the sisters who own it are keeping their late mother’s memory alive.
Katy Mercer, who teaches yoga at the business she owns with her sister Mariah, tells people often: “This is not a business. It’s a community.”
Katy had a “very close relationship” with her mother, Terri, as did her entire family. Katy and Terri had talked at length about the things they loved, “and someday we wanted to open up our own business … creating a space of love, a space of healing, a space where everyone’s invited.” They would “treasure hunt” and look for things they loved.
Terri was executive director of First Step Healthy Family Resource Center in Fostoria, which provides shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children as well as support, advocacy and outreach. Terri loved that work, and Katy and her siblings valued growing up with a mother who had a “strong sense of taking care of other people.” But after many years on the job, Katy said Terri was ready for a change. She was going to retire from First Step, “and we had plans,” Katy said.
Then Terri died, in March 2019, of pancreatic cancer.
At the time, Katy was teaching yoga at Harmony Yoga with Barb Matheny. Katy had first started practicing yoga at home, but later studied under Melinda Williams and “fell in love” with her style of teaching. Katy began a “very spiritual practice” with yoga.
At one point, Katy’s karate instructor had encouraged her to teach yoga to other karate students. It led to more teaching, including two classes at Williams’ former business, Open Circle. Katy came to realize teaching yoga was what she was meant to do.
After Williams closed Open Circle, Katy went to Harmony Yoga. “I have so much love in my heart” for that studio and for Matheny, she said, saying in particular that when her mother died “they were so supportive.”
And she called Williams “a magical woman that holds space. She changed my life.”
Not long after Terri’s death, Katy saw a building for sale and started thinking about it.
“My wheels get going a lot … I get that from my mom,” she said.
She called Mariah, who was on board. That building ended up not working out, but then a friend suggested the former Cracked Pot’s Tea Shop, across from the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library on Broadway. Katy peeked in the window and fell in love. She visited the site multiple times. And while she worried about walking away from Harmony Yoga, she couldn’t stop thinking about the building. She decided, “I’m going to take a leap of faith and I’m going to do this.”
The sisters developed an LLC, signed a lease and worked to get The Lavender Hour up and running.
Katy said it’s meaningful to own a business downtown. Her first job was working at Main Street Deli until she was 21. She loves that The Lavender Hour is across from the library, where Mariah once worked. “And my mom was an avid reader” who “loooved the library.”
The phrase “The Lavender Hour” refers to the moment when the sun rises or sets and the sky turns lavender. It signifies a high level of creativity and meditation, Katy said.
Katy said she loves lavender, too.
“I just love life,” she went on. “Mom loved life.”
“Love” is a word Katy used repeatedly while telling the story of The Lavender Hour.
She talked a lot about friendship, too.
Showing a reporter around The Lavender Hour, she was quick to talk about all the friends who had contributed. The mural spelling out the business’s name was created by friend Amber Kear, “and she captured my mom’s essence in it, which was important to me,” Katy said. (The mural is a recreation of Terri’s handwriting, depicting the name “The Lavender Hour.” And on the front window of the business is Terri’s actual handwriting, stenciled.)
Other friends are artists, too. One has an essential oil business represented at The Lavender Hour. “Refurbished furniture, that’s my friend Robbie.” The scented soap? The work of another friend.
There’s a box Williams gave Katy at The Lavender Hour, too. A mural of butterflies represents Terri and each of her four children.
“There’s a lot, a lot, a lot of love here,” Katy said.
She said she wants The Lavender Hour to be somewhere people can come and feel like they are loved.
Katy said it would be different if her mother was still alive. But in a way, The Lavender Hour is her daughters’ way to continue to be with her.
“I mean, she’s physically gone, but she’s here,” Katy said.
Katy starts her yoga classes with intentional work and aims to help people feel comfortable, meeting everyone “where they’re at, today.”
She said some people are nervous when they try yoga for the first time. But, she said, “it’s impossible to be bad at yoga.”
“I want everyone to feel like they are welcome to come to yoga,” she said.
This includes coming regardless of money. Katy said there were times when she was younger when a pass to yoga classes could be pricey. So The Lavender Hour has a fund where yoga students who can afford it contribute a little extra, so people who can’t afford yoga can get a pass to classes. Katy believes that’s what a community does — it takes care of each other.
“Yoga is love. Yoga heals,” Katy said. “Yoga gives you space to find quiet. And yoga’s not for the flexible, it’s for the willing.”
It’s not about whether you can get into a certain pose, she went on — it’s about taking the time to go inward.
She said the practice has been healing in her own life: “Yoga taught me how to forgive, too.”
Along with regular classes, The Lavender Hour offers special events like “Self-Care Sundays,” which include yoga class, a vegan potluck and the option to get reiki, or massage. Katy said someone can come to one of these, or all three, as they wish.
It’s possible to take a private yoga class, too. And experts have offered group classes on topics like painting, or cooking with lavender. Katy has taught a yoga class as a fundraiser for the Hancock County Humane Society — complete with the chance to interact with cats. She said she wants The Lavender Hour to be a place where, whatever someone is interested in or wants to make happen, this is the space for them.
The Lavender Hour also uses sound vibration in meditation. A singing bowl creates a vibration that “resonates in the body,” which Katy said can create relaxation and help with healing.
Williams gave Katy her first singing bowl. Another singing bowl is the last gift Katy received from her mother. She plays it a lot during classes. She said “Rosie Montague is my beloved teacher, who has expanded my understanding of sound vibration and the many new instruments we incorporate now.”
Katy said she and her sister are “very intentional” about the source of the items they sell in the boutique, including seeking out sources that “avoid a negative impact on the environment or the rights of others.”
They often work with crystals during yoga class.
“It’s really important to us to have ethically sourced crystals, because we use them as part of meditative and mindfulness practices in the studio,” Katy wrote in an email. “They can be used to focus energy and intentions on specific issues and feelings and as a focal point. Most of the crystals and stones have deep histories in many cultures around the world. And for some people, it’s just a pretty stone!”
Findlay may have a reputation for being conservative, but The Lavender Hour has found an eager audience for things like crystals. Katy said simply, “I always felt that there was an interest in this in Findlay — because I was interested in it.”
“We love our community. Growing up, I often felt like I didn’t belong here, and I think most people have felt that way,” she added in an email. “But I was lucky enough to get my first job at the Main Street Deli. It was a safe space, where all were welcome, and the first place where I really found my tribe. My mom would often tell me ‘Bloom where you are planted, Katy.’ Instead of imagining somewhere else to be, bring your gifts and your love to wherever God put you in the world. That’s why I became a yoga instructor and why we wanted to open The Lavender Hour here, another safe space in downtown Findlay. All the love and support from our beautiful community enabled us to do this, and I want to follow the example of the people who offered me love and support for so many years. We are all one, learning to love each other unconditionally, just as we are. That’s one of the great commandments, and it is powerful. We are so full of love and gratitude for our community. This city is a blessing to us.”
She said she never doubted that the boutique would be successful, because she always knew “Findlay had space for everybody.”
“I feel so blessed to be part of our community,” Katy said. “I want to sink roots deep into Findlay.”
“It’s about love. It’s about community. It’s about taking care of each other.”