Follow-Up File: Smiling Dog Yoga finds its stride

Name: Lisa Terranova-Pittelli

Job: Co-owner

Organization: Smiling Dog Yoga and Café

What they said then: In May 2008, The Tribune reported that Smiling Dog Yoga was joining Naked Food Live Cuisine to open a vegan café at the San Luis Obispo studio.

Naked Food, then owned by Debbie Bennett and Paula Sigman, was a lunch delivery service featuring raw and organic food — nothing cooked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Owned by Steve Pittelli and Lisa Terranova-Pittelli, Smiling Dog Yoga is located on Archer Street.

The café started by serving breakfast and lunch weekdays.

What she says now: Naked Food is no longer in the picture and the café has become an integral part of Smiling Dog, said Terranova-Pittelli.

She and her husband opened the studio in early 2008 with plans to invest as much as $10,000 to bring the kitchen up to code.

“We decided to try the sublease thing,” said Terranova-Pittelli. “Going in, it was enough for me to deal with yoga and retail.”

But after about 10 months subleasing to the owners of Naked Food, the yoga studio took over the café and added a chef to the payroll.

“Because we’ve kept it small, we’ve been able to have a multi-tasking desk-café staff,” she said. “It’s taken willingness on the part of the staff to include that type of work in their duties.”

Smiling Dog has four part-time employees, plus nine contract instructors. It added a massage therapist in January, when the one subleasing that room left.

Steve Pittelli, a medical doctor, also offers acupuncture there. The bodywork and acupuncture make up about 10 percent of sales.

Retail — expanded from just yoga products to include books, videos and “eco-conscious” clothing — is about 25 percent, Terranova-Pittelli said.

The café, with mostly outdoor seating, represents less than 8 percent of revenue, but she hopes to boost that to 15 percent by 2011.

For now, she sees a greater synergy among Smiling Dog’s different services and products.

“When the café was subleased, I didn’t see a lot of crossover business,” she said. “The café clientele didn’t seem to be drawn to practicing yoga at the place. Since we’ve taken over the café, there’s more crossover. I can cross-promote.

“One thing I found with the raw food,” she added, “there’s a certain extremist viewpoint that I think can alienate rather than invite.”

Open 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, except Sundays, the café offers simple vegetarian brunch and lunch dishes. In addition to what the chef makes, it serves dishes catered by Saffron Homestyle Indian Cuisine.

“Everything sort of worked out as it should have,” Terranova-Pittelli said. “I’m not afraid to say ‘this isn’t working’ and change the course. It’s OK that there’s a bumpy ride in the beginning.”

— Raven J. Railey