SAN ANTONIO — The owner of a small dance fitness studio lost his life just over a month ago, and some of the people who knew him best are learning just how many people he had an impact on as they try to carry on his legacy.
On Saturday night: a celebration. The doors of Studio Avi, 15002 Tradesman Dr, are open once again.
"We very afraid that that this place was not going to re-open,” said Adriana Rodriguez who helped the founder find space for his studio over a year ago. “We were very afraid that his dream was going to die. It was so exciting to hear that people were willing to step up to the plate and take over such a responsibility."
The people here are celebrating not only the return of their favorite dance fitness studio, but also the life of its founder, Roger Mendoza.
"We're not him, we can't re-create who he was, but we can just use what he gave us and then grow from there."
Mendoza drowned during a July 4th weekend trip to Lake Travis with friends. His body was recovered on July 6th. He was 33 years old. Now the studio he built has small tributes to him all around.
“There's moments, I'm not going to lie, I'm like 'oh, my gosh, can I do this?' said Mendoza’s successor Mauricio, who has taken it upon himself to pick up where he left off, relaunching the business as Studio Avi SA.
He said in order to overcome that feeling, he draws on the memories of his friend.
"I channel my friend Roger. And I channel who he was, the entity he was. The ferocity that he stood for,” he said. "And that's what's helping me carry this out."
Mendoza built anon-judgmental atmosphere into his studio. Mauricio says that was inspired by Mendoza’s time performing in drag as "Averix Raven."
“That freedom, that liberty he felt, when he was Avery and took the stage, is kind of where he derived that fierce that came out,” he said. “So, when he was coming up with the studio name he said, it's got to be Project AVI, it's my better-self-project with my persona leading that force."
Mauricio said he wants to grow the studio and spread Mendoza’s inclusive spirit worldwide.
“I eventually want this so big for my friend, that we have Studio Avi New York, Studio Avi Miami, Studio Avi California, L.A,” he said. “Whatever it is. Let's get global.”