Minnesota gyms are not included in a state list of businesses reopening on June 1, and owners of Borderland fitness facilities had mixed feelings on what the future holds.
Erin Hall, who owns Evolve U Fitness with her wife, Ashley Hall, said the pair are frustrated their business isn’t seen as essential and not yet allowed to reopen.
“We have no control,” she said. “We’ve worked so hard day in and day out and one day we’re told to lock our doors. We’re unable to do what we’ve done since 2013.”
Ashley said Evolve U, located on Highway 11, isn’t a large facility and they’re able to control how many people are in each class and can require people to schedule gym time.
“Our industry is so diverse,” Ashley said. “We’re being grouped together with larger facilities. We can limit the contact and interaction people have.”
Being business owners, the gym was the Halls’ only source of income until Ashley got another job earlier this month.
“I feel so blessed I got the job,” she said of her new role as the Falls Hunger Coalition executive director. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Still, bills at home and at the gym are accumulating quickly.
“We don’t qualify for unemployment or payroll protection,” Ashley said. “We did get a loan, but we’ll have to pay that back, of course.”
The women said they are looking at their options in the coming weeks and are hoping they’ll be financially set to comeback from the closure.
“Timing is everything right now,” Ashley said. “We don’t have a lot of direction and there’s a gray area.”
And on top of everything, the Halls said they want people to be healthy.
“We don’t want to push anything that puts the health of our members and this community in jeopardy,” Erin said. “We just have to wait and see how things go.”
Across town, another local gym is also owned by a married couple.
Hailey and Erik Silvers have owned Snap Fitness for almost six years, and said while they too look forward to the day they’re able to open their doors, they don’t want to move in that direction too quickly.
The couple just last week welcomed their fourth child at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and said the experience was eye opening.
“Being around people who are very familiar with (COVID-19) made it hard to think about going back to normal right now,” Hailey said.
“We know someone who is 32 years old and thought (COVID-19) was going to kill him,” he said, adding while at Mayo, they heard another story of a couple in their 70s who experienced minimal effects of the virus. “You just don’t know how it’s going to affect you... You don’t get to choose.”
The Silvers’ personal experiences make them hesitant to push reopening too quickly.
“We want to be leaders in promoting health,” Hailey said. “We want to protect our members, our staff and our family.”
The couple said financially, being closed for more than two months has been difficult, but said when they’re allowed to reopen, they know it won’t be at 100 percent capacity.
“Some of our larger bills are able to be deferred until we open back up,” Hailey said. “As soon as we open, we’re paying bills based on previous memberships and being open at 100 percent. It gets a little nerve wracking that we might not be able to pay bills even if our doors are open because we’ll have to limit the amount of people inside.”
Regardless of how the situation plays out, the Silvers’ said they’re aware of the tough place so many people are in right now.
“We feel a person can take a negative attitude toward all of this or be hopeful, faithful and positive,” Hailey said. “We want to be on the positive side and are grateful for what we do have... I’m thinking at some point when I get through my recovery, I will look into outdoor class options.”
Kari Gansch, who owns The Workshop on Third Street, said as businesses started to slowly reopen, she was hopeful gyms would be included in the June 1 opening.
Now, with gyms not on that list, she’s unsure when she’ll be able to allow clients back into the facility.
“I miss my clients,” she said. “They’re like my family.”
Even before having to close, Gansch she was taking extra precautions to sanitize the facility and making sure clients washed their hands before class.
“I’m very stringent on my cleaning, anyway,” she said. “Making sure things are clean is not a concern for me... I know I can keep things clean and sanitized.”
Like other small fitness center owners, Gansch said she feels frustration over being grouped in the same category as larger gyms, and said she has ways to limit who comes into The Workshop and how close they are to others.
“I think we should be able to use our common sense when it comes to reopening,” she said. “It is extremely important to maintain physical health right now.”
Gansch has been getting creative both personally and professionally while The Workshop is closed. Aside from teaching herself how to play guitar, Gansch has been offering online workouts and is exploring ways to offer outdoor classes. In addition, starting June 1, she’ll offer a nutrition course through email.
“I haven’t done a lot online before and this (pandemic) is opening new avenues for me,” she said. “I’m trying to get creative and this time is allowing me to do that... This situation is building character – for everyone.”
While the owners of all three establishments want to be there for their clients through the pandemic, they all credited people who utilize their facilities.
“Our members are amazing,” Ashley said. “They are so supportive right now and always.”
The Silvers’ had similar comments.
“Our members want us to open and are excited for us to be open,” Erik said. “We know they’ll be there for us when we can safely do that.”
Gansch reiterated that she’s kept in close contact with The Workshop’s clients, even letting them check out equipment to be able to continue at-home workouts.
“I want to be able to maintain what The Workshop does at home,” she said. “I’m going to stay connected to my clients and provide value for them... We have to keep our lungs healthy and really maintain fitness right now. When there’s something that’s threatening our health, there’s nothing more important than staying fit and working out.”