Back in March, we spoke with Sky Barsch, owner of Alpenglow Fitness, a small business based in Montpelier, Vermont about how the COVID-19 crisis has affected her boutique fitness studio. We caught up with Sky to get an update on how Alpenglow Fitness has been doing during the pandemic.
KC: A lot has changed since we first spoke back in March. What has the evolution of Alpenglow looked like during the time between then and now?
Sky: We closed the studio for three months and reopened a few weeks after the state gave the green light. During the closure, we held a variety of online classes, challenges, and offered DIY workouts so our clients and instructors could stay connected and physically active during those extremely challenging days. Once we got the OK to reopen, we did so at limited capacity. Our senior instructor Zea Sands’ husband built these ingenious plastic protective pods for each bike, that way we don’t have to wear masks while exercising. The plastic shield is like a giant version of the plastic face shield, offering a lot of protection between each client. They are AWESOME.
In addition, our clients came to support us like only the Montpelier community can. They were extremely generous and kind about not asking for refunds or make up months to cover the months we were closed. They even supported us above and beyond their membership with generous reopening donations. This was incredible because we had ongoing expenses and no revenue coming in and there were a few times when I couldn’t figure out how I could continue financially and one consultant even suggesting it might be a good time to “cut my losses.” When everyone rallied, it allowed us to continue operating, plus it gave us all an emotional boost when we really needed it.
KC: What precautions are you taking to keep customers, staff and the community safe?
Sky: In addition to the pods, we require masks on anytime anyone is not in a pod (so before and after class). We have three air purifiers running and we disinfect all equipment after each class. We are not allowing anyone from out of town to take classes right now, and if I see someone signs up with an out-of-state address, I contact them. We keep records of every class so if we need to do contact tracing we have all the information available. I’ve also done a ton of work educating myself about the racial injustice pandemic, and have been taking steps to speak up, donate to organizations doing racial justice and anti-poverty work, and to be more aware of my actions and my privilege and how this affects marginalized people. I have a long way to go and I want to do my part as a business owner and citizen to make the community safer for BIPOC and other people whose lives are at risk because of racism, sexism, and xenophobia.
KC: What are your fears entering into the winter season?
Sky: My biggest fear is anyone getting seriously sick. In connection to the studio or not. I want everyone I know and love and everyone they know and love to make it through this winter. Also I’m worried about closing again. It was difficult for us to pivot to all virtual because not everyone has a stationary bike at home, and piping music is difficult over Zoom. We rely on the precise beat of the music for effective classes and it just didn’t translate well online.
KC: How can people support Alpenglow right now? Both for those that are comfortable coming in to take a class and those who aren’t.
Sky: I think the best thing people can do to support us and other local organizations is write to their state and federal representatives and tell them that small businesses need continued support over the winter. Gyms/fitness studios are a lot like restaurants in that we were required to close for several months and operating at low capacity just doesn’t really work financially. Operating margins are thin in the best of times. We’re doing the best we can but we’re still under serious duress.
KC: How are you doing? Any fun personal updates you’d like to share?
Sky: I’m hanging in! Getting to see people in class is a huge bright spot. I finished writing a novel over the summer and while the quality is questionable, it was a lifelong goal of mine, and I’m proud I did it! I’m not sure I would have done that during “regular times.”