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.”
In August, we spoke to Onion River Outdoors owners Jen and Kip Roberts about how their small business has been coping during the pandemic. Onion River Outdoors is on historic Langdon Street in Downtown Montpelier and offers gear, clothing, and expert advice for all your hiking, biking, running, camping, skiing outdoor adventures.
In August we spoke with Brad Carey, new owner of The Book Garden, about how this business has been operating during the pandemic. Watch to see how you can support The Book Garden, which specializes in new and used books on nature, sustainability, gardening, spirituality, cooking, brewing, graphic novels, and more. The Book Garden also carries a selection of board games, role playing games, card games, comics and records.
Back in April, we spoke with Rick DeAngelis, executive director of Good Samaritan Haven, about how the COVID-19 crisis has affected this nonprofit. We caught up with Rick to get an update on how Good Samaritan Haven has been weathering during the pandemic.
KC: A lot has changed since we first spoke back in April. What has the evolution been like of how Good Samaritan Haven operates during the time between then and now?
Rick: It’s been constant. Almost every week, every day, I feel like something fundamentally changes.
In March, we were told there was a pandemic and needed to prepare and were then instructed by the state to move the vulnerable population out. On April 1, we were told to move everybody out of shelter locations. In the course of three weeks, we moved 75 people to various motel rooms.
May and June the most normal times we’ve had in the last nine months. We were very much focused on what will happen when the motel thing ends. There was no clear direction and lots of confusing signals. During this time we tried to lease a building with federal money and came within a hare’s breath of a deal with the VCFA (Vermont College of Fine Arts) that would have been magnificent, but that fell apart.
We got grants to reopen the shelter in July. It was very confusing about if people could stay in motels and who could go to a shelter. We fumbled our way through that and by mid-August were operating at a reduced but full capacity of 15 people at our shelter.
KC: What are your fears entering into the winter season?
Rick: What will happen to all those people living on the street come winter time? Some won’t go in; some have been banned; some won’t go into our shelter. For the last two to three months I was hunting around for an overflow sight and had pretty much given up on it. A bunch of churches said no and we struck out on other places to lease and out of nowhere, more or less, Christ Church said we could use the parish hall. It will be an overflow shelter for up to 10 people.
KC:How can people support Good Samaritan Haven right now?
We’re saying no to donations of food and materials because of the pandemic. Monetary donations are great.
We have a good team here. In some ways it has reassured me about people’s humanity and compassion for each other because really, when I think about it, people are trying to help us.
In another interview for our Coping With Covid series with Montpelier Alive, we interviewed Zutano Outlet owner, Sylvia Thompson, who purchased the store late last year. She talks to us about the challenges of running a retail businesses during a pandemic.
Back in April, we spoke with Amy LePage of Emerge Yoga. She talked to us about how her business was handling the COVID-19 crisis. We caught up with seven months later to get an update.
KC: A lot has changed since we first spoke back in April. What has the evolution been like of how Emerge operates during the last seven months?
Amy: Emerge has continued to offer live Zoom group classes and individual sessions. There’s a chance now for folks who live outside of the Central Vermont area to participate in this new format. Emerge is again seeing private clients in person one day a week.
KC: What precautions are you taking to keep clients, yourself and the community safe?
Amy: My group classes and some private client sessions are all online, live via Zoom. This allows folks to safely partake in class from the comfort of their own home. When I do see clients privately, I give them the choice of in person or via Zoom. If we meet in person all recommended precautions, and more, are followed: Masks, Covid symptom questionnaire and Covid contact tracing form, temperature taken, thorough – thorough – thorough cleaning and disinfecting, HEPA air filter, one practitioner in the office with their clients at a time to keep traffic flow low.
KC: What are your fears entering into the winter season?
Amy: Well, deeper isolation is a concern I hold for folks, along with longer hours of darkness and the potential for a lot less movement opportunities – and how chronic stress, tension, anxiety impacts people’s health and wellbeing. In turn, how that impacts families and communities. Personally, I do hold fear around the question of if my business can sustain itself. I’m thinking creatively about how to rebuild. I’ll be launching Your Birth Journey soon which provides classes and coaching for birthers and their support person for: preparing to conceive, pregnancy and birth preparation/education, postpartum and adjusting to parenthood.
I’ll also be offering Movement for Life coaching – with a focus on why movement matters and education that enables folks to be proactive about and take ownership of their own health and wellbeing through functional movement, understanding stress responses in the body’s nervous system and mindful movement that unwinds deeply held patterns that restrict moving, breathing and being free in one’s body.
KC: How can people support Emerge right now?
Sign up for a live Zoom class. If you have worked with me before and found it helpful – tell others through Front Porch Forum, word of mouth, social media. Gift individual sessions, either live or via Zoom, to family and friends in or outside of Vermont.
Over the summer, we teamed up with Montpelier Alive to highlight Downtown Montpelier businesses and talk about the particular challenges they may be facing during the COVID-19 crisis and how they’ve been adapting. Here we highlight MobiTech – a mobile device and computer repair service.
Back in April, when we were all in the first throws of pandemic lockdown, we got the chance to speak with Jeremy Ayers of Jeremy Ayers Pottery and 18 Elm. We lost this interview in the shuffle of everything going on and are just now getting around to posting it … seven months later. We asked Jeremy to send us an update of what’s been going on since then, which you can find below the interview.
What is the status of your rental properties? Have you stuck to long-term tenants or were you able to figure out a way to do short-term rentals again?
Jeremy: We have shifted to from short-term to long-term rentals in both our apartments. We decided it was better to take 2020 off.
Are people able to visit your studio/shop in person? If so, when? Is it by appointment only?
Jeremy: My studio and shop are open Monday – Saturday, 12-5pm. Distancing is possible in my space!
Do you have any favorite pottery pieces you’ve created lately? If so, can you provide links we can share?
Jeremy: I have a series of Urns that I have been making during Covid. Some are on display at the BCA Center in BTV through January. You can find them linked here.
This holiday season I’m launching Mug Club 2021 in which customers can purchase a subscription for a one-of-a kind mug delivered monthly—the perfect holiday gift! You can join Mug Club with a 3 month, 6 month or 12 month subscription. Prices and details at jeremyayerspottery.com/mugclub.
How has the new school year been going for you and your family?
The school year has been a challenge. I had two boys going to elementary school two days a week on separate days. For about six weeks I had one of my children in the studio with me almost every day. It was….a lot, but we survived! They’re in school four days now. I’m getting much more work done 😉
We got a chance to chat with North Branch Nature Center about the programs they’ve been creating during the COVID-19 crisis and how getting out in nature is one of the best things we can do for ourselves during the pandemic.