VT Fitness Studio Bouncing Back After Pandemic
Every new year millions of Americans vow this is the year they are going to lose weight, join a gym and workout every day, and yet every year in the middle of February about 80% of Americans who made a New Year’s resolution abandoned it, according to a recent study.
However, the owners of a South Burlington based fitness studio think the year 2022 may be the exception because there is still a waitlist for their classes eight weeks into the new year.
“Traffic always picks up in the new year, but this feels different. I think it’s because we have a vaccine for COVID-19 now. After being cooped up in their homes for so long, members really seem to enjoy getting out of the house and staying out of the house,” said Deshawn Thomas, who along with his wife Marla own Queen City Yoga & Fitness.
The waitlist and foot traffic are a welcome relief because at the height of the pandemic Queen City Yoga & Fitness had lost 150 of its members after spending four years building a robust and loyal membership.
Queen City Yoga & Fitness, a black-owned and woman-owned small business, opened its doors in 2016. It specializes in yoga and high-intensity interval training. Both licensed trainers, Marla has 20 years’ experience as a fitness instructor and Deshawn spent his entire life involved in sports, including football, boxing and working out.
“The first couple of years were tough. It wasn’t until 2018 that things started to pick up and by 2019 business was booming. We had like 300% growth from 2018 to 2019. We were so excited about 2020. It was going to be the year we expand the business. Then the pandemic hit,” said Marla Thomas.
Like thousands of other Vermont small businesses not deemed essential, Queen City Yoga & Fitness had to temporally close its doors, but were able to keep some of its staff on payroll due to the Paycheck Protection Program.
PPP provided small businesses forgivable loans through the Small Business Administration to prevent mass layoffs and allow employees to stay home to stop the spreading of the disease.
“When we got the PPP money we were pumped. When you own a small business, it is your livelihood. You have employees depending on you and their paycheck. On top of that you have bills to pay. Luckily, we were able to use some of the PPP to pay our rent. We were extremely relieved to get it and thankful for the program,” said Marla Thomas.
When they realized the pandemic was not going to be short term, they knew they had to change their business practices.
“It was Deshawn who knew there is no going back to January 2020 and we had to pivot. He is such a positive person, he is really the reason we didn’t lose it all,” said Marla Thomas.
Queen City Yoga implemented online classes. They recorded fitness classes and posted them online so members could watch them on-demand. They also added a variety of new classes, including meditating, breathing and even cooking.
To help with opening back up Queen City Yoga & Fitness installed a state-of-the-art HVAC system that turns air over six times per hour. Once the government permitted Queen City Yoga & Fitness was to reopen with limited capacity and socially distanced, the Thomases even devised a complex schedule where they’d email its members which classes they could attend.
After nearly two years of losing members and closing its door, Queen City Yoga & Fitness is fully open and only needs 35 members to get back to its membership level pre-pandemic.
“People seem so much more confident and comfortable coming in here than the previous two years, which is great because we offer the most powerful, accessible, fun, and effective classes you’ll find anywhere,” said Deshawn Thomas.