Jayne Szukalowski is a small-business owner who operates several Anytime Fitness franchises in Northern Michigan.
For several months, we’ve been fighting to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. During that time, people both here in Michigan and across the country have taken a number of steps so they can do their part to help, whether they are working from home, staying indoors on the weekends, or simply wearing a mask when they leave the house.
Sadly, this has also caused a number of unintended economic consequences as small businesses everywhere struggle to see their way through to the end of this epidemic. It’s been challenging for many to stay afloat while also keeping their employees on board and preparing to reopen. Small gyms have been especially hard-hit, as a recent appeals court decision requires them to stay closed in all but a few areas.
I run a number of Anytime Fitness franchises in Michigan and, despite a strong start to the year, our momentum was suddenly halted once the state’s stay-at-home order was put into place. However, just like other small businesses, we’ve been doing everything we can to both serve our members and keep our employees on the payroll. Everyone on our team knew we had to stick together during all of this, and we have thankfully been able to take this time to expand what we can offer to our members.
While we’ve been closed, we have revisited projects to help improve our facilities and have also expanded our services to include virtual workout sessions for members. We’ve even used these virtual workouts to set up different challenges to help raise money to benefit our community with donations to the Wounded Warrior Project.
While these virtual workout offerings have been a big hit and our members have really enjoyed them, we are also ready to begin reopening in a way that will allow members to come back in while going above and beyond to meet all necessary health guidelines. Many of our members are ready to begin coming back to our gyms, and we have a plan to welcome them back safely. In fact, small gyms are uniquely positioned to stay flexible and make adjustments to suit health officials’ recommendations.
Our gyms are small, which makes it easier to follow specific health protocols that will keep our facilities sanitary. This includes regularly cleaning the gyms with medical grade cleaning equipment, following social distancing recommendations, making sure hand sanitizer is readily available, and avoiding equipment sharing. Because of our gyms’ smaller size, we can also effectively limit the number of members in the facility at a given time.
Allowing small gyms like ours to begin reopening across the entire state will provide Michiganders with the outlet they need to work on improving their physical and mental health while building their immune systems in the process. These have been a tough few months for staying active, and gyms can provide a support system and a compass for people looking to get back into shape and achieve their fitness goals.
That’s why it is vital for our state government to allow small businesses, and particularly small gyms, to reopen in a limited capacity. Reopening will allow businesses to once again focus their efforts on investing in their work and their employees. Gyms have a unique role to play in the weeks and months ahead to help our state stay healthy, and we are both ready and able to meet the challenge.
My team is working hard to prepare for our reopening so they can get back to doing what they do best: inspiring people and changing lives. Beyond our local members, we have guests from all over the country – especially during our beautiful Michigan summers – and we take a lot of pride in helping them on their fitness journeys. While we may not have as many travelers visiting us this summer, we will still be ready to help everyone we can.