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Local gyms facing unique challenges through COVID-19

Unlike chains, they can't reduce overhead to save costs
Posted at 10:50 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 07:54:58-04

As large gym chains — including 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym — close locations to stay afloat during COVID-19, smaller, locally owned gyms are not afforded the same luxury.

Susan Mikaelian owns two franchises of F45 Athletics in Colorado Springs. But operating her own gym was not her first professional foray.

“I was an OBGYN in Boston,” Mikaelian said. “I spent my time delivering babies.”

When her husband got a job in Colorado Springs, she spent 10 years as a stay-at-home mom before deciding it was time to take on a new challenge.

“I guess I just followed a passion. I have a passion for fitness and realized there was a need,” she said.

For the past two years, she’s built the business from the ground up on her own.

“I thought I was leaving a 24-hour job, but I basically took another one,” she said.

She learned pretty quickly that starting a small business can be rocky.

“I had heard this from people that it takes about a year, year and a half to get to the point where you can breathe when you open a small business. And that has 100% been the case,” she said.

Right when she was finally feeling comfortable, her world changed.

“And exactly when we hit that point, COVID happened,” she said. “And it’s been very difficult to have zero revenue basically for three months.”

She thought on her feet and was able to hold virtual workouts over Zoom. She was able to pay her rent and her staff, but it meant taking on debt in order to keep afloat.

“It would be a tragedy if we could not reopen our doors,” she said.

Luckily for Mikaelian, her gym’s members agree.

“I would be devastated honestly if the gym were to close,” F45 member Meredith Carroll said. She made sure to be there when F45 started up classes again last Monday.

“I really just wanted to get back into working out,” Carroll said.

Mikaelian said branching out and starting her own business was definitely a challenge.

“It was a big change for me leaving medicine,” Mikaelian said.

She said it’s because of that challenge that she will fight to keep her business alive.

“Because we’ve put our heart and souls into opening these small business, we’re making sacrifices to keep them open, whereas it might not make as much businesses sense to do that especially for the bigger chains.”