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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020 2 weeks ago

Fitness studio navigates reopening after coronavirus closure

The Sarasota location of The Exercise Coach has opened, closed and opened again in recent weeks, thanks to the pandemic.

It’s hard enough running a business during the pandemic — try opening a business during the coronavirus. That’s exactly what Chrystal Pruitt, owner of the Sarasota franchise of The Exercise Coach, has had to contend with.

Pruitt’s “smart fitness studio” that uses robotic exercise machines opened for five or six weeks and then closed for eight weeks due to the virus. It opened again — a grand reopening of sorts — on May 18.

“We were on a really good track,” Pruitt tells Coffee Talk. “Our opening first five or six weeks was really successful. Every day someone was signing up.” The Exercise Coach was even beating goals she’d set.

Then she had to close. But closing the physical doors didn’t mean closing down contact with clients. “We kept in touch with members during the entire time we were closed,” she says. She and her team sent home workouts videos and checked in with clients every two weeks at a minimum. They also hosted educational sessions via Facebook Live once or twice a week on health, wellness and nutrition topics. “It’s a personal business,” says Pruitt. “They have a relationship built with their trainers, and we don’t want to lose that.”

When The Exercise Coach could open again, they reached out to customers gained during the initial weeks to educate them about what the studio was doing health and safety-wise. Protocols include checking employees’ temperatures, wearing masks and disinfecting equipment. The Exercise Coach is also limiting the number of people in the studio, going beyond coronavirus requirements in terms of capacity. “I think it makes everyone feel safer,” Pruitt says, adding she’d rather have people feel safe than feel worried and not come in at all.

After educating clients, she says they received good feedback, with the majority wanting to return quickly. Pruitt, who wants to open a second studio in the area within a year, is already fielding calls from several prospects. The Exercise Coach’s boutique approach may serve her well — she’s receiving feedback that some people aren’t ready to return to big gyms, and they feel safer with boutique gyms. She says, “The return rate was really great, and now prospects really want to come in.”  

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