No ribbon cuttings, but new metro businesses are still opening during pandemic

KC Comeback
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The coronavirus pandemic has meant tough times for many small non-essential businesses.

But imagine trying to open a business that requires limited touching of surfaces by customers in the midst of a pandemic. That’s what one Overland Park couple just did.

The battles over gyms opening back up have been well documented. But owners of The Exercise Coach they hope their small size will actually help them attract customers.

After several months of planning, everything was just about ready for Brian Pfeffer and Patricia Myers big purchase to bring the first Kansas City area fitness center of the franchise The Exercise Coach to Overland Park.

“All the painting, all the rebuilding was done, all the equipment was here,” Pfeffer said.

But just a couple weeks before their planned grand opening the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“We realized this is going to have a significant impact on the opening of our new business. As most small business owners we started to have growing concern. We have payroll we have finances that we had to start paying.”

But unlike most small businesses, they had yet to make any revenue from the business. They were able to get a PPP loan and watched closely as state and local leaders issued new and revised guidelines.

And the first day they were able to be in business last week in Phase 1.5, The Exercise Coach opened for the first time.

“That was never a consideration to get out of the franchise. This is the future of gyms,” Myers said.

The small facility is billed as a smart fitness studio aimed at the 45 and over crowd interested in wellness.

There are only a handful of machines to clean with workouts designed to be just 20 minutes. There are no pins to pull to adjust weights. It’s all computerized hydraulics and an employee wearing a mask who is temperature checked daily helps program the right intensity for each set of reps.

“The point of that is to control the joint action to make it safe. We use a shorter range of motion, which takes the stress of your structural system, your bones, your joints, your tendons, your ligaments and we are just using muscles.” Myers said.

It wasn’t the opening they could have ever envisioned. There was no ribbon cutting, no chance to invite the community in to see what they are all about.

“We look forward to the day when we celebrate in person with ribbon cuttings and open houses with family, friends and customers in attendance to commemorate a business opening,” said Tracey Osborne Oltjen, president & CEO of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. “These are important traditional symbols of an opening, but just the tip of the iceberg of the resources we provide and the methods a business can use to tell their story.”

Osborn Oltjen said the chamber is working to help new businesses in many different ways from connecting them with suppliers, assisting with hiring staff and supplementing and highlighting their social media promotions.

The Exercise Coach owners said people have a lot of reasons to check out small businesses these days.

“We’ve seen great interest, and it’s increased day by day so we’ve been very pleased by it.”

Now one week in, they hope that growth continues at a time when the economic forecast has been glib for even established small businesses.

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