During the pandemic, GritCycle, an indoor cycling studio formerly owned by actor John Wayne’s daughter Marisa Wayne, went through the ringer. As shutdowns swept through the country, Wayne had to shut down all seven of her California locations and switch to live streamed classes, transforming the business from in-person to fully online.
“I ended up having to sell. We had just opened our seventh studio in February of 2020, and the state completely shut us down” Wayne said. “The landlords were still expecting the rent and I learned a lot about lease contracts and personal guarantees. It is tremendously stressful having 140 employees that are counting on a paycheck while we were not able to operate.”
Wayne said her business partner also became stressed with his own personal job and everything that had been going on with GritCycle during COVID-19. He pushed to sell the company, said Wayne.
“I think it was one of our greatest accomplishments was to sell this studio without even being able to operate all seven studios and find a buyer to come in and take it over. It was challenging,” said Wayne.
Since the closure of GritCycle, Wayne is trying to open a new studio in Dallas, Texas called Coast Cycle, as she aims to continue to teach cycling.
Wayne’s challenges were mirrored by workout studios all over L.A. Some figured out how to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic. Others closed down permanently or are still suffering financially.
Sarah Martz, owner of a small pilates studio called Coreology, was one of the adapters. In order to keep her paying clients and ensure they were staying consistent with their workouts, Martz built outdoor studios at three of her Los Angeles locations with reformers (a piece of equipment with springs and bands) and tents to make it as normal as possible.
“Our whole business operation was shut down and within 48 hours, I had turned one of the studios into a filming space and set up an online streaming platform for our clients, so those first 48 hours were the craziest 48 hours of our life,” said Martz. “After we went online, we ended up building outdoor studios, that meant sourcing fencing and tents, and at a certain point we were half inside half outside which went on for two years.”
Although running a fitness studio during the pandemic was difficult, Martz ended up more successful than before.
“It was really challenging at the beginning of COVID, but because we were able to stay open and so quick to pivot, we are very lucky that we got to keep our four studios open and now we are recovering stronger than ever. We had our best revenue month in the history of the business this January and it ended up being overall good now that we are on the other side,” said Martz.
Magen Benedetto opened pilates studio The Body Process in June 2021. Opening her studio later into the pandemic which meant she never had to shut down like others studios did.
Benedetto’s mentor Keary Ann Bixby’s had to shut down her studio Playa Pilates due to COVID-19 restrictions and the cost of her rent. Benedetto wanted Bixby’s clients to have a place to work out and through her new studio, kept her mentor’s community intact.
“We wanted to try to create a space that people could come to, both for instructors and for clients because movement is extremely healing so we knew we wanted to create a new space and new home for everyone” said Benedetto. “We had to open with restrictions in mind to make sure people still felt safe and healthy and stayed that way throughout. It informed a lot of our decision making as far as what was most important to us, just making a dollar and packing our classes or making sure our classes and the people in our community felt safe and could still do something for their health.”