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Dayton Fitness Center Owner Delivers For Amazon Until Her Business Can Reopen

Femme Fatale Fitness owner Cassie Guard is making ends meet delivering packages for Amazon. She and her husband lost their jobs when Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all nonessential businesses to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Cassie Guard
Femme Fatale Fitness owner Cassie Guard is making ends meet delivering packages for Amazon. She and her husband lost their jobs when Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all nonessential businesses to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.

More details are expected soon on the state’s plan for reopening gyms, yoga studios and other fitness centers. Social distancing requirements in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio could mean dramatic service changes for many of these typically close-contact businesses. WYSO’s been checking in with small business owners over the last few weeks to see how they’re coping during the coronavirus pandemic. In this interview, we hear from a gym owner in Kettering.

After more than a decade in business, Cassie Guard’s Femme Fatale Fitness has already outlasted many other independently owned gyms. Now, Guard’s delivering packages for Amazon to pay the bills while she works on ways to welcome back clients in this new coronavirus reality.

 What follows is a transcript of Guard’s interview with WYSOs Jess Mador, edited for length and clarity:

"We were able to meet with lawyers and all kinds of stuff. And so we have a plan where we are going to approach having only 10 people in the building at a time. And we have a lot of communicating and we have training to do for anyone who wants to opt in to this new business setup.

It's definitely going to change a lot of things about how we run the business. Will it pay the bills through this whole situation? Not exactly sure. That's depending on how many people still feel safe to come out. We're trying to get it to where it's going to be like one person per room.

And the real struggle really isn't trying to figure out how we're going to operate one person per room. It's really going to be getting our hands on enough cleaning supplies so that every client feels as if they can control the cleanliness of their space. We are going to clean it and we're going to make sure people clean up after themselves. But we also know one of the biggest hurdles for us -- and if other businesses aren't thinking of this, then they're they're missing a step -- the only way someone's going to feel comfortable coming in, whether it's exercise or just shopping, is they're going to want to be able to feel like they can clean their own space, so that way they feel safe in your space. And that's going to require a lot of cleaning supplies and the shelves are still empty. So that's the main question right there for right now.

I've been in the fitness industry and I've been a certified personal trainer for over 20 years. And even though a lot of the stuff we do is an art form, we always approach all of our classes with a total body wellness mindset. We have aerial arts, we have aerial silks and we have the aerial hoop and we have pole. We also have a full spectrum of dance classes, technical and kitschy or fun. And we also have fitness classes, strengthening classes, cardio. And we also have yoga and flexibility training.

But adult recreational facilities, they don't last longer than two years, especially aerial ones, because this particular type of business model is not a great one. The overhead is extremely expensive. The payroll is extremely expensive. And the average adult does not see this as something that they need in their life. They see it's a little bit like a fad sometimes. And so customers are fleeting. I mean, I don’t want to look like a bad business person, but if I’m completely honest, this is not a business for profit. This is a business you do because you love it.

We've communicated to our customers that if any of you at any given time wants private lessons or you want to learn from a certain instructor specifically, I myself, I'm not taking a dime of that money. Normally they go through me and they're representing my studio. But right now, if anyone is getting money from our customers for private sessions, Femme Fatale is not taking any of it. It’s going straight to the instructor.

Places like ours live off of memberships. And the main reason is because this business is not a staple. You can go outside and exercise or you can also just go to Planet Fitness for $10 a month. So that's the only way that we know what money is coming in and how to plan in the future.

We are definitely waiting to see what the governor has to say week by week.

Basically, when all this went down, me and my husband both lost our jobs pretty much immediately. But we both ran to Amazon, too, you know, because we've got to eat. We have three children. So we have to make sure that we are taking care of the family. Our clients have done so much to keep this business open and going. And I just, I couldn’t sleep at night. I just knew immediately that if Femme Fatale had to shut down, I couldn't really live with myself if it was because I drained it, because I was paying my bills."

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.