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Last Thursday, Leba Lualdi was taking every precaution she could think of to keep her yoga studio open while trying to do her part to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The co-owner of Yoga Lounge and Barre in Hudson increased cleaning cycles and shifted from organic cleaning products to Clorox and Lysol. She encouraged hand towels over hand dryers and sent emails to clients reminding them to stay home if they weren’t feel well and that they should not "power through" sickness. Her instructors stopped providing manual adjustments and small massages at the end of sessions. An iPad used to sign clients in was eliminated from the lobby.
But by Sunday, Lualdi and her co-owner Eric Lualdi realized it wasn’t enough.
"We gave it our all, but we have made the difficult decision to close until we have more information in the coming week(s). Ahimsa is the yogic practice of respect for all living things and avoidance of harm. We try our best to live by this every day. The time has come that staying open would go against this principle," the Lualdis said in an email to their community.
When the Lualdis made their decision, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had not yet mandated the closure of fitness studios and gyms. At the time, smaller studio owners were considering what was best for their clients, the community at large and their businesses, but by Monday, those decisions were made for them.
"There has been such anxiety over finding a balance between our moral responsibility to keep people safe and to provide a place of healing and relief from uncertainty; not to mention our financial responsibilities, and the impact that all of our decisions have on our teachers and staff," the Lualdis wrote.
Jack Edwards, owner of Martial Arts Ohio in Kent, had been grappling with the same dilemma. As of Monday morning, prior to the governor’s decision Edwards’ school remained open, but he said several friends already closed their martial arts schools. Last Thursday, Edwards said that he began disinfecting his school daily whereas he used to do it twice a week, was considering laying off his instructors and was attending a webinar to determine if he could provide remote instruction.
"I expect any day we’ll be shut down," he said hours before DeWine’s announcement.
Already, the current health climate has affected him financially. This weekend, Edwards had planned a tournament at Ravenna High School and already had 82 participants. Because the school was in the process of shutting down, they lost the venue and "quite a bit of money." Edwards was also in discussions with several police departments to offer training, but those talks are now on hold.
Martial Arts Ohio operates on monthly tuition, and Edwards said he’ll be asking his clients to continue paying their fees, but said that he would honor cancellations.
"We don’t know how long this will go on and we’d like people to keep paying tuition so that they have a school to come back to," Edwards said.
Now, Edwards has been forced to shut his doors. He has let all but two of his employees go, and the three of them will offer private lessons for no more than three people at a time, as well as in-home private classes through Skype.
"We’re trying to keep these guys interested in martial arts while all this is going on. We’ll see how it works," he said.
Yoga Barre and Studio is also planning to offer virtual sessions, and already posted audio guides to their websites.
Like many local business owners, the Lualdis have asked their community to help keep them afloat during this time.
"Our beautiful space comes with steep fixed costs and we operate on a slim margin. As such, this all seems insurmountable at the moment... if you are able to support our mission by buying an account credit, gift card, or class package for future use we would humbly accept and work tirelessly to provide you outstanding service as soon as possible," they wrote.
Kent State’s Warren Student Recreation and Wellness Center closed on March 10, and NEOMED’s closed its Sequoia Wellness Center in Rootstown on Monday afternoon. Kent City Schools is planning to keep its outdoor track open for public use. Likewise, Streetsboro High School’s track is still slated to be open to the public at the end of March.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.