Adam Stone, owner of The Little Gym in Chicago, spoke to Fox Business about how he quickly shifted his children’s gym franchise following the coronavirus outbreak.
ADAM STONE: Emotion is the way that I've been going through this entire thing because my really-- my real only hopes and aspirations for the rest of the year is that everyone's going to be healthy by the end of 2020. We've been around for 17 years. And I really want The Little Gym in Chicago to be back to being full of laughing, and happy children, and instructors that are excited to see kids grow and hit all these new milestones.
The Little Gym is a motor skill development facility for children between the ages of four months to 12 years. The primary foundation of what we do is a curriculum using gymnastics. We want to be able to see children be able to develop skills that are going to be able to take them throughout their lives.
It is definitely the place where I watch my daughter take her first steps. I've seen children hit milestones. I've seen parents watch their children take their first steps, take their first crawls. I've seen children emulate and see what another child is doing and watch them do that for the first time. I've seen my coaches develop as amazing instructors.
Pre-COVID, we finished the month of February with 978 kids, and historically, we've always been one of the highest enrolled levels within the system. We were tracking approximately 5% higher than expected for the year pre-COVID. And when we did have to close our doors, we were at 1,002 children, which we were insanely happy about because system wide at the time, enrollments were averaging approximately 378 children.
At the time that things started getting really serious with COVID, we decided to temporarily suspend classes beginning March 16, and we had a really every intention of being able to reopen on March 30. Given our local public health recommendations, that time obviously turned into a much longer hiatus than anybody expected. While our classes were postponed, parents were concerned about what were we going to do. So we really quickly pivoted as a team. We got together, and we said, hey, let's do some virtual experiences.
- All right, and then from here, grown ups, we're going to get those knees in.
ADAM STONE: Being able to see the smiles on the children's faces really energized our instructors. We started turning everything into air high fives, and we were able to see how the parents were really excited that their children were once again being able to interact with the instructors at the Little Gym. When we were able to put our Zoom classes online, we saw a real quick jump of parents wanting to jump back in. We started doing private lessons via Zoom with some of our coaches, and that ended up being real positive. So children at older ages were able to be able to get the skill growth that they were able to maintain from where they were at when we did have to close.
And we were able to reopen our doors again starting July 6. As things began to start opening up late into spring and early into summer, where we were able to come back to the gym and start seeing everybody, it was as if we were starting over, and at the same time, we were all excited. It was genuine tears coming from our faces.
I think the first time we were all at the gym together, we were all at different corners, but we were able to see everybody. And it was-- it was definitely probably the best feeling that I was able to do was be able to see our team. Given the expectations and the specifications of social distancing, we're hoping that by the end of the year, we'll hit capacity again, which is now approximately 500 children, which is 55%, 60% of what some of the enrollments compared to the time last year, based upon our much lower capacity, the social distancing rules, and reduced classes.
You know, just trying to make it throughout the rest of the year. But I'm just really happy the business is open again. And we're all going to make it through this. It's going to be one day at a time. We're going to do it, and I'm just happy to be seeing children back in our facility again, and our instructors doing what they're so good at doing.