Cherie Hope said that when Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all gyms to close on March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic, she had to make the hardest business decision of her life — shut down and lay off all of her 65 employees at her gyms in Silver Spring and Bowie.
Hope, the owner of Silver Stars Gymnastics and Fitness Club on Pittman Drive, said it was clear as soon as her gym had to close that she couldn’t pay her employees.
“After 27 years of being in business, it was devastating for me. Some of these people have worked for me for over 20 years,” she said.
Hope said she had to lay off all 50 employees at the Silver Spring gym, and all 15 employees at Silver Stars Gymnastics in Bowie. The businesses are shut down, but she plans to reopen them later.
Additionally, Hope owns Castle Laser Tag in Gaithersburg and Bowie, both of which were forced to close. She said she had to lay off all 17 employees at the Gaithersburg location and 10 at the Bowie location. She plans to reopen both centers later, too.
Hogan’s March 16 order closed all gyms and fitness studios. Another executive order later in the week closed malls and entertainment venues.
Hogan has taken multiple measures this month to reduce crowd sizes and slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.
Hope said cash flow was low before the gym closed because it was the end of a session of classes, and families were beginning to sign up and pay for the next session. Without the money from class signups, she couldn’t pay her workers.
Hope said she offered some of her employees financial support, but most filed unemployment claims. As of Thursday, more than 4,300 people in Montgomery County had filed unemployment claims.
The gym’s closing, she said, has been particularly devastating to children who take classes there.
“I have one kid who is an elite trampolinist and was hopeful for the Olympics and all the work he’s done for all these years. It was devastating for him not to be able to go to the gym and work out,” she said. (The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021).
Hope said one of the most frustrating parts of closing her gym is the uncertainty how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, and when the economy will improve.
“The hardest thing for me is that any time I’ve ever been in a situation, hard work always got me out of it. I’d see the problem and plan to fix the problem,” she said. “The lack of control is not for me. I want to know what I have to do and I want to know what it takes. But there’s nothing I can do, and that’s just deflating.”
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com
For other Bethesda Beat coverage of the coronavirus, click here.
To see a timeline of major coronavirus developments in Maryland and Montgomery County, click here.