Businesses bank on stimulus assistance

Lone Tree business owners pursue options

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/19/21

When Maureen Pearman opened her Lone Tree fitness studio one year ago, she did not expect to be doing so much paperwork. Pearman, of Arapahoe County, realized a dream of hers when she opened The …

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Businesses bank on stimulus assistance

Lone Tree business owners pursue options

Posted

When Maureen Pearman opened her Lone Tree fitness studio one year ago, she did not expect to be doing so much paperwork.

Pearman, of Arapahoe County, realized a dream of hers when she opened The Barre Code, a women's fitness studio franchise, at 7600 Park Meadows Drive on Jan. 27, 2020. And, for the first six weeks, business was steady, Pearman said.

“We had just opened, so we were really ramping up in terms of membership,” Pearman said. “We weren't even where we needed to be, at that point, to successfully and comfortably pay our bills.”

The Barre Code is a fitness franchise catering to women, with classes centered around working out with ballet barres. Its primary revenue source is through membership, Pearman said.

Following the initial March stay-at-home orders, membership dropped 60%.

“It's been a difficult stretch — with reduced capacities and reduced offerings — to attract new members,” Pearman said.

Pearman is spending more time behind a desk these days, researching grants and economic stimulus programs. Digging through the internet for new wells of relief money has become like a part-time job, Pearman said.

“It's almost, in a weird way, like we're in this holding pattern right now,” Pearman said. “If we can just hold on financially until — and I don't know what it is — the vaccine gets more prevalent, capacities go up, the weather changes — I don't know exactly what that hump is going to be, but if we can just get past that, then I think we'll be able to breathe.”

Pearman is not alone in her search.

City of Lone Tree officials say they are doing what they can to find new programs to help local businesses as well. In November, the city provided more than 40 temporary “igloos” to restaurants interested in serving customers outside during the winter.

“Finding the right type of relief can be overwhelming for businesses who are already stretched thin,” said Jeff Holwell, the city's director of economic development and public affairs. “That’s where we come in. Providing them the most accurate and up-to-date information on what is currently available and helping them with the applications.”

Pearman feels confident the studio can remain afloat through the remainder of the pandemic, but fears that, until then, she will need to rely on stimulus grants.

“You wake up in the morning, open the computer and go 'where else can I find some funding?'” Pearman said, describing her new work routine.

Lone Tree business owners have until Jan. 29 to apply for the latest round of stimulus through Douglas County, made available through the COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program. The state-funded program to distribute more than $57 million in relief to local businesses passed the Colorado Legislature on Dec. 7. Eligible businesses include restaurants, bars, wineries, distilleries, breweries, caterers, movie theaters, gyms and recreation centers.

For more information, visit www.douglas.co.us/small-business-grant-program.

On Jan. 14, Pearman said she had already applied.

The Barre Code is certified under the Douglas County 5-Star program as well, a testament to the work Pearman and her staff have put in to sanitize and update the studio to meet public health protocols in the past year, Pearman said.

Indoor capacity limits have forced the Lone Tree studio to offer smaller classes sizes.

At press time, Douglas County was at level orange on the state's COVID-19 dial, but certified businesses may soon be able to operate under level yellow. For gyms, that means capacity limits would move from 25% to 50%.

But improving the studio's capacity limit may not be enough to offset the cost to staff additional classes, Pearman said.

Pearman did not have to lay off any of her 12-person staff, though no one is working the same hours they did before the pandemic, she said.

The City of Lone Tree reported nearly 2,500 jobs were saved thanks to funding assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Disaster Injury Loans (EDIL), according to a Jan. 11 news release from the city. As of Jan. 11, 27 Lone Tree businesses had received grants totaling $169,409 from the Douglas County Small Business Grant Program, the release states. Another 24 businesses received more than $2.3 million from the county's Restaurant and Event Venue Impact Grant Program.

For more information, business owners can reach Holwell at jeff.holwell@cityoflonetree.com.

Pearman compared navigating the pandemic to finishing a workout.

“In a class, we will say 'just when you say you want to quit, do it for eight more counts,' and I literally feel like that translates into what I'm doing today,” Pearman said. “Just when you're like, 'is there an end in sight?,' research for one more grant or do one more thing that will get you a little bit further.”

Pearman aspires to grow the franchise's network of studios throughout the country. The pandemic put that dream on hold, for now.

“It's day-to-day. I'm not going to close tomorrow, but additional funding will definitely help me get over that hump,” Pearman said. “I will not let the pandemic squash my dream.”

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