'It’s like a family’: Roanoke gym owner thankful to reopen

During Phase Two, this gym is limited to 25 members inside at a time

ROANOKE, Va. – As businesses navigate Phase Two of reopening, many are counting their blessings for being able to survive to this point.

A Roanoke gym is welcoming back its members with a new sense of gratitude.

After more than 10 weeks of being forced to sit empty, Elite Health & Fitness Center is back in business.

“It’s a lot cleaner. It’s very clean right now,” said the gym’s owner, Duane Ellis.

During Phase Two, the gym is limited to 25 members inside at a time, conducting temperature checks before people are allowed to workout while everyone performs constant, thorough cleaning.

Ellis said the new guidelines are worth the extra work to be back on track.

“It's great because it's like a family, you know. You get used to seeing faces for 10 or 13 years and you kind of miss them,” Ellis said.

The sense of family is a sentiment his members share and one they proved during the mandatory shutdown.

“We all get along great. Everybody’s there to help each other if you’ve got a problem,” said gym member David Wingfield.

“Three months of paying the rent, that was tough,” Ellis said.

When Ellis started struggling, his members stepped in.

“It was his family business, which supports his wife and his children. This is his livelihood,” said Wingfield.

Most members chose to continue paying membership fees. Many took it a step further by pitching in to raise enough money to cover the gym’s rent for a month.

“This gym’s really special. I mean we have a lot of like great equipment, it’s well maintained, it has a great atmosphere so when you have something that unique, you want to keep it running,” said Lea Geiger, a personal trainer at the gym.

Without that support, Ellis said it probably would’ve been the end of the gym. Instead, the lights are on and the iron is pumping.

“We're going to do whatever it takes to keep our doors open to our members and to our family,” Geiger said.

Forming family out of fitness and proving hitting the weights was worth the wait.

“It meant a lot because you know that they truly have your back,” Ellis said.

The gym has had to limit its hours to ensure an employee can be there at all times. They hope to start expanding that next week.

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