Getting Back to Business
Tim Edwards, owner of Southside Fitness, exercised his right to re-open his South Salina Street gym with appropriate coronavirus protocols in place. Due to the pandemic, his business was closed for 161 days. | File Photo

Getting Back to Business

By Dominick Pfisterer

Southside Fitness among 52 small businesses to receive SIDA grant  

Southside Fitness is a business built on passion. When Tim Edwards opened the gym in 2016, he would come in to open in the morning, “ready to go.” 

The opening process is different now. In fact, it has drastically changed even from just a few months ago. Opening now starts at night, when all the weights are put away and patrons have left the building. Everything must be wiped down — each dumbbell, every machine and all pieces of equipment. 

Before Edwards can open his doors, he must ensure his gym is compliant with the pandemic re-opening guidelines put in place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. From disinfecting the front door to questionnaires and making sure customers get their temperatures checked, there is much more to do to start his day than simply bringing the energy and passion he’d become known for. 

“It’s a big difference right now,” Edwards said. “It’s a longer process for the members of the gym to get in, but they are handling it well.”

The gym on South Salina Street has grown in popularity since first opening, becoming a haven for healthy behaviors and a place for the community to unite. 

Unfortunately, like many small businesses across the country, Southside Fitness had to close its doors due to the global pandemic. What was once a weight-lifting symphony of thuds, grunts and yells went silent.

But in September the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) approved 52 grants to small businesses throughout the city that were substantially affected by the pandemic. Funds were provided to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) or to acquire and install fixtures to prevent the spread of the virus, according to a press release from the office of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. 

 It’s an unusual program for SIDA, which normally focuses on sparking economic development through tax breaks.

“In general, we are not allowed to make loans or grants,” said Judith DeLaney, executive director of SIDA. “What happened in this particular case, legislation was passed by the senate to allow development agencies to make grants to assist businesses in recovering from (the impact of) COVID-19.” 

The grant made it possible for these local businesses to purchase PPE supplies such as air purification filters, face masks and thermometers, all of which can now be found at Southside Fitness. 

“The costs of responding to the pandemic are especially difficult on small businesses and non-profits,” said Kathy Murphy, president of the SIDA board, in a press release. “SIDA is pleased to be able to provide assistance to these organizations, which are critical to our local economy.”

Gyms and fitness centers were cleared to reopen in New York state by Cuomo by Aug. 24 in most parts and not until Sept. 2 in New York City. The re-opening of gyms comes over a month after Cuomo announced July 17 that New York would enter Phase 4 of re-opening — the final phase of the state’s public health guidelines for non-essential businesses. This allows low-risk outdoor activities at 33 percent capacity as well as professional sports without fans. As one of the last business categories to be allowed to re-open, Southside Fitness had been closed for 161 days — first shutting its doors March 16.

State requirements to re-open included: Gyms be limited to a third of their total capacity and a requirement that patrons wear masks at all times. Additionally, the state requires air filters that help prevent airborne transmission of viral particles be used and for gyms to use sign-in forms for all visitors in order to assist with contact-tracing efforts.

“The air purifier system is something I would not be able to afford out of my own pocket,” Edwards said. “The grant came in big for that.” 

Dominick Pfisterer is a Newhouse School graduate student