Glowing Body Yoga and Healing Arts, 711 Irwin Street, Knoxville, September 2018
We’ve taken a break from business updates, but I’ll continue sprinkling them in. We may even cycle back for updates as the situation for small businesses continues evolving. Meanwhile, it’s important that we explore different kinds of businesses as their current and future situations may be dramatically different from one another. Today, a theater and a yoga studio.
Bonny Pendleton with Theatre Knoxville Downtown
On April 5th, we were going to celebrate our first year anniversary in our new space. We were in rehearsal for a show that was to open on April 3rd when the first “safer at home” order was issued. We had spent the previous weekend working on the set for that show. The board discussed and decided we needed to at least postpone the opening until May. As we are usually rehearsing another show while one is running, we also decided to postpone auditions for the next show until we had more information about the pandemic.
Theatre Knoxville is an all-volunteer non-profit so we don’t have any employees. Our closing has left no one unemployed. That is the positive news. We have applied for a grant from the East Tennessee Foundation (ETF) for their Neighbor to Neighbor Diaster Relief Fund, but did not receive one. We are now applying for the ETF Arts Grant which can be used for two months of rent and utilities while we have no income.
We have good landlords, and they have helped us with reduced rent for two months. After our renovation last year of a deserted building downtown for a nicer, larger theatre for Knoxville, our reserves are largely depleted. We have always operated in the black, but most non-profits work on a very slim margin. Our reserves will be depleted in short order.
These are the hardest times most of us have ever faced. People are looking at massive unemployment, unpaid bills, and no pay checks. I’ve thought a lot about how to talk about the possible demise of Knoxville’s longest running, all-volunteer, non-profit theatre in light of the serious times in which we live.
The board discussed sending a donation appeal to our extensive email list last month, but decided that it wasn’t a good time to ask for help. We are rethinking that decision now. We celebrated our 44th anniversary this year. While I know some might consider the Arts something Knoxville doesn’t need to worry about now, I think community theatre is more important now than ever.
Most people are searching for something to watch, read, binge (or eat ) while we are stuck at home. That only highlights the need we have for entertainment. Community theatre not only entertains, it brings the community together for shared experience and communion with each other. Sadly, we don’t have the option of drive-up theatre to offer. It seems to me a very real possibility that we won’t be able to weather this storm. It breaks my heart.
Kim Lomonaco of Glowing Body:
We recognized fairly early this was going to halt our operations. I work as a per diem Speech Language Pathologist at two different hospitals, and was privy to the early planning in healthcare settings around the virus. Further, my business partner, Kelly Scott, had done some travel in Asia as the virus struck there, and had a heightened sense of how the public would respond to its presence here. We closed our doors at the end of the business day March 16th. We made the decision a few days prior and wanted to give our staff first, then students, some notice. I have not expected for us to reopen before May from the get go, so it has not changed my outlook on how long we would be closed when the orders from local government have been extended.
We did not have a developed plan of how we would handle the closure, but with help from one of our lead teachers, Jennifer Beyt Coffin, we quickly made a transition to paid live-streamed and recorded classes. We achieved this with iPhones and laptops, no professional lighting or mics – and we are not in a position to invest in higher tech options for now. We had already been working on a transition to new point of sale software, and decided to include that in the change in operations, as it is web-based and makes for easier payment processing online.
Fortunately, our students have been supportive and receptive despite a steep learning curve, several failed attempts on our part, and ongoing battles with internet connection inconsistency.
We have a mix between employees and independent contractors. All our service providers (teachers and massage therapists) are independent contractors and thus, self-employed. Several teachers have alternate sources of income or are in dual income households, but some teachers and almost all our massage therapists are reliant on the income from their services. With the delay in response from the state of Tennessee in providing assistance to self-employed individuals, many of our providers have been left without income in the short term.
As for employees, we only had two that were full time with us, and we were able to retain one for now. The others have been encouraged to apply for unemployment with the assurance their job will be available when we reopen. I have approved a few unemployment applications, I am aware of one individual receiving benefits thus far. Otherwise, I am unsure who else may have found assistance.
We contacted all of our staff and service providers and asked about the bare minimum they needed to get through the next few months. Based on need, we are attempting to pay those amounts to those who requested it. We are not basing it on hours worked or on prior income, though priority is being given to those whose primary income came from us pre-shutdown. Several teachers who taught here part-time have volunteered to record classes for free, in order to add value to the online class library we have created. It has been humbling to witness their willingness to help one another.
(Survival) has been one of the things I am most concerned about. Being a small business owner, I feel empathy for all the individuals who have poured themselves into the operation of a business. It seems that even the most savvy small business owners are mostly in it as a way to live out their personal values and show integrity through their work.
There are a lot of obstacles to starting and maintaining a small business, and for anyone to have overcome that prior to the pandemic is commendable. In the present circumstances, many are being confronted with insurmountable challenges, and are having to dig deep to decide how much they can risk personally to continue. Small business owners are often incredibly resourceful and have fairly high risk tolerance, but now there is an unprecedented degree of uncertainty.
If we continue to have the participation of our students in the online offerings we have, we expect to survive. We will almost certainly accumulate debt we would not have otherwise, but revenue is just not keeping up with our bills. We are incredibly fortunate that Scott Carpenter and Peg Hambright, our landlords, have provided flexibility with our rent, and that has helped tremendously.
We applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance and have not heard anything. Our bank was slow to provide the application for the Paycheck Protection Program, and we have had hesitancy about participating since so many of our people are independent contractors, and thus, not covered by those funds. There has been a lack of clarity around how these funds must be used, and we have had concerns about not meeting the criteria for loan forgiveness. We had hoped to better understand the terms before we took the plunge. Of course, as of this week, it seems those funds have all already been allocated, so there may be no need to apply at this time.
The only help we have currently is the support of our clients and students. A few of our longtime students have actually made direct donations, for which we are grateful. We have been heartened by students’ readiness to participate in online classes – particularly in a time when people are spending even more time tethered to screens in order to work remotely, communicate with friends and family, or for entertainment.
We are typically geared toward helping people find reprieve from technology, among other stressors, so it is an adjustment to move to this web-based service. We have had a good response to online class sales initially, but I feel uncertain whether that participation will continue as strongly as time wears on. It is too hard to predict at the moment.
As it stands, I believe most of our staff and providers will return. It may be too soon to tell though, as I am sure we are all going to be making tough decisions about our living arrangements, employment, and more in the months to come.
There is a strong likelihood that students will be fearful of returning to spaces like ours which are conducive to close contact with others. We are already making plans for installing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the space, intensifying cleaning protocols, ending mat and prop rentals, retailing yoga supplies at low cost to those who want to purchase their own, and more.
I am sure there are things we cannot yet conceive of that we will have to respond to, when the day comes. We are following along with recommendations from the CDC, the state of Tennessee, and the respective professional organizations for yoga teachers and massage therapists regarding best practices. We feel lucky we have been in operation for almost 12 years and have a strong student and client base. We are hopeful that means plenty of people will be willing to return to our business when it reopens, no matter the adjustments we have had to make for the sake of public safety.
For this round I’m going to buy a $25 gift card to Union Avenue Books and another $25 gift card to the Art Market Gallery. All you have to do to enter is send an email to KnoxvilleUrbanGuy@gmail.com with the subject header “Union Avenue Books Gift Card Giveaway” or “Art Market Gallery Gift Card Giveaway,” depending on which you want to enter.
Same rules as before: “like” Knoxville Page on Facebook to help us help local businesses and donate at least $10 to something supporting COVID efforts or to someone impacted by the pandemic. Confirm in the email that you’ve done both and tell me how much and to whom you donated. Each entry requires its own donation. If you cannot donate at this time, enter anyway and just say so. It’s all good. I will give you until midnight Friday night this time around.