JoyRide ends for Westport cycling studio

WESTPORT — After 11 years in business, serving more than 30,000 riders, JoyRide in Westport is set to close on September 2, according to owners Amy Hochhauser and Rhodie Lorenz.

The duo announced the closure in an email Monday afternoon.

“The last 2 1/2 years have been an incredible struggle for many people – and as small business owners in the fitness industry, we have been particularly affected,” it read. “Although we have been able to survive many pandemic related twists and turns, unfortunately our industry has not received enough government assistance and the business is simply unable to overcome the substantial losses incurred during Covid and the shutdowns of associated studios.”

Hochhauser said the company once included seven locations in Connecticut. With the closure of the Westport site, the only remaining studio will be in New Haven.

According to World Association for Health and Fitnessfrom March 2020 to January 1, 2022, 30% of fitness studios closed.

Over the past 11 years, Hochhauser said JoyRide has created an inclusive community, where people can come together in good times and bad, and they’ve even accomplished feats like raising $11 million for various charities.

Westport was JoyRide’s hometown, and both Hochhauser and Lorenz grew up in the city. Hochhauser said it made sense to have a local business and they were off to a good start.

Hochhauser said the money they make from each business is reinvested to grow and add new locations.

“It was a really exciting time to be able to spread our message of inclusivity and positivity to new communities,” she said.

The problems started with the COVID-19 pandemic, as it did for many small enterprises, said Hochhauser. But the fitness industry has been hit particularly hard, she said.

Gyms and fitness studios were forced to close for three months earlier in the pandemic. Then they had to operate with capacity restrictions for months after being allowed to open.

Before the pandemic, Hochauser said there were about 25 to 30 people per class, and sometimes as many as 45.

But capacity restrictions limited sessions to around eight people and the company struggled to turn a profit. Additionally, some of the studios were unable to reopen due to staff shortages and rent arrears that had to be paid up front, which she said was difficult to do as a small business.

The two continued to repay their SBA loan they took out to open new locations. Their goal was to keep the Westport and New Haven locations open.

But the decision they made to close some locations to focus on studios in Westport and New Haven technically put them in default, despite the fact that they had continued to make their payments since closing a business. which was secured on the loan.

“They don’t allow COVID to be a reason you owe rent or have to close locations, which in our case is really upsetting because we thought we were doing everything right,” she said. declared.

The slow-returning Westport location simply ran out of time, she said.

Now Hochhauser and Lorenz have to pay all the money, which she says is quite high.

The GYMS law, that would have extended an economic lifeline to qualifying fitness facilitiesfailed in the Senate despite the support of 52 senators.

“It’s a shame because the community needs to stay healthy and fit, and they need a place to come together,” Hochhauser said. “I think it’s going to be a very big loss for the community, I know it is. I mean, of all the customers who have written to us in the past 24 hours, it’s been heartbreaking. »

“We didn’t have deep pockets behind us to help pay for the many months of restrictions,” she said, “and then the expectation that you could just pick up where you left off, just when of reopening, while the pandemic is still ongoing, it just doesn’t make logical sense and it seems really punitive to small businesses, like ours, who were really doing a good thing for the community.

Hochhauser said she and Lorenz plan to sell the New Haven site and then partner with existing gyms to take on JoyRide as an in-house cycling brand.

“We’re just sad that we can’t continue because it really is a special place and everyone will be sorely missed,” she said.

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