ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The coronavirus pandemic has turned Central Florida's growing economy into a tumultuous one over the past few months, leaving many small businesses struggling  —  including gyms. Others have been forced to shut down for good. 

But one small yoga studio in Winter Garden found a way not just to survive the pandemic slump, but even thrive.

What You Need To Know

  • Owners attribute their success to preparation

  • Studio offered class to Facebook group the night gyms were shut down

  • Winter Garden Yoga is owned by Brian and Karen Friedman

  • Karen says clients are "family to us"

It came down to preparation, Winter Garden Yoga co-owner Brian Friedman said. 

“So, when we got the news to close the studio, we could pivot instantly. That morning, we closed our doors. That evening, we had a class live on our Facebook group,” Friedman said. 

The small, boutique yoga studio already had its own YouTube channel and Facebook groups offering classes for clients, and interest grew from yoga practitioners looking to join in across the United States and around the world. ​

“And so because we were set up to stream live and on Facebook, all our current clients were coming in, “ co-owner Karen Friedman said. “They were watching regularly, and they said it was the one thing that kept them going because everybody was quarantined at home.”

They already had kept classes small before coronavirus impacted Florida. And now, markers clearly delineate 6-foot spaces to protect those coming in for class.

About 50 percent of the Friedmans’s clients come in-person. The others still take yoga classes with them online only.  But they are staying ahead of many other gyms and boutique fitness studios struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.

A recent study from RunRepeat found less than half of Floridians surveyed had returned to gyms. Of those surveyed, more than 50 percent already have canceled or are considering canceling gym memberships in the state.

“So we were just fortunate enough that we were prepared," Brian Friedman said. "We had a strong community, we had strong connections with our community, we had systems in place."

Friedman said he is chalking it up to part-luck, part-preparation.

The Friedmans said they feel grateful that in a year of constant closures, they have found a way to keep their small yoga studio moving forward.

“Everybody who walks through our door, they’re family to us. And that’s a huge part of why I think we made it through this,” Karen Friedman said. ​