Town Talk Features

Pandemic Pivots

It’s a sign of true resilience when unexpected circumstances cause a company to innovate and grow. These St. Louis businesses are responding creatively to COVID-19 challenges by trying new tactics that bolster the bottom line.

Joe Goldberg, owner of a TruFusion fitness franchise in Clayton, says the pandemic required no less than the complete relocation of his studio. But he didn’t just transfer it to another indoor space—he moved it to an unused parking garage next door.

Goldberg says the open-air space provides a safe environment for members to exercise or practice yoga in groups. “We had two choices—we could charge more and accommodate a few members indoors, or we could take things next door and serve more people,” he explains. “Raising the cost went against our principles of making fitness accessible, so we contacted the garage landlord and got a permit to occupy the top two floors.”

Next came a herculean effort to move supplies to the parking structure. “We brought over 3,500 pounds of rubber gym flooring, 1,000 feet of cords and cables, 50 bikes, weights, kettlebells and other equipment,” Goldberg says. “There are large fans to keep the air moving, audio and security systems, and sound curtains. We also have set up one-way traffic patterns and installed hand sanitizer and wipe stations, plus a floor disinfectant sprayer.” He says the move was made possible by small business grant funds and a lot of hard work from staff members.

“For now, this arrangement is working well,” Goldberg says. “It’s especially great for classes where you need to create a certain level of energy. Our members love the setup, we are keeping them at safe distances, and everyone has been understanding and cooperative. We even got a call from an FBI office in Texas, asking for advice on moving their agents’ gym to a garage.”

katie’s pizza and pasta osteria
Restaurateur Katie Collier says times like these bring out a business owner’s innate sense of creativity and flexibility. Her own pandemic solution has taken the form of new frozen pizzas, shipped to customers’ homes. Collier says her Rock Hill and Town and Country restaurants have morphed into assembly areas.

“We simply needed to find a way to stay in business while keeping the community safe,” she notes. Collier says each pie is still hand-formed and wood-fired, and there are several topping combinations to choose from, so the level of quality has remained high. She and her husband and business partner, Ted, tried shipping fresh meal kits in the past, and though that idea wasn’t successful, it did give them a knowledge base to build on.

“We bought six new freezers, put together a simple website and used packaging we had ordered for the meal kits,” Collier notes. “After a few days prototyping crusts and ingredients, we figured out what would work best. Moisture levels, stretching and firing of the crust, dough thickness—all of these things were tested carefully.” Topping combinations have included sausage and pepper arrabbiata, artichokes and black garlic, and a plain cheese option for picky palates.

Collier says the pizza idea has been so popular that she was able to thank customers by lowering the price from $17 to $12 for a limited time this summer. Over the years, she and Ted have garnered a number of business awards for their ingenuity, and the future appears bright. “This is the most instantly successful project we’ve ever launched,” Collier notes. “In the first six weeks alone, we sold more than 40,000 pizzas.”

Photo courtesy of TruFusion
Photo: Ashley Gieseking