People all around the world are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing—keeping themselves isolated to their homes unless absolutely necessary—and businesses are closing as a preventative measure. While these tactics are slowing the proliferation of the virus, our beloved local climbing gyms and gear shops are suffering. These small businesses are an integral part of the outdoor community and need our help to survive this economic hardship.
Climbing gyms across the United States (and across the globe) have closed their doors. Many of these closures are government mandated—as of March 16, Colorado, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington and Louisiana had ordered all gyms to close. Additionally, many gyms and shops are closing voluntarily to protect their staff, patrons, and communities at large.
The Boulder Rock Club (BRC), located in Boulder, CO, wrote on their website: “While we have communicated that we would stay open until it no longer seemed like the responsible thing to do or we were no longer allowed, the staff and managers have agreed: we feel it is no longer responsible to remain open. As difficult as this is for us, we must all do our part to stop the spread of the virus.”
Even though their doors are closed, gyms and retailers still have expenses, including rent. Without revenue, these businesses can only survive for so long before they close permanently. Smaller, locally owned companies are at the greatest risk. While you may not be patronizing these places right now, Here's what you can do to help:
Climbing gyms are losing revenue from day passes and closes, and many gyms are pro-rating their membership fees. But, if you have the economic means, you can ask to continue paying the full amount for your membership. BRC, for example, is putting this money into an employee financial fund. "Your donation will go a very long way in making sure we can continue to support our employees," they wrote. If this is something you'd like to pursue, but your gym hasn't provided instructions, send them an email.
If you don't want to pay for a service that you're not using, but still want a way to support your gym, consider buying a punch pass or a gift card on their website.
Gear shops are also hurt by these closures. Many of the big name outdoor retailers are still offering online shopping and remain afloat, but your local family-owned shop will suffer without in-store patronage. If you plan to buy gear online in the near future, check if your local retailer offers online sales first.
Furthermore, an article from our sister-publication SNEWS suggests purchasing gift cards from these local shops to help support them in these trying times. SNEWS notes, “It's a small act, but for your local shop, it will make all the difference. And at some point, you will need a new jacket, a new pack, or a new water bottle.”
There will come a day when the coronavirus and social distancing are behind us and we can return to normalcy and the activities we love. When that day comes, we hope our local climbing gym and gear shops are there with us. By supporting them during this time, you can help ensure that they will be.