Intelligent Fitness in East Northport changed the way it does business in light of the coronavirus pandemic by leasing equipment and hosting virtual classes for its members. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Many business owners spent quarantine innovating, developing creative ways to reach customers largely confined to their homes.

Without adjustments, most companies would falter, according to Emil Everett, president of New Amsterdam, LLC, an East Hampton consulting firm.

“Every organization in some way, shape or form has had to adapt,” said Everett, of East Hampton.

Some of these pivots will outlast the pandemic, according to Richard Chan, director of Stony Brook University’s Center of Entrepreneurial Finance. He said businesses and consumers will grow accustomed to habits picked up during this economic disruption, and that the change is likely to be "long-lasting.''

Newsday will highlight how companies are adjusting in our new weekly column, Road to Recovery.

Weeks ahead of the state requiring businesses to close, Phil Sottile and Stacey Lerman began preparing to virtually serve members of Intelligent Fitness, their East Northport fitness studio. The married couple's business rented, and in some cases sold, cycles and other exercise equipment to members, who then work out at home while streaming videos of instructors leading classes. The studio  offers virtual group classes — which can be watched live or through a video library — as well as in-person,  one-on-one rehabilitation and coaching sessions.

Intelligent Fitness added an extra free month to the plans of existing members and froze its rates, Sottile said. He said the cost rose slightly for new members. For instance, unlimited packages were $135, but are now $150 a month for the virtual classes and equipment rental. 

Intelligent Fitness owners Phil Sottile, left, and Stacey Lerman, with...

Intelligent Fitness owners Phil Sottile, left, and Stacey Lerman, with trainer Nicholas Volpe; the East Northport gym leases equipment to members, who then work out along with streaming videos of instructors leading classes.  Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Sottile, a Melville resident who also works as an adjunct injury prevention instructor and safety educator at Con Edison, spoke with Newsday about Intelligent Fitness' evolution.

How did you handle the pandemic?

"We developed a whole rental income and program that kept the business going."

How did you hand out the equipment?

"Between March 6 and March 16 or so, our members would come to the facility. We would either help them load the equipment into their own vehicle or, in cases where they couldn't do that … I would use our own truck to drive the equipment to the members' houses. And then the people that were not members — that started to become new members after this whole thing hit — we either used our own truck to deliver or, in some cases, we would rent a U-Haul."

How much did this cost?

"Probably closer to $4,000. … It starts to include some of the repairs, some of the advanced equipment like a monitor on the bike, buying new equipment and putting that equipment on the streets." 

So members keep the equipment for the length of their membership, unless they buy it?

"Yes, usually what happens is the people rent the equipment from us as part of their membership. And then, if they decide that they're really going to stay with us long term — they feel like this is really a good fit — they end up buying the bike or piece of equipment for a nominal price. … Then they return to the lesser rate for the membership."

How many members do you have?

"People that are still accessing us on a semiregular basis? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300." 

How many joined during the pandemic?

"Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20."

What are your plans for bringing group fitness back into the studio? 

"I didn't want the club to be a guinea pig. ... We'll just correspond with some people who have opened their facilities, see what happens, and then set the facility up accordingly ... and open on or about maybe the 24th of September —  a month after the state has allowed clubs to open."

How will things be different when you do so? 

"It's based on 33% capacity, which means classes may only consist of five to seven folks. ... They're going to pick out [online] their own geographic location in the room that they most desire." 

How confident are you about the business's viability?

"100% … the fundamentals of our business are solid."

Please send suggestions for future Q&As with innovative local business owners to recovery@newsday.com. 

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