Anytime Fitness

Alice Muellerweiss, owner of Anytime Fitness in Strasburg, makes a video with her dog Vou as part of the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce's Healthy @ Home campaign. 

When Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-home orders forced local gyms to shut down, Anytime Fitness owners Alice Muellerweiss and her husband Kevin Watson could have just sat back and done nothing. But they decided to put their community first.

Anytime Fitness, along with multiple other local businesses, is being highlighted on the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page in a new digital spotlight focused on advocating for healthy lifestyle choices during the coronavirus pandemic. The chamber calls it Healthy @ Home.

In more ways than one, though, it gets back to the roots of small business, Muellerweiss said.

“It would have been easy for us to come here and just stay retired, but we bought a gym so we could share it with our community. I could sit back and relax and not worry about things until we reopen but that’s not something we desire to do,” she said. “We moved here to enjoy the community, but we moved here to give back to the community.”

The Facebook posts, which continue to add business’ tips and advice via social media posts, videos and web links, were started to keep businesses that had been forced to shut down during COVID-19.

“It came along the lines with our Take Out Blitz, our Job Board, our Giving Tuesday Now campaign. We wanted to focus and highlight businesses that closed due to COVID-19 — our gyms, our yoga instructors, personal coaches and trainers,” said Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce Director Sharon Baroncelli, the mastermind behind the initiative. “They still have a lot to offer, and we can share that information and participate in activities at home.”

The highlights aren't limited to local businesses that have closed its doors, though.

The most recent post Thursday included healthy food options found at the Jon Henry General Store in New Market and the South Street Barn Market in Woodstock, financial advice via Edward Jones financial adviser Crystal Hollar, cleaning tips and services provided by Westfall Cleaning Services and workout and nutrition tips from Mullerweiss and Anytime Fitness.

“Even though we’re all working from home, it might be more stressful right now,” Baroncelli said. “But this can be an avenue to finding tips to help us find healthy habits, healthy finances or healthy homes.”

Mullerweiss said her gym shut down in late March and they worked to apply for loans and financial support, but then she quickly turned her focus to working through the gym’s corporate company to offer online trainings and provide videos of workouts provided by Coach Care Connect.

Then she was contacted by Baroncelli about Healthy @ Home and started making her own videos for the chamber’s Facebook page.

“I started with some short videos on eating healthy, more of the traditional side of the USDA My Plate. I just did a video where I included my dog where we make some homemade biscuits because he’s allergic and he’s training,” Mullerweiss said. “I’ve got six or more videos ready on things like nutrition, fitness, healthy things for the family, and I plan to add some recipes to that.”

Finding new ways to showcase local business is a top priority for business owners and chamber members on a regular basis, but it’s been heightened in the midst of COVID-19.

Local chambers have been even more active on social media with the hope that local residents will beef up any type of support for businesses either struggling or that are providing new options to provide their services.

“I don’t sleep at night,” Baroncelli said. “I’m so concerned about our businesses and keeping them open and finding different models of promoting them, their visibility and that shop local, support local.”

Muellerweiss said though her business isn't collecting a profit right now, she’s still been working long hours to both promote her business as well as a sense of community.

She added that she and her husband have been active in the community since initially retiring to Strasburg a few years ago. Those efforts intensified when they joined the Shenandoah chamber after the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce closed down earlier this year.

“I’m just leveraging my knowledge and things I love doing to help our community,” she said. “There is a lot happening across our county. And I can come in and help and provide good ideas across the board. For me personally, it’s a good community gesture and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com