‘I really don’t want to lose it’: Shelburne gym owner fights for his business amid outbreak

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SHELBURNE – Joey Besl picks up the padlock and turns his key.

He tugs at the stainless steel chain coiled around the door to his gym, Premier Strength & Performance, and pulls it loose.

“I’ve got a lot to lose here and I really don’t want to lose it,” said the 33-year-old.

Besl spent the last eight years methodically scaling up the business, adding clients, buying equipment. He worked three jobs — training athletes, tuning skis and bouncing at a bar — to get Premier off the ground. 

It steadily outgrew his garage and a 1,000 square foot location a couple miles to the south. He had plans to expand the current 3,600 square foot facility, which he owns, later this year.

“This is a business, what you put in is what you get out — it’s the same with the service we provide,” Besl said. “But we can’t put anything into it.”

Statewide restrictions on fitness centers intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic mean his life’s work has, since March 23, been reduced to a very expensive private gym.

“I’m here every single day unless I’m out of town for something,” Besl said. “It’s been growing and growing and it’s quite literally like you get the rug pulled out.”

Besl is left to rue his clients’ missed opportunities, their championship dreams put on hold. In the meantime, while he makes sense of the federal relief options available to him, he’s pieced together odd jobs to stay busy and keep some money coming in for his trainers — anything from renovating houses and barns to landscaping. 

He likens it to bailing out a boat taking on water: Scooping out one gallon for every two rushing in will only get you so far. 

“You’re going to sink but not as fast,” Besl said. “That’s what it feels like.” 

More: ‘It got very, very scary very quickly’: Williston man talks about battle with COVID-19

Contact Austin Danforth at 651-4851 or edanforth@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @eadanforth.

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