As Small Businesses Close, Gym Owners and Fitness Professionals Open the Door
to New Methods of Exercise and Advocacy

By Hannah Rose Williams

As the Corona Virus sweeps the nation, small businesses are being taken with it.  To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect the capacity of New Jersey’s health care system, on Sunday March 21, 2020 Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 107, directing all residents to stay at home until further notice.

As a result, 65 percent of small retailers say there’s a good chance they’ll be forced to close permanently by the end of the year, according to a Harvard Business school study.

In Morris County, this has been the case for many gym owners and personal trainers.  Matt Scarfo, small business gym owner, of Full-Time-Fitness, who ran 250 miles to show his support in the fight to raise awareness for the closure of small businesses, is an example.

“This is really a message for everybody. “Small businesses are dying, a lot of people are losing
their livelihoods and we really need to link arms, stand together and stand for each other at this time.” he said.

Scarfo has been in the fitness industry for over twenty years. He started his journey in the early 2000’s and became a certified trainer. The trainer has been committed to his fitness through body building, powerlifting, strength training, and running. However, he says, he only got into running about seven years ago.

“I was never really much of a distance runner, I started off at an eighth of a mile at time and did that for a few months. Little by little, I gradually worked my way up and now fast forward to this past February, the furthest I ever ran, was about 22 miles from Blairstown to Newton.” Scarfo said.

What started as a personal goal, Scarfo says, began to be more than that, it was for a cause he
cared about.

One day, Scarfo heard about a gathering at the Trenton War memorial for people who felt disenfranchised and shut down. The gathering was orchestrated to bring attention and awareness to those who have lost their jobs or had their businesses closed. Scarfo was inspired.

The trainer, out of spontaneity, decided to run down to the gathering in Trenton. He ran about 50 miles from Morristown to Trenton. He said, “It seemed a bit extreme. My wife thought I was crazy.”

However that wasn’t enough for Scarfo,“what can I do next?” he said. He got the idea to run to
Washington D.C..

He thought that it would bring even more attention to the fact businesses are still closed and that people are still having a lot of problems financially.

Scarfo decided to accept the challenge and run the 250 miles to D.C.

While on the rather painful and aching run, Scarfo knew he had to keep pushing. He said the run represented so much more than just his small business, but all the small businesses that are being closed.  “If I wanted to make the point, I had to follow through,” Scrafo concluded.


Like Scarfo, gyms have found ways to face the possible closing of their businesses and do something to help it.  Some gyms have decided to host virtual fitness classes.

Others have begun personal training , one client at a time.  Like Scarfo, gyms have decided to take a virtual approach to personal training and fitness.

Jesse Jeffers, a certified trainer shared that he is not the type of person to quit in the face of a challenge. He decided to discoveer new ways of personal training.  “I had to be a little bit more innovative”, says Jeffers.

Jeffers decided to turn his garage into a gym so he could record virtual fitness videos. He also
says he made the business decisions to become mobile and train his clients at their homes.

When asked, what advice would you offer to someone who’s trying to stay fit through the
pandemic, he said: “Self invest, it’s the most important thing!”

Jesse Jeffers, like Scarfo and other gym owners  throughout New Jersey have had to pivot and face the possible closing of their business.

In the meantime owners like Scarfo continue to advocate for the reopening of small businesses and gyms in New Jersey and across the nation.