2020 has been an especially difficult year for businesses in Utah’s tourism and recreation industries.
The state’s recommendations for travel during COVID-19 still ask residents to limit non-essential travel as much as possible — though much of Utah is in the low-risk category.
Early concerns about COVID-19 community spread prematurely ended Utah’s ski season, with many resorts choosing to close weeks early. For a short time, national and state parks were also closed to the greater public; all have since reopened. However, resorts' season pass pre-sales for 2020-21 are already underway, and those that provide support services are hopeful visitors will return despite the added challenges of the pandemic as Americans look for domestic destinations.
“We’re growing optimistic about skiing and the winter,” said Melanie Marier, CEO and owner of Express Shuttle.
According to the Kem C. Gardner Institute, “Utah’s tourism economy has been on an upward recovery since April  in the areas of visitation, employment, and hotel occupancy.”
Express Shuttle is one business impacted by COVID-19 that has served traveling Utahns and visitors for more than 30 years — from skiers to business conference attendees. Beginning in the '90s, it was the largest airport shuttle company serving the Wasatch Front.
“By encouraging the public to share the ride and by utilizing the carpool lanes on the freeways, Express Shuttle helps take vehicles off the highways, reduce traffic congestion, pollution, and wear and tear on our roads,” according to Melanie.
During the pandemic, Express Shuttle has seen an increase in local business, rather than out-of-state, after it temporarily closed March 21-June 1 due to heavy COVID-19 disruptions in travel. The business operates with a mix of owner-operators and Express employees — totaling about 30 drivers. It’s doing approximately 15% of what it did in 2019.
“It was a lot of stress reopening, and there were ups and downs, but once we returned, our loyal customers were quick to come back and reschedule,” Melanie said.
Express Shuttle saw a good increase in reservations 'til August. The business’s biggest goal is to stay a COVID-free company. To do that, drivers are utilizing masks, gloves, sanitizer and cleaning high-touch surfaces between rides.
“I’m staying in the black until the winter comes,” Melanie said. “I was trying to make things work, and the timing of the business grant was perfect. It will allow me to give staff as many hours as possible.”
Until then, residents and visitors are being asked by the State of Utah to support locally-owned businesses — like Express Shuttle — when traveling and venturing to destinations off the beaten path.
If you’re a small business like Express Shuttle and have been impacted negatively by COVID-19, learn about the Small Business Impact Grant, and apply today at slco.org/covidgrants/.
Carrie Coppola’s first time on a mat was transformative.
She was working as a prevention specialist at Cornerstone Counseling Center and going through a difficult personal time.
"Yoga found me," Carrie said. "I was feeling broken. The first time on a mat I felt a moment of peace — that in the middle of all I was going through that I’d be alright. … I knew I needed to come back to my mat.”
From there, Carrie found healing woven with yoga for both herself and others. She took yoga teacher training, and when she moved to part time in her old job, she decided to instruct in yoga. When the studio she taught at was closing its location, multiple people told her she should open her own studio.
And, she did.
Mudita Yoga, meaning sympathetic joy, operated near 3300 South and 1550 East for nine years. During that time, Carrie’s studio offered multiple classes each day ranging from one hour long to 75 minutes, from vinyasa flow and power down to core and restore. For nearly seven years, Carrie also held a free, specialized class — Yoga for Recovery. It was specifically geared toward recovering addicts.
Reaching a point of change, Mudita was set to hold a grand opening at a newer and much larger location in Holladay on April 1, 2020. The space was designed specifically for growing the yoga studio into a wellness center, with the goal of also providing massage therapy, community nutrition, trauma-informed yoga and healing, and therapy.
“People want that healing,” Carrie said. “I’d like to think we’re unique. We’re not afraid to welcome you as you are and be a place of healing.”
Unfortunately, COVID-19 spread in March, delaying the Studio’s anticipated opening and expansion, as well as its ability to increase revenue.
Ever resilient, Carrie moved to open virtually instead. Her team of instructors taught from home via Zoom. The change even allowed former customers, who now resided out of the area, to join for daily classes.
“It was a big leap,” she said. “There hasn’t been a moment that I wish we would’ve stayed [in our old space]. I don’t know if we’ll make it, but I’m showing up every day to keep the business going.”
In August, classes are available in-person with physical distancing, and the studio is trying to provide access to yoga in as safe an environment as possible. Classes are available online as well. Still, the Center’s current schedule is at 50% of its pre-COVID services.
Carrie applied for the Small Business Impact Grant (SBIG) during Round 1 in June 2020. Her application was approved and the grant provided the business with much-needed funds to help it remain open.
“We are all connected, and the pandemic shows this. Your actions affect so much outside your realm, you can’t even imagine. I’m hopeful we can come together and create a stronger community and a stronger world.”
To learn more about Mudita - Be Joy Yoga & Wellness Center, visit bejoyyoga.com.
If you’re a small business like Mudita - Be Joy Yoga & Wellness Center and have been impacted negatively by COVID-19, learn about the Small Business Impact Grant, and apply today at slco.org/covidgrants/.