‘No guidance, no help.’ Business owner says NJ didn’t make operating during the pandemic easy

During the pandemic, businesses had to appease nervous customers while sticking to state mandates concerning masks and social distancing.

Chris Keating

Mar 12, 2024, 9:34 PM

Updated 32 days ago

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Those who owned a business in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic had to transform to survive. The ones who did so successfully are still open today.
A day after the independent report on the state’s response to the pandemic was released, News 12 New Jersey checked in with a business that made it.
Ovox Gym was one of those that transformed, or as owner Stuart Rosenstein likes to say, “pivoted.” It did so after the pandemic forced the gym to shut down for seven months.
“We had to figure it all out on our own. There was no guidance, no help, no handbook. Zero communication,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein laments the fact that no one from the state of New Jersey ever reached out to him or other businesses surrounding Ovox on Route 34 to offer help. He says he figured it out on his own.
He put up plexiglass between treadmills and machines so people didn’t worry about catching the virus. He went even further putting an entire gym under a tent in the parking lot.
“The outdoor gym was 6,000 square feet…Getting a tent was not an easy task because every restaurant was buying tents,” Rosenstein said. “Even before that, we launched online classes which no one was doing. And we did it live - over 400 online - free of charge. You didn’t have to be a member.”
During the pandemic, businesses had to appease nervous customers while sticking to state mandates concerning masks and social distancing.
Many restaurants survived by selling take-out only. Some took over sidewalks to create outdoor dining. At spas, where service is face-to-face, employees were taking temperatures.
Some businesses didn’t last and closed down. There were layoffs and unemployment.
According to the independent report on New Jersey’s response to COVID-19 before the pandemic, unemployment was at 4%. By the spring of 2020, it had jumped to 15%. The employees of Ovox never lost their jobs. Rosenstein prided himself on keeping everyone paid.
But he says it wasn’t easy. He believes state officials should have put off the planned increase in the minimum wage which proved to be another hardship.
“For these businesses coming out of COVID, let's put a hold on the minimum wage increase. Let's allow everyone to get on their feet,” Rosenstein said.
Ovox membership is again strong, but bills related to the pandemic are still being paid. Gym membership is now back to normal and members tend to work out more often.
However, Rosenstein says he’d still like to hear from state officials just in case something like a global pandemic should ever take place again.


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