After Coronavirus Closes Port Washington Gym, Owner Looks Ahead

PORT WASHINGTON, NY — Adam Cirker opened NXT GEN Fitness and Performance Training with his wife in 2013 with the goal of getting kids active in Port Washington. Seven years later, the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic forced the facility to close forever.

“The idea was to bring a great resource to our community that would turn kids on to fitness,” Cirker told Patch in a phone interview Wednesday. “Anything to get kids moving and exercising. That was the whole concept.”

NXT GEN offered programs for kids ages 5 and older, as well as for adults, including Parisi Speed School, Training For Warriors and CrossFit. The center also hosted team trainings, camps, birthday parties, group classes and more.

Through all its offerings, the emphasis for the gym was always on community-building.

“We’re not a health club over here,” Cirker said. “Everything is done in classes, so it’s more about the community. People come in to be around the other people in their classes and start their day with their friends.”

Like thousands of other businesses on Long Island, that mission was interrupted by the pandemic and statewide lockdown implemented to mitigate the spread of the virus. When the lockdown first went into effect in March, NXT GEN offered free online training to the community and anyone else who wanted to get involved. Online fitness classes, at that point, were not in the gym’s business plan, and the center decided not to charge community members for that training for more than two months.

When gyms were not included in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, NXT GEN began charging for online offerings. But that revenue was far from enough to continue supporting the rent on the company’s 14,000 square foot facility.

Uncertainty over when the facility could reopen, coupled with potential costs to implement proper COVID-19 safety protocols, made reopening the facility untenable.

“With the indefinite closure (of gyms) due to the government shutdown, it was just not feasible to keep paying the landlord,” Cirker said.

Hundreds of businesses in Long Island face similar challenges. Close to half of Long Island companies laid off workers over the course of the ongoing pandemic, according to a recent survey by Hofstra University. Of the approximately 1,300 businesses surveyed, 37 percent said they planned to bring back all workers once the stay-home order was lifted for their industry. Another 36 percent could not immediately determine whether they would. A full 70 percent of companies said that the impact of COVID-19 was worse than expected from two months ago.

In Port Washington alone, hundreds of small businesses received thousands of dollars in federal assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created to help companies continue paying workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Port Washington saw 114 loans taken out of at least $150,000 and 747 loans taken out of below that amount. These companies indicated that a total of 6,212 jobs would be retained through these funds.

“Fitness should be essential,” Cirker said. But “there’s not going to be many people surviving in the fitness world if they have to hold out much longer.”

Still, he’s hopeful that NXT GEN can continue to serve the community in some way, shape or form. While the company is focused on moving out of the facility, Cirker imagines reinventing NXT GEN in the future.

For now though, he’s considering continuing to offer online or backyard training.

“We have so many kids who are involved in our program, and a lot of them aren’t going to camp and aren’t as physical as they were before,” he said. “So we want to see what we can do to get back and help the community as soon as possible.”

This article originally appeared on the Port Washington Patch

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