COVID-19 hit Bhavna Shyamalan and Kristine Carroll hard. Their brand-new fitness center, Vibe Vault Fit, opened in May 2019 and faced its greatest challenge just 10 months after opening. For a wellness center that prides itself on community and bringing in new faces to experience unique classes, how could it possibly persevere through a deadly pandemic, when businesses with much greater customer bases and longevity folded so quickly under pressure?
Today, Vibe Vault Fit sits proud on Pottstown Pike just outside Exton, but there was a time when that reality seemed entirely uncertain.
The concept behind the business, Shyamalan says, is a marriage between fitness and wellness in a way that she and Carroll believe had yet to be explored. The primarily female-based studio offers a litany of dance, workout and other fitness-based classes like barre pump, bombay jam, yoga flow, vibe dance fit and more.
In addition to whipping its participants into shape, the high-energy classes are intended to lift the mind, body and spirit, fostering a culture of self-improvement and affirmation. On top of those fitness classes are programs that focus on mindfulness and meditation, bringing the body and spirit aspect to Vibe Vault Fit’s wellness culture. Recently, Shyamalan and Carrol even started a bi-monthly Pod Squad, a sort of social club that concentrates and discusses various wellness podcasts. For the dynamic duo in charge of Vibe Vault Fit, building a welcoming atmosphere is of the utmost importance.
“[I think] people want to come in and know that they are being noticed and that they are welcome there. And I think that’s one of the main differences [between us and] a big gym, where you can walk in and out and no one knows your name. That’s just not what we’re about. We’re about the community,” Carroll explains.
As other “big gyms” shuttered their doors for COVID-19, Shyamalan and Carroll were fully open one day and closed the next.
“We didn’t have anything online, and they shut us down immediately, no warning,” Carroll recalls.
Just 10 months into their business plan, the duo knew that drastic changes were necessary. While most businesses might have hurried to get AV equipment and cameras installed for online classes, Vibe Vault Fit had had cameras hooked up to the main computer during initial renovations, just in case they decided to expand to online classes in the future. Shyamala and Carroll didn’t realized just how vital their foresight was.
“Even though we were shut down without a day’s notice, we went 100% online during COVID and stayed open the entire time,” Carroll says. “That’s what saved our business.”
All of the instructors bought in immediately to offer the full slate of 33 online classes. No one was ready to throw away the sense of community that they had worked so long and so hard to build.
“We even had happy hour on Zoom, and so many of our members stayed in connection and stayed with us,” Shyamalan recalls.
Vibe Vault Fit managed to retain an impressive 75% of its clientele during the switch to online classes, while many other fitness studios crashed, burned and shut their doors for good.
Even so, don’t let those impressive figures lull you into believing things were always smooth.
“Even though we were at home, I think we worked more during COVID than any other time. Every day it was putting out another fire,” Carroll says.
Finally coming back into the studio after so much time away, it was a party. The trickle back began with teachers and members masked up in person until, slowly, normalcy returned.
Today Vibe Vault Fit thrives the way it was intended. A multi-time Best of the Main Line winner, the local hotspot offers a unique pairing of fitness and wellness that makes it stand out in the community.
“There can be better, you can have better, and at Vibe Vault Fit, that’s what we’re striving for,” Shyamalan says.
Vibe Vault Fit
633 N Pottstown Pke., Exton