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Gritstone: Opening in the midst of a pandemic

Written by: Lauryn Saxour | WVUGo Staff Writer

Gritstone, climbing, fitness, recreation Photos by Gritstone Climbing and Fitness

John Burkhart and Chris Bailey discuss the trials and triumphs of opening a new business in the midst of a pandemic

Gritstone Climbing and Fitness, located in Morgantown, West Virginia, offers 13,000 square feet of climbing surface, designated fitness and yoga areas and a range of instructed classes. John Burkhart and his wife Airawere set to open Gritstone in May but due to state restrictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, they now plan to open their doors to the public in early August.

“We’re humans so it’s been very hard, just as people and business owners to navigate it. I think the positive, I really still feel, is we still feel a lot of support from the community,” said Burkhart.

Chris Bailey owns and operates Rising Sun Construction and works closely with the Burkharts as a business partner and as a close friend. He said the staff and owners have had to adjust their operating and cleaning procedures in order to protect their customers.

“As far as policies and procedures, we always wanted to have a clean gym. John and I have been to some pretty dirty gyms,” said Bailey. “So that’s always been an important factor for us.

Gritstone has implemented an enhanced procedure for cleaning that involves wiping down equipment and high contact surfaces frequently and thoroughly. Guests are also required to wash their hands when they enter the gym and periodically throughout their visit.

“A lot of climbing gyms have been opening so we have been able to observe a lot of other gym owners.” said Bailey, “We have been able to kind of see some things that work and some things that don’t work as far as maintaining the community and helping our clientele.”

Gritstone climbing gym Photos by Gritstone Climbing and Fitness

As every climber knows, a large aspect to climbing is the sense of community. And although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every individual, family and business owner differently, a sense of disconnectedness has been felt throughout every community.

“Personally, I’m starving for connection with other people. I love the sound of listening to dozens and dozens of conversations happening in the background and people exchanging information and exchanging stories,” said Bailey. “That’s a lot of what climbing is about; being connected to nature and being connected to each other.”

As the Gritstone crew prepares to invite the climbing community in Morgantown to experience the vast opportunities the facility offers, they are greatly looking forward to creating a strong sense of connection at their facility

“Part of our official messaging is ‘We’re ready when you are.’” said Burkhart, “It’s gonna be fun. Come check us out, it’s gonna be amazing.” While following the state health guidelines, the Gritstone staff promises to provide the best experience possible.

To learn more about Gritstone Climbing and Fitness visit their website.

About the Author

Lauryn Saxour
Lauryn was born in Fort Myers, Florida and raised in Plain City, Ohio. She is currently a sophomore here at West Virginia University pursuing a degree in journalism. She was originally introduced to journalism while writing for her high school’s yearbook staff.

With her degree, Lauryn aspires to be a writer. Lauryn has always loved crafting stories. She has a goal to travel and share stories of those who are unable to share their own.
When she’s not writing, Lauryn can be found at the rock wall, hiking, listening to music or daydreaming about traveling.