Emily and Hom Weusi, owners of Weusi Wellness Café and Str8 Training. Daily Record file photos by Lance Winter
Weusi Wellness Café innovates during COVID-19
Emily and Hom Weusi, owners of Weusi Wellness Café and Str8 Training, like many local small business owners, are having to cobble together a plan to keep serving their clients and keep their business afloat in the wake of COVID-19.
The Weusis have owned and operated Str8 Training Fitness Center for almost a decade in the community. They opened Weusi Wellness Café a little over a year ago as a way to add healthy prepared meals and custom meal plans to their training and wellness program.
Like many, the Weusis, were keeping an eye on the news, but overall weren’t too worried about COVID-19.
“When the hype started I wasn't too worried because I think, like most of us, I was optimistic things would pass,” Emily Weusi said. “I honestly didn't start to worry until Tuesday.”
Weusi said last Monday started off as usual. It’s generally their busiest day of the week and she worked the whole day so she could connect and check in with customers on healthy meal plans.
“We had a great day of sales on Monday,” she said.
Then Tuesday through Thursday, their transactions and sales revenue had been cut in half, according to Weusi. But the magnitude of the problem didn't really hit her until she had to go to the grocery store to get food for their weekend production, she said.
Prepared, ready to-go meals by Weusi Wellness Café.
Weusi Wellness Café usually avoids ordering from big food vendors as a way to keep revenue local, according to Weusi.
“I normally order pick up and curbside from local grocery stores but, as we all know, you can't pick up or get delivery for over a week with how backed up they are,” Weusi said. “This forced me to go into the store and shop, which was a lot more stressful being that I couldn't buy in large quantities like I usually do.”
Weusi, like many, found herself venturing to multiple local grocery stores in the last few days to get everything she needed for Weusi Wellness Café’s weekend production. But she was grateful to have been able to piece together everything she needed for the cafe.
Weusi said dealing with the economic impact of COVID-19 has been difficult for their small business. What was shaping up to be a successful year for the cafe, has turned into a struggle.
“Our growth has been tremendous in 2020. I went from three people on staff in December 2019 to 13 people on staff now in March 2020,” she said. “I have had to cut down my staff to two — ourselves and my manager Brianna.”
They are also having to rely on family for help, like Hom Weusi’s mother, who is volunteering her time to help them stay open. They are also trying to keep as many of their employees paid for as long as possible.
“We are giving our gym manager David hours at the cafe to make up for lost hours at the gym,” she said. “David has four children and it is essential that we provide some sort of income for him and his family. It is overwhelming to think about cutting staff when for the last 3 months I have been focused solely on hiring and training my staff so that we could adapt to the large amount of growth.”
Weusi said they have had a couple of clients have to cancel their Str8 Training memberships recently, but for the most part, members are waiting it out.
“We have already had a couple membership cancellation requests but most of our clients are so loyal to us that they are holding off as long as they can,” she said. “We have been working with the 10 person rule and practicing social distancing but we don't know how much longer that will last with bigger cities closing down gyms.”
She said the main thing that Weusi Wellness Café is focusing on right now is innovation. They are now offering live one-on-one virtual personal training classes, virtual training for large group fitness classes and encouraging members to go live online with their at-home workouts for accountability.
“Personal trainers work with their clients sometimes up to 5 days per week, an hour at a time. You build strong relationships and depend on each other for support,” Weusi said. “We don't want that to fade and know our clients physical and mental health is important now more than ever.”
They are also installing a drive-thru window in the cafe, offering free local delivery through Favor and UberEats and hosting a live cooking show and meal prep classes online via Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
“We both started from nothing. We are living proof that you can build a business with no money, constant learning and a lot of hard work,” Weusi said. “I am optimistic that we will rebuild and make it through.”
Weusi Wellness Café is located at 2626 Hunter Rd. #101. The café's adjusted hours are 7 a.m.- 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go to Weusi Wellness Café's website.
Lance Winter contributed to this story.