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400 LIFE JULY 2020

REOPENING FORSYTH Medical practice. Restaurant. Gift shop. Gym. Jewelry store. Whatever the business, changes have to be made.


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contents from the editor

On April 5, Jim Dean, a veteran on our team at the Forsyth County News, grabbed his camera, got in his car, and drove around Forsyth County. It was a Saturday with clear skies in the middle of Spring. He visited The Collection — empty. He visited Sharon Springs Park — empty. He visited Lanier Tech — empty. He drove down Peachtree Parkway — empty. I found the pictures that Jim filed that day, when Georgia’s temporary shelter-in-place order took effect, to be equal parts eerie, forlorn and tranquil. Eerie to see this bustling suburb brought to a halt, and forlorn at the thought of the sheer impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic in that emptiness. But tranquil, too; the beginning of a “great pause,” as some have called this time. Two months later, Forsyth County, like much of the country and world, has “reopened.” Windermere Orthodontics is back to seeing patients. Poker nights have returned at Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub. Kids are getting faster and stronger at RedLine Athletics again. Some businesses, like The Gibson Co., are even expanding. It’s a welcome sign to many. Indeed, we are grateful these places, and hundreds of others, are still here to provide their services. A thriving business scene is one of the pillars of a healthy, functioning community. All of them felt the impact of the pandemic. Many still do. But they are surviving in no small part thanks to the support of loyal customers. Several called these local resident’s family. Which reminded me of another of Jim Dean’s pictures from that seminal day. He stopped at a small shopping center that included two preschools. Their digital signs read, “Stronger Together,” and “Together we will get through this.” — Brian Paglia

4 Windermere Orthodontics Just a few months before Dr. Michael Gorlovsky planned to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his opening of Windermere Orthodontics, the novel coronavirus pandemic struck the country, forcing him to close the practice. Now he has safety measure in place so his staff and patients are safe.

8 There were lots of big plans for Marie’s Italian Deli in 2020, including a new expansion that would increase seating, the size of the popular eatery’s bakery and doubling the number of beer taps and having a new focus on college football Saturdays.

contributors

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Editor Brian Paglia

Publisher Stephanie Woody

Production manager Tracie Pike

Advertising director Nathan Schutter

Staff writers Kelly Whitmire Sabrina Kerns

Advertising Stacy Clark Stephanie McCabe

Photography Ben Hendren Special contributors Becky Cahill

This magazine is a product of the www.ForsythNews.com

Lance White talks about navigating the jewelry business during a pandemic.

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16 At Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub, it’s all about family

The Gibson Co. customers now 24 Redline Athletics Forsyth prepares for reopening have a new location to find a wide array of items made by local artists. 30 400 Reads: Starting a new chapter JULY 2020 | 400 LIFE | 3


Dr. Michael Gorlovsky, owner of Windermere Orthodontics, is navigating reopening after the shelter-in-place.

Reopening with a smile Orthodontist runs a local practice during a pandemic

Story by Sabrina Kerns | Photos by Ben Hendren

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ust a few months before Dr. Michael Gorlovsky planned to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his opening of Windermere Orthodontics, the novel coronavirus pandemic struck the country, forcing him to close the practice. Gorlovsky originally opened Windermere Orthodontics in Suwanee back in 2010 after he had graduated from school. He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech, moved on to earn his dental degree from the Dental College of Georgia and then he later also earned his orthodontic degree and his master’s from the University of Louisville. After leaving school, he moved to Forsyth County — close to his childhood home in Gwinnett — and opened Windermere Orthodontics to try to help those in his home community. As his practice has grown, he also opened another location in Cumming about two years ago to try to expand his reach to his patients. 4 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020


Him and his team of assistants go back and forth between the two locations to help and work with patients, and they have been excited to see how the practice is growing. They did not expect, however, that they would have to drop everything and close the business for two months when the pandemic hit. The pandemic forced Gorlovsky to shut down his practice in March as he did not want to contribute to the spread of the virus, especially during the beginning of the pandemic when testing was not readily available. During the couple of months that he was closed, Gorlovsky said he got busy applying for loans, attending webinars on how and when to reopen and making sure his patients were cared for. Even with the stress of trying to manage both the business front and clinical front of the practice in such an unsure and confusing time, he made a plan to open back up and start bringing in his staff and patients again on May 19. Although they ended up having to cancel or reschedule many appointments, patients were anxious to get back in and get their treatments started again.

“We have to see our patients. They have ongoing treatments. This led to implementation of all kinds of new procedures to continue keeping our team safe, our patients safe.� - Dr. Michael Gorlovsky, Windermere Orhtodontics

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JULY 2020 | 400 LIFE | 5


“We have to see our patients. They have ongoing treatments, ongoing care,” Gorlovsky said. “This led to implementation of all kinds of new procedures to continue keeping our team safe, our patients safe.” Like many others, opening back up for Windermere Orthodontics meant tighter restrictions on appointments to make sure patients and staff both are socially distancing and staying healthy. Before opening, Gorlovsky sent an email to all his patients informing them of some major changes they would notice when coming back in for an appointment. Now, patients must fill out a wellness assessment at least 24 hours before showing up for an appointment, and when arriving, they are also required to wait for their appointment in their cars. When they get there, they can simply call and a staff member will let them know when Gorlovsky is ready to see them. As families and patients are starting to come in, they can also notice major differences in how the office looks and how it is being operated. When patients come in wearing masks, their temperature is checked by a staff member, and they have to stay six feet apart from others up until they are seated in a treatment chair. The practice is also asking patients to brush their teeth at home before their appointment as the toothbrushing station has been closed off and is now used for handwashing, and patients are currently rinsing their months with hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds before starting any kind of procedure. “It’s a slow process, but I think in our case, our patients feel — they have assurance,” Gorlovsky said. “They trust us that we’re doing the right thing, we’re disinfecting our office and doing everything we 6 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020

can to keep them safe. So I think coming back to an office like ours, patients have a lot less reservations.” While Gorlovsky has made sure all of these measures are in place and that the practice stays clean at all times, he has also started offering teledentistry and online appointments for patients. “We try to always have the patients convenience in mind right now, and safety in mind as well,” Gorlovsky said. “Doing as much as we can virtually, I think, benefits our patients — keeping them safe while at the same time offering them treatment and whatever they would require to improve their health.” The new platform is a successful way for Gorlovsky to see his patients, check up with them and their progress and just interact with them while many still may be trying to stay home. In the future, Gorlovsky hopes to keep using the virtual appointments to meet with patients, and he is even working on setting up virtual consultations for new patients wondering about tooth alignment procedures. Moving forward, Gorlovsky is still trying to figure out what the “new normal” will look like at Windermere Orthodontics, and now that the practice is back open, he’s looking for ways that he can incorporate best practices from both before and after COVID-19 reached the community. Like many, he is planning day-by-day as many are still unsure of the community’s future with COVID-19. “It’s been an interesting few months, but I think definitely we’ll be much more prepared, and know how to deal with this COVID at least,” Gorlovsky said. Sponsored content


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Marie’s Italian Deli has reopened to the public after dine-in services were suspended due to the state’s shelter-in-place.

Back on track

Marie’s Italian Deli reopens and readies for college football crowds Story and photos by Kelly Whitmire

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here were lots of big plans for Marie’s Italian Deli in 2020, including a new expansion that would increase seating, the size of the popular eatery’s bakery and doubling the number of beer taps and having a new focus on college football Saturdays. But, just like every other business, COVID19 meant a change in plans for Marie’s, though after a few months of social distancing, those original plans are getting back on track. Owner Karen Smith said the restaurant’s renovations were completed in early February and had been opened for five weeks when the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect, but the restaurant is finally getting a chance to show off the new additions. “Bakery sales were up 400% in those five weeks,” Karen said. “We were finally able to do the things we’d always wanted to do,” added her son, Matt. 8 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020


“We’ve been wanting to become the place where people come to watch a football game or something like that when college football season comes around, so we didn’t really have that vibe in our restaurant until we got this new space.” The expansion means twice as many beer taps, a bigger bakery and an additional 60 seats, for a maximum capacity of 140 customers. The expansion even meant that as Marie’s reopened dining, 60 customers could come in instead of 30, the amount they would have been allowed pre-expansion. Though the restaurant is still offering curbside service, and employees are constantly cleaning and disinfecting the inside, Marie’s is planning a new rush of weekly events, such as family nights on Mondays, trivia on Tuesday, wine special on Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays and, starting in the fall, Dawg Days at Marie’s on Saturday. They are even looking at staying open later and having more bands stop by.

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Marie’s Italian Deli expanded earlier this year increasing seating, the size of the bakery and doubling the number of beer taps and having a new focus on college football Saturdays.

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Marie’s Italian Deli has reopened to the public after dine-in services were suspended due to the state’s shelter-in-place.

“We’re still not a sports bar, but we want to attract some of those people because it’s fun to watch games,” Matt said. While customers have already been coming back for sit-in dining, Karen said the restaurant stayed busy during the pandemic and said their customers showed a lot of support. “We shut down before we were ordered to because we thought, ‘We’ll flatten the curve, do the right thing,’ so we went to curbside, and our customers were unbelievable,” she said. “It was almost funny, the first Friday night I almost called the police in to direct traffic. Between us and Los Rios, the parking lot was insane.” While closed to dine-in customers, a popular hashtag for Marie’s was #SeeYouInTheParkingLot, and, thanks to a friend of Matt’s, they even had Tailgate Trivia in the parking lot, where players wrote down their answers from their cars or lawn chairs in the parking lot and answers were gathered with pizza paddles, which at about six-feet-long were perfect for social distancing, with baskets on the end. “Our parking lot being so big has been one of our greatest assets too,” Matt said. “I think it’s led to our success because you can park anywhere, down at the thrift store to down at Los Rios, so we use it to our advantage, and people have plenty of space to space out.” While popular for families missing one of their favorite restaurants or who didn’t want to cook, Marie’s was also a popular spot for 10 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020

those who wanted to donate meals to first responders or others. The restaurant bagged more than 1,650 lunches for students in Forsyth County who were missing their school meals. They also partnered with the Cumming Police Department to get meals to seniors. “We’d make soup and people would call in, they’d line up soups for seniors and they would go deliver it for us, the city police… I called them and said, ‘Do you guys mind delivering this?’ They said, ‘I’ll be right there,’” Karen said. “They’re awesome.” Both Karen and Matt said that support was critical not only during the shutdown, but also as the restaurant attempts to return to normal. “I was overwhelmed how many amazing people with just unbelievable hearts and generosity came out that we had never seen before, some of these people,” Matt said. “It really brings out the best in people. You just have to keep a good attitude about it, keep

pushing.” “One guy came in and bought a $1,000 gift card to feed the city police anytime they came by,” Karen added. “Stuff like that, and people are ordering all this food to feed the hospital, the fire stations.”

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Lance White opened his jewelry store, Lance’s Jewelry, some 30 years ago.

Finding the good within a crisis Local jewelry store finds success in reopening Story and Photos by Sabrina Kerns

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ance White opened his own jewelry store in Cumming when he was only 23 years old, and since then, his business has been through it all — snowstorms, tornados and even protests and marches in the late ‘80s. Even after all of the hardships, Lance’s Jewelry always found its way back up, and although White was forced to close his doors late in March for the first time in 30 years of business, he has realized that he is going to get through this pandemic, too. Opening up and getting back to business did not come without a challenge. “It was really difficult for us,” White said. “This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had happen to me in 30 years of business.” White ended up having to close Lance’s Jewelry for about a month, which devastated the business financially. During that time, he had to let all of his employees go, and he started worrying about paying his rent and bills with no income.

12 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020


“I didn’t know if we were ever going to open back up,” White said. “I thought we might have to go out of business. There are a lot of companies that have gone out of business. I just can’t sit here and pay employees and pay rent and electricity and not have any income coming in.” When the novel coronavirus first started to have an impact on communities in Georgia, White said that he was away on vacation in Florida, so he did not immediately know what was happening. He said he just saw sales start to plummet. As he got home and started to see other businesses closing and people starting to lose their jobs, he started to worry for his own business. He began to worry, even after the virus subsided, if customers would still come in looking to buy jewelry. “Jewelry is not something that you have to buy,” White said. “It’s not a necessity item. It’s not like toilet paper or bread, milk, whatever. You can live without it. So that was one of my concerns once it opened back up was how it was going to be because all of these

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Lance White’s sister, Doris Corona, is the master jeweler and president of operations for Lance’s Jewelry.

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“We’re into the rhythm of cleaning the way that we clean. It’s just become second nature to us now, and we’re making sure that it’s done. And I think customers feel comfortable coming into the store the way that we have it set up.” - Lance White, owner of Lance’s Jewelry

people had been without work. And they’re going to provide for themselves first by getting groceries and things that they need like that more so than jewelry. White opened the store back up in late April, bringing back all of his employees to work to test the water to see if business would start back up again. He started by taking appointments only for about a week before finally fully opening his doors to the public. Fortunately, customers started coming in, and the store’s reopening was successful. The store had even opened back up in time for Mother’s Day, and White said they actually had more customers in than the previous year. He said because other jewelry stores in the area have not quite opened yet, many flocked to his shop for gifts this year. Since people have been stuck at home spring cleaning and getting housework done as well, White said that he has seen a lot of customers coming in to have some of their old jewelry customized or altered. The store is also still buying gold and old jewelry from customers for cash for those finding old jewelry that they no longer want. White said that now is also the perfect time to buy jewelry simply because many stores that had to close for a period of time have an excess of extra inventory that they had originally planned to sell before, so now jewelry prices are lower and more affordable. With more customers starting to come back in, however, they will notice a few changes. Since opening again, Lance’s Jewelry has reduced its hours, and are now open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to make up for extra time spent cleaning. Only two customers or families are coming into the store at a time, following social distancing quidelines. Meanwhile, staff is also constantly sanitizing and cleaning anything customers may have touched while they were in the store, especially jewelry, which is now set aside after a customer has touched or tried a piece on so that it can be sanitized before it is put back into the display case. Despite all the changes, White said they have adjusted well to 14 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020

their new routine, mostly because customers have been helping out in making sure they are wearing masks and sanitizing when they walk in. Staff at the store said that they are still getting used to people walking into the store with masks on, though — usually a bad sign in a jewelry store with high-value merchandise, but now a commonplace solution to prevent the spread of the virus. Besides the masks, White said that both customers and staff have adjusted well to all the changes. “I think we’re almost at the new norm,” White said. “We’re into the rhythm of cleaning the way that we clean. It’s just become second nature to us now, and we’re making sure that it’s done. And I think customers feel comfortable coming into the store the way that we have it set up.” Looking ahead, White said that he might lengthen the store’s hours again, but for now, he is just glad that they have found a way to adjust to this crisis that works for them. “I think this is what we’re going to stick with for a while,” White said.

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Matt and Jeni Smith, owners of Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub, with their family.

Family recipe How kids, loyal customers pushed Rosati’s through Story by Brian Paglia | Photos by Ben Hendren

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att and Jeni Smith didn’t want to take any chances at their restaurant, Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub, during the novel coronavirus pandemic, so the owners ordered staff to stay home if they detected even a hint of illness. Every time, Matt or Jeni called home for back-up. “There were a lot of times we had to call in a kid and say, ‘I know you’re not supposed to work today, but can you come in?’” Jeni said. The pandemic has tested the restaurant industry, which has seen swift changes to service methods, mass layoffs and dozens of closures around Georgia. Rosati’s has felt the impact, too, but the last month has also reminded Matt and Jeni of their business’s most important ingredient: family. The husband-wife team has relied on their five kids to pitch in more than ever. The two oldest, Wade and C.J., make deliveries. Eli is a “jack of all trades” around the restaurant. 16 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020


Their daughter Audrey, who just graduated from high school, is a hostess. Eighth-grader Jake just recently started helping with food prep. “He learned how to grate the cheese and roll dough during the coronavirus,” Jeni said. Matt and Jeni were motivated by family to open Rosati’s in the first place, particularly Matt, who regularly traveled for his corporate job and wanted to be around more as their kids grew up. They opened Rosati’s in 2013, off Peachtree Parkway, bringing a dose of Jeni’s native Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, with a sports pub environment, to Forsyth County. “We had probably 75 people lined up outside our first night,” Matt said, “just all Chicago people hugging us and crying saying they’re so happy they have Rosati’s down here now. We were really blown away from the reaction.” As Matt and Jeni’s family grew, so did Rosati’s. They became a community staple, hosting live music and poker nights and fund-raising events for local civic groups or youth teams. Sports fans came to drink one of the 56 craft beers on tap

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and watch games on their projector screens, especially Chicago natives. They were packed when the Cubs made the World Series in 2016. “Very fun,” Jeni said. “There were people who came every single night of the whole playoffs through every single game of the World Series.” When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Rosati’s went silent. For about 30 days, the restaurant was limited to delivery and to-go service. No Cubs games. No live music. No poker nights. No youth teams getting pizza to celebrate a win. “It was such a quiet place,” Jeanie said. But the Rosati’s family, that loyal customer base, continued to support the restaurant. “There are so many people that come in so regularly that we’re used to seeing,” Matt said. “They care about us, we care about our customers. They supported us so much.” Meanwhile, Matt and Jeni tried to make the most of the time the dining area was closed. They gave the restaurant a deep clean, painted the walls, and added a third projector. They educated and trained staff on the dozens of new health guidelines 18 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020

for restaurants during the pandemic. “Our staff has rallied together, too,” Jeni said. “We’ve had a lot of people help us.” When Georgia allowed restaurants to reopen their dining areas, Rosati’s was ready. “It was nice because a lot of our regular customers that would come in, they were the first ones to come back in and to start testing the waters,” Matt said. Rosati’s has started to get its former buzz back. The restaurant recently resumed poker and trivia nights and held its first ticketed music event since the pandemic started. They’re hopeful that high school and professional sports will return in the fall to fill their tables with celebrating teams and rabid fans. Regardless, the pandemic has helped Matt and Jeni appreciate the value of family even more — their one at home and the one at Rosati’s, too. “I think we all came together during this time,” Jeni said. “It showed everybody’s true colors, which we like. It’s a good team.” Sponsored content


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The Gibson Co. is opening a second location at Halcyon.

‘The best of the best’

The Gibson Co. owner Clarissa Gibson says artists and customers key as the company opens its new Halcyon location Story and photos by Kelly Whitmire

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rom candles to clothing to art to hang on the walls, there is seemingly no limit to what can be found at The Gibson Co., and now, customers will have a new location to find a wide array of items made by local artists. Owner Clarissa Gibson said The Gibson Co., which opened its location at The Collection in summer 2018, described the store as “kind of a local artist showcase store,” where customers can buy products and gifts ranging from glassware to bath bombs to jewelry to rustic pieces have been made by local artists that she said are “the best of the best in Forsyth County” and surrounding areas. “My most popular brands are my artists,” she said. “I continue to see that those artists that

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continue to reinvent themselves and bringing new stuff all the time are the ones that become the most favored in our store. I love that.” Gibson said there were several local artists who were consistently popular with her customers, such as BLC Design Co., which creates custom jewelry including necklaces and earrings, and Flow Inspirations, known for making handmade wall art and other home and office products. Gibson said some of her other popular brands include, such as Love Well, a local clothing company with a positive message. “Love Well is a clothing brand lifestyle that spreads the message of loving others well,” Gibson said. “People love sharing that, and even online, they’re buying that and spreading it in different counties, as well.” Customers who are looking for customized glassware, mugs and other products can try out Vintage Roux. “She offers vintage stamped spoons, barware and like charcuterie boards, cheese-spreaders and stuff like that ... She stamps on a vintage spoon, and then adheres it to an object, which has been a crowd favorite,” Gibson said. Gibson said another big-seller was Southern 22 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020


E-Scentuals, a brand specializing in candles, cold process soaps, bath accessories and “famous dough bowl candle[s]” They even offer a house brand of candles and other products, The Gibson Co. Signature Collection, with names that hold a special place in the Gibson family’s hearts. “All of those scents are created by us based off of locations or people that are important to us ... Papa was our grandfather that passed away, and it’s got a kind of a smokey, tobacco, fire kind of smell to it,” Gibson said. With the success of their location at The Collection, The Gibson Co. has expanded to a new location at Halcyon, a mixeduse village in South Forsyth, which will have more of a focus on design and décor while still having the gifts that made its predecessor so popular. “We figured this would be a great way to have some exclusive

gifts as well as home décor and design consultations, being offered here,” Gibson said. “We’re going to have kind of a furniture showroom, but we’re also going to have different unique gifts. I am bringing a couple of my artists over here as well. It’s going to be the same type of thing that you can expect, where we are going to try to scour to find completely different items to keep things exciting.” Opening a new store during the COVID-19 pandemic brought its own challenges, Gibson said, but she thanked the community for supporting them through online sales during the tough time. “Forsyth County has shown up for us during the pandemic and the shutdown and all of that, and we will continue to use our spot here in Forsyth County to give back to the amazing community,” Gibson said. “We are absolutely blessed to have the support that we’ve had, and we would not be here without them, obviously.” Sponsored content

JULY 2020 | 400 LIFE | 23


A grand reopening

RedLine Athletics Forsyth gets back to the business of training young athletes Story by Brian Paglia | Photo by Joel Lunguana

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hen members at RedLine Athletics Forsyth walked in the doors May 12, it felt like a second grand opening for franchise owner Brian Burns. For two months, the fitness center had been empty. No young athletes grinding through workouts. No music blaring from the speakers. The novel coronavirus pandemic forced Burns’s business to go virtual. A longtime youth sports coach, Burns recognized that young athletes in Forsyth County needed a place to get the proper development and training to handle the ever-increasing number of games and tournaments that sports leagues demanded of them. In February of 2019, Burns opened RedLine Athletics Forsyth, at 1670 Redi Road, a 15,000-square-foot facility that included the works: a full basketball/volleyball court; batting cages; weight room; turf area for football, lacrosse, and soccer; and an area devoted to speed and agility training. The fitness center offered something for just about everyone. Young athletes could participate in 90-minute group sessions or get one-on-one skill-specific lessons. RedLine welcomed entire teams to use the facility. It even offered a fitness “bootcamp” for adults. 24 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020

The trainers were relatable to young athletes but also knowledgeable, many of them college or former professional athletes who knew how to balance rigorous workouts with jokes and a steady dose of upbeat music. The formula worked: By word of mouth alone, Burns’s location was the fastest-growing RedLine in the franchise’s history. “It just really took off,” Burns said. “It’s a very family-oriented gym.” When the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, everything came to a halt. Burns closed RedLine Athletics Forsyth’s doors March 17. Uncertainty ensued. Burns had trainers he felt responsible for and business expenses that remained despite orders from the state to temporarily close. “It was really, really tough,” Burns said. “Really scary. The rent’s not going anywhere. The utilities aren’t going anywhere. We went from making money to zero overnight. That’s not easy to manage a business, and you can’t do anything about it.” Burns made a series of decisions that didn’t help the business’s

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“It was exciting. I think the consensus was, ‘We were ready to get our kids out of the house and get them active.’ I think a lot of kids didn’t have that outlet for those two months.” - Brian Burns, owner Redline Athletics Forsyth

bottom line in the short term but gave back to RedLine’s customers and the community. First, he froze all membership fees, while several fitness centers around the country continued to charge members during temporary closures. Second, RedLine offered free daily virtual training sessions and opened them up to nonmembers, too. The virtual training sessions were a hit. Upwards of 20 kids participated in the Zoom-held sessions at a time. Even some Forsyth County schools used RedLine’s videos to augment their P.E. Classes. Burns credits his staff of trainers for adapting to the circumstances. “I let my staff run with it,” Burns said. “They did great. For basketball or football, it could be a little challenging. … My trainers would have to go outside and set up a Zoom call and work drills where you didn’t need a lot of space. They did an awesome job.” When gyms were allowed to reopen, Burns was eager to get RedLine running again by the earliest date (April 27) but also

cautious. He took the time to get contactless thermometers. He hired a company to disinfect the facility with UV lights. “We tried everything just to make sure we could open up in the safest way possible,” Burns said. Burns also implemented several other safety precautions before reopening to control the number of people in the facility, ensure social distancing during sessions, and clean high-touch surfaces. Yes, when RedLine finally reopened, things were a little different. Parents now have to drop off and pick up their kids outside. Athletes get a temperature screening before entering the facility. Training sessions have additional breaks for athletes to wash their hands. But, overall, it was good to be back — the kids were moving, the music was blaring, and the RedLine family was together again. “It was exciting,” Burns said. “I think the consensus was, ‘We were ready to get our kids out of the house and get them active.’ I think a lot of kids didn’t have that outlet for those two months.” Sponsored content

26 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020


400 reads As the summer of 2020 begins our county, state, and country are preparing to open services and places of business following months of limited interactions. The last four months have been challenging for people around the world, but we now have the opportunity to start a new chapter. With that thought in mind, I have selected a fictional novel that addresses new beginnings. The protagonist is dealing with serious life issues, but the book is infused with heart and humor as well. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was Gail Honeyman’s debut novel and it was published in 2017. In the years since its publication, the book has been included on several “must read” lists and was a Reese Witherspoon Book of the Month selection. Upon reading the book jacket and promotional blurbs, you might assume this book is about a quirky woman who makes her own path in the world. However, that is only part of the story. Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky woman, but she is dealing with memories from abhorrent childhood events, isolation as an adult, and the resulting mental illnesses of both. This description makes this book sound depressing, but the opposite is true. The book is a study in resilience and survival, with a lot of humor thrown in. There were so many elements at play, it is hard to describe, but the results are an amazing novel. I was pulling for Eleanor from the start! Eleanor Oliphant is a Scottish woman entering her 30s, she works in an office where she feels isolated, but that is nothing new for Eleanor. She has been on her own since leaving foster care and takes pride in her self-reliance. She has a sharp eye and her observations about the world around her are true and humorous, but also demonstrate about her lack of understanding in interactions with others. Eleanor doesn’t understand the expectations of communication and believes the way others are acting is not appropriate. This all changes when she falls in love at first sight with a musician. Eleanor realizes she will have to make changes to herself and her lifestyle in order to meet and marry this man. Her ensuing actions are misguided, but inadvertently lead her to finding real connections in the world. The most notable is her friendship with Raymond, an IT technician from work. Their friendship opens doors for Eleanor and puts changes in motion that she would never have made on her own. The most important changes end up 30 | 400 LIFE | JULY 2020

with

Becky Cahill

being the ones that Eleanor makes on the inside, dealing with horrific childhood events that she has kept buried up to this point. This book does not make light of trauma, but rather uncovers the steps that allow people to deal with their trauma and find their own way in the world. This is a powerful book with messages about family, friendships, and survival. The combination of emotions feels realistic, because life is rarely straight forward. On a side note, I am a big fan of audio books to help pass the time on my drive to and from work. Although I have a physical copy of this book, I also have the audio version. I cannot recommend it enough in this medium, the narrator, Cathleen McCarron, is outstanding and hearing the Scottish accents adds to the story. If you enjoy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, you should also check out two books with similar elements of life issues paired with humorous interjections. Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman was published in 2014 and follows the new beginning of the aforementioned BrittMarie as she is left by her husband and must make new connections with the people and the community around her. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce was published in 2012 and allows us to tag along with Harold Fry as he walks the length of England to visit an old friend. Along the way he notices what he has been missing by isolating himself from the world around him. Becky Cahill is a career educator and an avid reader. She reads extensively in her free time and you can follow along on Instagram at beckycahill25.


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