Head Over Heels reopens after pandemic shutdown
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POLSON — A local gymnastics gym, Head Over Heels, has reopened after being shut down due to the pandemic.
What began as a few private classes at the Mission Valley Christian Academy in the summer of 2010 by owners Jessica and Jason Edwards and their four children, grew to a full-fledged business three years later. Head Over Heels got its name and a location of its own in 2013 after community interest spurred it on.
As with many businesses, however, the family-owned gym faced hard times during 2020.
“The rent was just really expensive, and our business was shut down by mandate for four months,” Jessica recalled. “We actually had a lot of community members donate money to help us make the lease the first month that we were shut down, but there wasn’t really an end in sight… So, we put all of our equipment in storage and cleaned up the building and everything and got out.”
The family had been in the building several years by that point but had only just started to feel like they had everything set up the way they liked it. Members of the community pitched in to help the family in the emotional task of storing their equipment away. Still, they looked for a silver lining.
“We’d been working really hard for several years, so it felt like a sabbatical for our family in some ways. Like everyone else we were stuck at home. It was really nice to just be and spend time together and outside. In a way there was a blessing in it too,” Jessica said.
During the months the gym was shut down, the family was still working behind the scenes. Though they no longer had an athletic space, they were able to find rental locations for both their Montessori preschool and their dance studio.
“We kept the preschool running as safe as possible [during the pandemic],” the Head Over Heels Montessori administrator and lead teacher Roxy McDermott said. “Only one parent could bring the kiddos in at a time, and we did everything that we could, and we went through a very blessed year because we didn’t have any of it hit our school.”
Despite growing their preschool during their time shut down, the Edwards were eager to restart their gymnastics programs.
“It was amazing how we all really, really missed it. I wasn’t sure if the kids would miss it, but they really did… We really wanted to reopen, and we’ve been working on that ever since we shut down basically,” Jessica said.
“There was a potential opportunity to buy property, building costs weren’t as bad early on as they were earlier this summer,” Jason said. “We were going to eventually because the lease was so high. After our five years were up, we were going to be looking to buy and build anyway, so that was an opportunity, thinking about that. Then dialoging with Mission West, the Lake County community development, they had given us encouragement early on because our business model was fairly robust… so then working with them and then Glacier Bank to get funding, that was a process too.”
“There were a lot of no’s along the way,” Jessica stated.
With the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many financial institutions were cautious about lending to small businesses. With the gym closed for the time being, the Edwards had to lean on the success of their offshoot businesses to make progress.
“Part of what was beneficial was that we already had a preschool, and we were going to run that regardless, so getting that up we were growing even last year in the fall,” Jason said.
“The bank needed to see that we were actually viable, because they weren’t about to loan money to a business that was shut down, so even though we hadn’t reopened the gymnastics, which had always been our primary business, having the preschool thriving was essential for them to be willing to say ‘Okay, we’ll give you another shot,’” Jessica explained. “Having the diverse businesses of the dance and the preschool ended up being really important, and we didn’t realize how important that was going to be.”
Even with the success of their preschool and dance studio, getting the loan to buy the gym’s new location was an uphill battle. Despite the obstacles they faced, the couple continued to fight for their business.
“The no’s we got from the bank along the way were discouraging. [We’ve had] to kind of remember all the things that, in my perspective, God has done to make this possible when really a business like this shouldn’t have been able to get off the ground in Polson,” Jessica stated, remembering the effort. “To be able to succeed… we’ll either be able to do it or we won’t be able to do it but we might as well give it everything we have and keep pushing for the bank’s approval, keep fighting… we were making it fine, we’re going to make it again.”
“Initially you’re always problem solving something that doesn’t seem easy to fix, and so that perseverance I think for different things is important. Not that I think we have perseverance, but it becomes like that slog where it’s like ‘alright, next thing,’ and you’ve got to go ahead and keep doing it,” Jason said.
Now finally reopened in a new brand-new location on Memory Lane in Polson, Jason credits much of their success to his wife.
“She’s a maximizer in a lot of ways,” Jason said. “As we’ve moved into this facility Jessica is just continuing to utilize a lot of what we’re doing. Like how do we care for people in the community in a lot of ways and their needs? Her just continuing to see opportunities for doing what we’re doing, but then being there for multiple people, staff and families that are part of our preschool, gymnastic families, moms that have been at home so we have open gyms for them… She just maximizes that stuff, so there’s a lot of behind the scenes in that sense.”
Although the future remains uncertain in these turbulent times, the family has focused on remaining optimistic and taking care of their staff and community.
“Nobody knew what was going to happen with the pandemic, and we still don’t know obviously… but we’re hoping that we’re going to be able to stay open and we really are just super excited to get to have people in here again. It’s been super well received, all our classes are full,” Jessica said.
“They have worked so hard and brought everything full circle, and even better. It’s pretty amazing. They had lots of balls to juggle and lots of things to put into place to do it, and boy, work around the clock. Talk about a hardworking family,” McDermott stated. “I feel very blessed to be a part of their team.”