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Cloé Legault on Reopening of Bloc Shop and Quebec Gyms

The province's climbing gyms have been given the go-ahead to reopen during the covid-19 pandemic

This last month saw the return of indoor climbing. From the IFSC’s rescheduling of the Briançon Lead World Cup, to B.C.’s gym reopening, climbers are returning to plastic and their communities. On June 22, Quebec joined the list of provinces allowing for the reopening of climbing gyms.

Bloc Shop is one of Canada’s best climbing gyms. In 2017, they began hosting the Bloc Shop Open competition which has seen the participation of some of the world’s strongest climbers.

As with most competitions, this year’s edition had to be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Bloc Shop spent their time preparing for the reopening. Last week saw the culmination of those efforts.

This week, we sat down to talk with Cloé Legault, the mastermind behind Bloc Shop’s marketing, communications, booking system, and procedures. According to Legault, their first week has been fantastic.

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Legault said, “Oh my gosh, we were so happy to see our clients! The first two opening days were reserved for members who supported us during the confinement. We wanted to thank them for their generosity and allow them first access to the gym. It felt good to be able to thank people in person and tell them how their gesture was important for the company and how much we were touched by it.”

With their reopening, Bloc Shop has rolled out a large list of procedures to facilitate the new-normal. Legault said, “In terms of operations, we had the impression of managing a new business. There were so many new things to do and new procedures. We had to relearn quite a few things.”

Some of these things you can find on their website. Much like The Hive in B.C., climbers are expected to book sessions in advance. Each booking is given two hours to climb and bookies must arrive in gym clothes ready to climb.

Though Bloc Shop has, for the moment, lost their communal chalk buckets, masks are currently not required for those wishing to climb. Legault said, “Face covers are recommended, but at the discretion of individuals. Our staff is required to wear face covers during their shifts. For all specific health and safety measures we follow the recommendations of the provincial health authorities.”

The facility is also still renting shoes in an effort to provide for those looking to climb for the first time. Rental shoes pass through a washing machine between uses, ensuring proper hygiene.

Though the large chalk buckets are gone, loose chalk is still allowed in the facility. This was done to allow for an improved customer experience. To combat the potential risk of cleanliness, Bloc Shop has distributed numerous hand sanitizing stations about the facility.

So how do you book your slot? Online and in advance. The morning and night spots are always full, but the day-time hours are generally available. Said Legault, “For now, up to 13 clients every half hour can book at Chabanel and 11 at Hochelaga.  So 52 and 44 respectively at the same time so that distancing measures are respected. As soon as the restrictions are relaxed, we will increase the quotas and make more people happy!”

Though Bloc Shop members did get a sneak-peek before their general reopening, everyone is now allowed to climb at both facilities. That said, a membership will buy you certain privileges. “Members can book up to seven days in advance. Punch card holders can book up to five days in advance while guests only have three days. Most spots are reserved for members, but some are also reserved for punch card holders so that they are guaranteed good time slots. Last minute booking is accessible to everyone.”

In their time off, Bloc Shop laid down some serious renovations. Legault said, “We definitely took advantage of the gym closure to do some major cleaning and renovations. All the climbing walls and pads were thoroughly cleaned and both gyms were completely reset. We removed all benches, chalk buckets, stretching areas, modified our water fountains for bottles only and reorganized our fitness areas to ensure social distancing. Our front desk is now surrounded by plexiglass and we installed floor markers at every two-meters along our pads. We made our best effort to give our clients a clean and safe environment to play with.”

In addition to the physical work, Bloc Shop also made efforts to engage their communities amidst closure. Legault said, “We called all of our members personally, starting with those who supported us financially during the confinement. We asked them how they were, we listened to them, we discussed the extent of the situation for Bloc Shop if they had questions and above all, we told them we missed them!”

Bloc Shop also offered a series of live lectures with a physiotherapist, a massage therapist, and a nutritionist. They sold tons of equipment via their new online store and created training videos, blog posts, and newsletters. Said Legault, “We tried to make sure they would miss us!”

So far, it has worked. Legault said, “The feedback has been extremely positive. We have had very good comments about our system and how we reorganized our facilities and adapted to this new reality.  In general, people are just grateful to finally have the chance to move, get back in shape and get their fitness fix.”

The Bloc Shop staff are also stoked to have returned to work. Legault said, “Our staff has been awesome and eager to help us work through these strange times. Our team is aware of our new reality and are willing to adjust to the new procedures and regulations.”

With all of that said, reopening has not been easy. According to Legault, “The greatest challenge would be not knowing and having no control over what happens next. Will things go back to normal in a few months or will we see the anticipated second wave? What will be the next government’s last-minute decision we will have to adapt to?”

“This obliviousness creates many other challenges such as consistently communicating new procedures to our staff and community. Adapting and managing our booking system. Last minute renovations and re-organisations of our facilities.”

Even in the face of adversity, they are keeping the excitement high. With promotional videos and continued community involvement, Bloc Shop is excited to have reopened. As the members pour back in, the feeling is different than before, but the climbing is just as exceptional as it has always been.