Vanessa Packer got out of her boutique fitness studios just in time.
Packer founded modelFit, a workout designed and branded to do just what it sounds like, in 2014, when boutique fitness was on an upswing. For $40 per class at modelFit’s Soho studio, New Yorkers could strive for long, lean limbs like Karlie Kloss, Chrissy Teigen, or Taylor Swift, all noted modelFit acolytes. By 2016—the same year two of SoulCycle’s founders cashed out for about $90 million a piece—modelFit was opening a second studio in Los Angeles. But in November of last year, Packer, sensing a shift in the fitness economy, let the leases on modelFit’s studios expire.
Meanwhile, 7,000 miles away in central Wuhan, China, a seafood vendor went to the hospital with worsening symptoms from what he initially thought to be a cold. It turned out to be one of the first known cases of the contagious, mysterious illness we now know as Covid-19.