Danny Farrar

Danny Farrar, CEO and founder of SoldierFit, which has a gym in Frederick and several other locations across the region, started the Bear the Burden Coalition last month. Since then, the group has grown to more than 1,000 members on Facebook, many of which are small business owners in Frederick County and the region.

A former County Council candidate and local gym founder is leading the charge to mobilize hundreds of small businesses claiming coronavirus-related restrictions are unfair to "mom and pop" shops.

Danny Farrar, CEO and founder of SoldierFit, which has a gym in Frederick and several locations across the region, started the Bear the Burden Coalition last month. Since then, the group has grown to more than 1,000 members on Facebook, many of which are small business owners in Frederick County and the region.

Farrar said coalition members are fine with social distancing, mask wearing and some capacity restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The issue, they argue, is that big box stores like Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and others are seeing record profits while small businesses suffer.

"We're all for social distancing, we're all for wearing the masks, we're all for — COVID is real and we need to ... treat it as such," Farrar said. "We're just not for a different set of rules for two different people playing the [same] game ... if small businesses have to go to 50 percent capacity, cool, we'll go to 50 percent capacity. [But] Walmart has got to go to 50 percent capacity, and enforce it."

Capacity restrictions and other regulations apply to big-box stores and smaller retailers and businesses alike. But Farrar and other business owners have argued through social media posts and comments that bigger businesses frequently have large crowds, and these regulations are rarely enforced the same as with smaller businesses.

Farrar is concerned about the long-term economic implications of the pandemic, as well as the prospect of many people facing increased mortgage payments or facing eviction in the coming months. He's also worried about the mental health of employees at small businesses that have furloughed and laid off those workers.

Amy Masser, who runs Baby Face Photography, a home-based photography studio focused on newborns in the Ballenger Creek area, is one of the coalition's members. Because she is a sole proprietor, she has gotten no monetary assistance from local, state or federal government except for the $1,200 stimulus check earlier this year.

Masser, who has run her business for more than two decades, said she's seen friends struggling with their small businesses throughout the pandemic.

"Walmart has different rules than all the other downtown shops … what they’re doing is not right," Masser said of restrictions. "Walmart can grease the pockets, and we can’t."

"I really like the leaders of this group. It’s not political, it’s just, 'Be fair,'" she added. "I’m friends with a lot of people in the group, and we do not share the same political views, but we are together on this."

Nicole Knight is a co-owner of Smooch! Studio in downtown Frederick, a makeup boutique. Knight said business was down roughly 75 percent through the spring, which meant federal, state and local assistance from loans and grants went quick.

As a member of Bear the Burden, Knight said local government officials need to respect small business owners as much as the big-box stores.

"The hypocrisy of the double standards to deem big-box stores necessary and small business as unnecessary is ridiculous," Knight wrote in an email. "We have more motivation and ability to control our environments and keep them safe, sterile and healthy than a big-box store ever will with their crowds and hundreds of employees."

Earlier this year, Farrar and other executives at SoldierFit sacrificed two or three paychecks in order to make sure no one was furloughed or laid off. Farrar said he makes $75,000 annually in his role. 

He's had difficult discussions with his employees about financial struggles and upcoming costs—something government officials should keep in mind as the pandemic continues.

"I got people who have kids on the way," Farrar said. "Like, people don't understand that aspect of the small business side of the house ... sitting there, having those types of conversations, you tear up at that kind of s---."

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(48) comments

bosco

Here's an example of the kind of hypocrisy we have been and will be seeing from the Socialist Democrats:

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/public/ap/politicians-eat-own-words-after-dining-out-taking-trips/article_2054888f-3193-5771-9090-38104d49c726.html

[ninja]

MD1756

Businesses such as gyms are luxury items and not worth the risk of increased transmission of the virus and increased deaths that would result.

Could it be big box stores are showing record profits because their prices are cheaper and people have less money for luxuries versus necessities and the big box stores named sell necessities (among other things) whereas a gym or baby photography studio does not?

Maybe some of these business owners should rethink their business and get trained for another job or open up a different business.

sej58

You don’t need a gym to exercise.

public-redux

I see the claim that big box stores are above 50 percent capacity but I don’t see any evidence supporting the claim.

MD1756

From the 11/13 article "Meanwhile, retail stores remain capped at 75 percent and service establishments and restaurants are capped at 50 percent, as per Gov. Hogan's order." (see: https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/continuing_coverage/coronavirus/businesses-react-to-countys-new-covid-regulations-with-frustration-and-confusion/article_d395c538-b0cd-5f59-9802-6611cbb7de28.html). I think the people in this article are improperly comparing 50% limit on restaurants with the 75% for retailers but arguing only against the big box and online retailers (ignoring that small retailers are at 75% limit too).

public-redux

You could well be correct. Of course, that simply changes my question to whether there is any evidence that certain retailers are exceeding 75 percent capacity.

FlagstaffTM

I understand that people who own or are employed at small businesses have families and need to provide for those families. So do people that work at Big Box stores. It is harder for me to understand why anyone would look around and think this is a good time to have more kids with an uncertain financial future (especially for those in businesses more directly impacted). I'm not sure how far along these pregnancies are but 9 months ago (full-term) in early March, we had been hearing the beginning of this pandemic for weeks. So these people chose to have a child during a pandemic. Some people cancelled services or luxuries to plan for the fallout, others decided to have more kids. As March progressed any bit of foresight could see that this pandemic was going to have huge impacts on the economy and every aspect of children's lives at least for the foreseeable future. The average cost of raising a child to 17 without any devastating medical conditions or college tuition is upwards of $230,000. At what point do people say "maybe this isn't the best idea"?

It is their right to have kids, but it is other's right to believe that not having kids or making responsible decisions in the context of an unprecedented global crisis does not invalidate someone's existence.

Living within your means sometimes means no children or taking inventory of what is reasonable/practical. There are people without children who are suffering even as they make hard decisions regarding which is realistic given the information they have at the time.

awteam2000

FlagstaffTM, what a weird comment!

Wow, that’s way harsh.

We should tally up new human life based on affordability? Sorry 😐, I’m missing your point. Human life isn’t sustainable without reproduction. Right? Are you suggesting poor people shouldn’t have children?

Old people and people with pre-existing conditions are the most likely to die from the pandemic. The medical professions are racing to save those folks .

So you think we should stop new births because kids cost too much 🤷‍♂️. I don’t get how people having children and the cost to raise them has anything to do with Covid-19 pandemic and box stores. Human life didn’t start with you or me and won’t end with your or my exit nor the standard of living.

What am I missing?

sevenstones1000

This is what you get in a “facts don’t matter” society.

I wonder if I can guess who this guy voted for.

NewMarketParent

I think that the only point that should be made here is that our local government should be doing more to help local businesses as they are having a harder time being viable during a pandemic. They should be first on the list of targets for local aid. That should be crucial to help float those businesses during this time or the character of the community might be washed away during the pandemic.

It really sucks to be in this situation right now, but other than helping to financially float small businesses, the best we can do as a community would be to support them financially by buying gift certificates for when we have the vaccine in place and people can physically go back into stores again.

jloo

Gosh, where does one line up to receive free money?? I think I'll just start printing my own. Local government should let local businesses RUN their businesses. I don't remember any of this during the H1N1 pandemic.

NewMarketParent

@jloo

Good luck printing your own. Let me know how that works out although I think the Secret Service would like to have a word with you.

If you are comparing H1N1 to COVID I don't think you deserve to swim in the adult pool.

C.D.Reid

So, the only point that should be made here is your point, NMP. That's very generous of you!

NewMarketParent

@CDeez

Hello to you too. How much of your money is getting grifted away at that recount that is going nowhere? Glad to know you are reading and trying to figure out how you can try to repeat my words in a slightly different way to sound smart.

C.D.Reid

What would you know about sounding smart, NewMarketMommy, let alone being smart?

jenniferbrannan

Ooh, burn, you called him a mommy. No greater insult that calling someone a women, eh? 🙄

gardenwhimsey

Why should our tax dollars be given to businesses just to keep them open? The stores downtown already have "favorite child" status with the city.

NewMarketParent

@gardenwhimsey

If we don't do all that we can to support those local businesses and they close up shop, there won't be much left for us to do in downtown.

Everyone loves austerity until they lose THEIR jobs.

awteam2000

Face to face traffic is down across the board. The ‘Big Box Stores‘ growth is coming through online orders. Holiday shoppers went online Monday and spent $10.8 billion, setting a record for the largest U.S. internet shopping day ever. Where as foot traffic plunged by half on Black Friday.

newspostreader

The majority of small mom and pop stores sell specialty type items. People who are out of work or have extra expenses from this pandemic are only looking for essentials right now. With that said, where do you get those essentials? The big box stores. Of course they're going to see higher profits this year as people are buying more things like cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels. I'm not saying small businesses aren't important. They are EXTREMELY important. I just don't know that we can see it's unfair.

Had we done what a couple other countries had done, we would be over this by now. Instead, people in the U.S. threw temper tantrums at the thought of a full 2 week shut down. We are not almost 9 months in and still operating at greatly reduced capacities, but yet we could have been mostly back to normal in late April or May had we just bit the bullet and had a shutdown (excluding grocery, medical and pharmacy).

cyntiast

Take the angle that with the uptick in COVID cases, the crowd at the big box store like Walmart is going to be the most likely source to pick up the virus versus these smaller businesses. Has Walmart been closing down when their employee(s) test positive for the virus like the small businesses?

Check the parking lot at any given time at the Monocacy Walmart; always packed.

gabrielshorn2013

Exactly cyntiast. The positivity rate in Frederick County is currently 8.1%. That means there are at least 8 people who are positive for CoViD out of every 100 people walking around. So if you're in that big box store with between 200 and 300 people, there are between 16 and 24 CoViD-positive in there with you without your knowledge. No thanks.

benedictus

A positivity rate of 8.1% doesn't mean that 8.1% of people have COVID. It means that 8.1% of people tested for COVID have COVID. People who think they might have COVID are much more likely to be tested than those that don't, so the percentage of people walking around with COVID is much, much lower.

NewMarketParent

@benedictus

More likely the positivity rate is higher than that. That's 8.1% that have been tested. There are people who are either asymptomatic or infected that know they have COVID and probably declined a test because they have the symptoms or don't want to pay for a test. Do you think those people are staying home if they don't feel completely miserable? It is safest to assume an even higher infection rate.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup] NMP

awteam2000

“currently 8.1%. That means there are at least 8 people who are positive for CoViD out of every 100 people walking around.” - That’s incorrect.

8.1% represents the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that show someone has Covid-19.

Dwasserba

I feel bad shopping at Walmart, but we haven't been INSIDE since March. I have anecessity reorder list and when I hit the "free shipping" minimum, I order. Easy, reliable. Esp now with the broken ankle and leg, if it weren't for covid I guess my hus would be erranding more but NO we can't risk more than happens with his weekly run for groceries, meds and to drop off donations. And we're out for phys therapy and dr appointments. My dad was a smalltown l businessman (DDS) and I remember one year growing up the plants that supported the town went on strike and it was hard times for everyone and a slim Christmas. Dad saw patients and did necessary surgeries - we got a chicken here and vegetables there and a lot of goodwill, but Dad had rent and we had a mortgage and car payment, same as everyone else. I think now, how fortunate we didn't have the over-riding fear of sickness and the generalized mourning besides! There was no Walmart. I remember when the only department store went under, which no one knew about until the suicides of the owners were discovered. I was an overprotected child, and knew this much. Such is life in a small town. These are serious times. We need to pay people in jeopardy. Some can't work, some shouldn't but need the income. As for welcoming children, all children should be welcomed, what's done is done. There were always births during crises. Imo it means these are adults who feel secure. Can't relate at all - our one child arrived just before our 25th anniversary - I like to say, I wanted to make darn sure the marriage would work out - but I can envy intrepid souls who add children during adversity. On with the future! Good for you.

Fleawest

The positivity rate as of today is 2.9174%. https://www.cnn.com/resources/coronavirus-information/21774

jh8219

This is the percent of the total population of Frederick County that’s tested positive. The positivity rate is a reflection of tests taken, which is sitting just above 8% right now.

gabrielshorn2013

That's nationally fleawest. Here are the stats for Frederick County MD:

https://frederickcountymd.gov/8094/COVID-19-in-Frederick-County

The number dipped to 7.9% since my last post.

benedictus

You're pretty unlikely to pick up COVID at the Walmart. People there are generally masked (though not perfectly), you're generally not near any particular person for very long, and people aren't breathing hard or talking much, so the amount of viral load is pretty small. You're not very likely to get it at the local paint store or book store either, for the same reasons. You're much more likely to get it at the gym, a restaurant, a bar, or visiting with friends or family.

NewMarketParent

@benedictus

It definitely seems to be a function of time, density. I would imagine that time is directly proportional to mask usage. What I mean by that is that if both parties are wearing a mask, they could be within spread proximity (within the 6 foot radius) and their likelihood of spreading the virus goes up linearly as a function of time. If you are maskless, that time also goes up linearly but with a much steeper slope.

I would gander to make this rule of thumb, if you are in a place designed for movement, you are safer than a place that is designed for you to be in one spot for a long time unless that place enforces the 6-foot boundary between you and other people and has sufficient ventilation in place to filter the air of viruses.

Piedmontgardener

How are the rules different, I've seen this argument elsewhere and don't know how they are. Anyone who knows, please let me know, because if that's the case, there's an argument here. In the shut down, clearly all the business owners weren't essential. Or are they arguing that they are essential? Because that's a joke.

benedictus

Early on, they were. Most stores were closed, but Walmart was open to sell everything, since they also sold essentials. These days, the playing field is much more fair. Hopefully it stays that way.

FrederickFan

This article is BS. Danny Farrar appears to be running for office again and using the health pandemic to spread fear to gin up support. The rules are the same for everyone and no one is targeting small businesses. That doesn't even make sense.

chris

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

jbbmdonald

The rules are not different for big box stores or small businesses. No matter what Danny Farrah says, there are no exceptions for big box stores. Ask Dr. Brookmyer.

C.D.Reid

Are big box stores limited to 50% capacity, and are they enforcing it? If so, how are they?

cms10422

Exactly. That is Danny's point. Make the rules. Stick to the rules. Don't make different rules for different businesses, buildings, locations etc.

FrederickFan

Big boxes are at 50 percent, same as small businesses. Of course they have more square footage so can accommodate more people at 50 percent than smaller stores. Of course, this is always the case. Ms. Knight says someone deemed big boxes necessary and small businesses unnecessary. Who did that? I think she is referring to Governor Hogan's defining of essential businesses during the stay at home orders but that ended months ago. This person has no idea what she's talking about. Doesn't the paper do some fact checking?

C.D.Reid

How are the box stores regulating customers to 50%? Unlike earlier in the year, as of late I've not seen anyone outside of them keeping track of the number that go in vs the number that come out. And the only time I ever saw that happen, months ago, was at the Wal Mart up in Waynesboro. I never saw the Lowes at the same location do it, or any other of the box stores anywhere else, for that matter.

bosco

Follow the money. You shut down a big chain store like WalMart and a planeload of high powered attorneys will on you like white on rice. You shut down a small business and what happens? They don't have attorneys on retainer.

Maybe the small business owners should organize a protest, burn and loot a few big stores, block the roads around those stores, declare an autonomous zone and enjoy a Winter of Love. ( sarcasm alert)

[ninja]

C.D.Reid

Good idea, bosco. That would be far more justified and worthwhile than the CHOP Zone's Summer Of Love. By the way, have you read the latest stats on both businesses and individuals fleeing Californicate due to the miserably failed policies of the liberals who run that God forsaken state? For every one who moves into it, two leave it. Pitiful.

duffy5x

Oh look! Another aggrieved trump supporter who cannot make an appropriate analogy. How surprising.

chris

Indeed, follow the money! It's going online (for delivery to homes or curbside pickup) and it's going inside big boxes that sell everything from food to hardware in one place. I'm not sure I've heard of a local big box store (or many local small businesses) being shut down by authorities. Curious to hear the details.

Also, it seems to me that if people think that the Walmarts and Staples' of the world are getting away with murder re:people in their store, that local law enforcement (i.e. our Sheriff's Department) would want to look in to that. Somebody should give them a call!

duffy5x

Go into one. What they you doing is quite apparent. If you even bother to look.

sevenstones1000

I have been in two big box stores recently. I can only say that they were sparsely occupied. About as many staff as customers. Giant stores, plenty of ventilation, no one huffing and puffing my face, those of us shopping could easily avoid each other.

I would imagine the same doors that open automatically can give management a running computerized tally of ins and outs.

NewMarketParent

@sevenstones1000

I think that is one of the policy challenges. If you really want to do the least damage, then the policy has to be created with a scalpel. When you do that, people feel like they are unfairly targeted.

It seems to me that the most pragmatic way to do this would be for the entire US to take a hit and hit a financial pause. During that time, you pay people to stay home. Essential business may be provided financial incentives to provide remote services until the term of the pause expires.

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