As the state announces that Los Angeles County is set to move into a less-restrictive tier in the coming days, businesses across the Santa Clarita Valley begin to prepare for reopening.
At the Newhall Aquarium, managing director Tony Taymourian is ready to follow the lead of other, larger aquariums and educational facilities when given the green light.
“I’m very excited to be opening up because I do miss people coming in,” he said. “I come here to take care of the animals, and it’s really quiet.”
The aquarium has officially been closed for a year now, with Taymourian left to care for the more than 100 species of marine animals.
“It’s all very small scale, but we managed to get the majority of the animals you want to see at a bigger aquarium here, like octopus, eels, jellyfish, sharks, coral reef fish mixed with live coral,” he added. “We’re able to accomplish all that in this tiny, little space.”
As a nonprofit, the aquarium relies primarily on donations, which led Taymourian to start a GoFundMe, hoping the community would step up to help the aquarium get back on track — a hope he continues to hold.
“We’ve been able to pull through a year since COVID kicked in without any income,” he said, adding that he’s been left to fund the aquarium completely out of pocket. “(But) we need the community’s help.”
Being the only local aquarium, Taymourian feels it provides the community with a vital educational resource.
The aquarium often worked hand-in-hand with the local school districts, providing students and clients with educational resources on marine life, and is looking forward to a time when they can return to doing just that.
“That’s why we’re sticking around, because we knew it wasn’t going to be forever,” he added. “We’re hoping that as soon as the timing is right, everyone will come back and resume educating right where we left off.”
In the meantime, Taymourian plans to spend the next few weeks restocking the animals and getting the aquarium in shape to reopen.
While the aquarium’s website and social media are currently down, Taymourian said they plan to bring them back up as soon as the aquarium is getting close to being open.
A long-awaited grand opening
The newly finished Laemmle Theatres 6 in Newhall is awaiting the day when it can finally welcome guests, according to Greg Laemmle, president of the family-owned business.
However, with the news coming so quickly, Laemmle said it’ll take a few weeks for the theaters to ramp up, with most of their theaters expected to reopen in April.
“For us, it’s about really getting our staff trained to operate in this environment, and that’s going to take us some time,” Laemmle said.
And while 25% capacity isn’t ideal, as operating costs and staffing will make it difficult to operate profitably, Laemmle said it’s a step in the right direction.
“Ultimately, as much as there are people that are just super anxious to get back to movie theaters, there are also some people that want to make sure that it is safe, so this is a start,” he added. “And with people largely being masked in the auditoriums, there is nothing that is unsafe about moviegoing.”
Getting back to physical fitness
Over at Kaia FIT Santa Clarita, owner Heather Flebbe is looking forward to reopening the gym.
“We are super excited to have the gym open again, and start getting back to normalcy,” Flebbe said. “Luckily, we are a smaller gym, so I think, for us, we can manage (the 10% capacity).”
With no end in sight, Flebbe pivoted to livestreamed classes months ago, investing in a sound system, mixer and other equipment to make each video as professional as possible.
“For my girls that are home (on) livestream, they really do feel like they’re in the gym with us because we are communicating with them during the class, I can correct their form,” she said, adding that by continuing this option, she believes she’ll be able to handle the transition.
“I’m sure a lot are very excited to get in the gym … (but) I think I can manage the capacity easier because half the girls might stay home and half will come into the gym,” she added.
For Flebbe, it’s a great motivator to get people back to their normal physical fitness levels, which she believes is critical, especially during the pandemic.
“It is critical to maintain your physical fitness in order to improve your immunity for COVID or for any virus that we may encounter in the future,” Flebbe said. “It’s critical to your mental health, your physical health, your immune system, and I believe that’s why all of my girls have really been resistant to COVID. … I attribute that to our healthy immune system by being physically active.”