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Killington business owners reflect on pandemic changes

By Victoria Gaither

How long has Beth Roberts, the owner and founder of Killington Boot Camp, been in the fitness business?

“My mom will tell you that it goes back to when I was 5 years old. I would invite the neighborhood kids over to run obstacle courses in my backyard,” smiled Roberts.

Little did she know that she would run a different type of obstacle course later in life — trying to beat Covid-19.

Beth Roberts, owner of Killington Boot Camp, got innovative.

“In March of 2020, I was two days away from hopping on my flight to Costa Rica to host a fitness retreat in Tamarindo when the world basically shut down. Instead of teaching boot camp on the beach, I learned how to Zoom bodyweight HIIT classes from my living room,” she recalled.

Looking back then and now, Roberts said her strong will, ability to adapt, and clients pulled her through the madness of Covid.

Trying to run a business when Governor Phil Scott shut down many businesses, implemented mandatory masking and other mitigation strategies, covid testings, the loss of business and the stresses of day-to-day operations, wasn’t easy. 

“Every time a new challenge was presented, I had to find a new way to reach people and help them feel comfortable in their new socially distanced training situation,” she said. Adding, “I found myself in a variety of situations: Zoom classes, small group, and private training wearing masks as well as socially distanced outdoor classes.”

Although used to things being thrown her way, Roberts was often burdened by the uncertainty, like many other Killington business owners.

Take Dan Sesko, owner of Taco X in Killington. He opened Taco X in December of 2019 and then had to shut down a few months later in March 2020 due to Covid. 

For a new business owner, the timing couldn’t have been worse. He had quit his financial job, took a leap of faith, and started Taco X.

By Victoria Gaither
“Cheers to a better future,” Dan Sesko said holding out a drink.

“I was in an internal struggle. Do I keep the business or let it go? The SBA package came in! Great! Not so great — it didn’t work out because of wrong timing. I got disqualified because I couldn’t compare prior year sales as a new business,” he explained.

Sesko, a very matter-of-fact person, obtained a federal grant that pulled him through. Still, like other restaurant owners, his “new normal” was obstacles after obstacles. 

“Going forward in this ‘new normal,’ I had to adapt to new restrictions. Mandatory masks, social distancing, reduced occupancy restrictions, and sign-in sheets for contact tracing were implemented,” he recalled. 

Plus, many people were still leary about eating out.

Throw in higher food prices, supply shortages, delivery delays, and worker shortages, which all hit his bottom line. But still, he kept pushing through. 

Like a strong margarita, Sesko found the will and determination to keep going and help others. He once housed five Peruvian J-1 students at the start of the pandemic.

“I was approached by five Peruvian J-1 students who were stranded, wanted to work, and had no place to live. I gave them a few odd and end jobs and housed them for two weeks until their quarantine period was over, and they could travel back to their own country,” he said.

Even through the difficult times, good has emerged for Dan Sesko and Beth Roberts.

Sesko now feels like a part of the Killington community, “I can definitely say that since the Covid-19 pandemic started, and now, I went from the new guy (business owner) on the mountain to being part of the community and getting the support of the local business community. It feels nice to get to know the people on a more personal level.”

As for Roberts, she is now planning Adventures in Paradise 2, a fitness retreat in Kauai, Hawaii, from Oct. 15-20, 2022, and hoping this time she gets on the flight and is not grounded by another obstacle.

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