By Al Pefley email
Greenacres, FL (WFLX)
Millions of Americans have been knocked down financially by the recession and are struggling to get off the canvas.
One business owner in Greenacres isn't going to make it, forced to close his doors after more than a quarter-century.
Karate instructor Sean Kelley has been teaching students for years how to put up a fight. Teaching them how to defend themselves with kicks, and punches.
But now Kelley feels like he's been hit with a karate chop that has knocked him flat on his back.
The recession has forced him to close his martial arts school for good. He's so sad, that he can't even come up with the words to describe it.
"I can't say in words. It's heartbreaking. It is. I'm gonna tell you I never thought I'd walk away, saying goodbye," Kelley said.
He opened the Kelley Karate Center in 1983 in Greenacres.
And he says over the 26 years, thousands of students have learned karate there. It was also a training facility for the Guardian Angels, a group that patrols neighborhoods where gangs have become a nuisance for residents. Now, the school is dark, the place is empty.
Kelley, who holds a seventh degree black belt, says the recession has dealt him a blow that even he couldn't recover from.
Last Thursday, December 31, he held his final class.
He says at a time when people are struggling to pay their mortgage and put food on the table, or have lost their jobs, many can no longer afford karate lessons. "I had cancellations, clients that I've had for 10, if not 15 years, so it started hittin' hard and quick," Kelley said.
Last week, he had only about 50 students, down from a peak of nearly 200. The way things were going, he couldn't even pay the rent anymore. So he's locking the door and walking away from a business he loved.
"I was just hoping the time would never come and the actual day wouldn't come. And it came," Kelley said.
Kelley, 47, says he had to take a job doing security at a mobile home park to make ends meet.