Christmas came early for the owners of the Edge Tae Kwon Do Academy this year.
The husband and wife who run the school were approached by their landlord in the spring and he had a novel idea. The butcher shop next door, La Casa de Carne, had just gone out of business when the property owner, Chris Vrettos, hatched his plan.
“He came to me and said, ‘Sandy, you need this space,’” said academy owner Sandy Arias. “I couldn’t believe it. He said he loves what we’re doing for the kids, so he gave us a break on the rent.”
The 72-year-old Vrettos, president of Ionian Services LLC, has owned three properties along 48th Avenue in Woodside for more than 30 years. He said for years it because of he was never satisfied with any of his tenants until Arias and his wife Norma Hernandez moved in.
“They’re excellent people and I’d do anything for them. Whatever they can pay that’s what they pay,” Vrettos said.
Edge Tae Kwon Do Academy, at 44-10 48th Ave., made the move two months later with a grand opening in May.
“We now have double the space, so when I finish my kicks I have room to put my leg down,” Arias said.
The expansion took Hernandez by surprise.
“Around here you are more likely to close down than expand,” she said. “It’s very difficult for businesses here. There’s no Sunnyside Shines and the Chamber of Commerce never looks south of Greenpoint Avenue.”
Instead of relying on commercial support groups, the couple went about building their own community. They say the amount of support they get from neighborhood parents is immeasurable.
“It would’ve been impossible to do without the help of the parents,” Hernandez said. “They offered to do the carpentry, the plumbing and lighting, even the windows.”
Arias believes the discipline he teaches the kids through tae kwon do is what impresses the parents the most.
“I’m like a second father to these kids,” he said. “With the support of the parents and a belief in God, that’s enough to succeed.”
Along with expansion came larger classes and additional programs like a movie night for the kids and Zumba classes for adults. Edge Tae Kwon Do also has a traveling squad that has done well at the last two Junior Olympics.
“It’s great for the kids to compete at such a high level and have a chance to get out of the neighborhood and see there’s a whole country out there,” Arias said.
“I believe in what they’re doing and it can only benefit the neighborhood by helping so many kids,” said Vrettos, “I have grandchildren myself, so I’m sensitive to the importance of giving children the proper path, I don’t care about making money when it comes to the academy. I just think it’s good for the children.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2014 Community News Group
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