Karow has run the business for more than a decade at Broad and Eighth streets. He said the violent crime – along with insufficient parking and lack of upkeep of some downtown buildings – have deterred some customers. Recent incidents, including a fight in front of the former J.B. White’s building that went viral on YouTube and the attack of a couple on Riverwalk Augusta, reinforced his decision to move.
Two weeks ago, he signed a lease for a 5,000-square-foot space at 2825 Washington Road in the Fairway Square shopping center. He plans to move in by late July.
“The optimism and response was almost 100 percent,” Karow said. “I thought I would get mixed results from people.”
He started having concerns after a shooting last July on a Broad Street sidewalk that injured six people, he said.
“Since then, we had either a lot of people take their students out of lessons or just be no-shows,” he said. “Some people point blank told us they were just going to quit coming downtown. We really felt that financially.”
When Karow opened his business in the Johnson Building almost 11 years ago, he said the surrounding area was bustling with retail activity, but much of that commercial space from Eighth Street toward Olde Town now sits empty.
The new location is larger, providing space for seven lesson rooms and a 3,500-square-foot showroom.
“We’re upgrading,” Karow said. “We’re taking lemons and making lemonade.”
He said he’ll keep his downtown Aiken store open.