An old grocery store will provide more than just additional square footage for the Augusta Fencers Club. It will provide an opportunity to introduce more people to the sport of fencing.
For more than a year, owner Rudy Volkmann has been working almost single-handedly to renovate the old Gurley’s grocery store on the corner of Fifth and Greene streets into a facility that features six competitive strips, a competition strip with a metal piste, a weight room and a storage area.
“It’s more space and a different kind of space,” Volkmann said. “The other place, I could either teach classes or teach lessons, but I couldn’t do both all in the same space.”
He used recycled materials as much as possible. More than 40 percent of the walls were built using recycled lumber, and part of the flooring was taken from the old facility and reused in the new one. Structurally, most of the renovations have been completed, and that allowed him to go ahead and open in the new location.
“Most of the stuff that’s left is cosmetic. Fixing it up, making it look better. That’s where we are at this point,” he said last week.
Though the school has been operating fully in the new facility for two months, it officially opened with a ribbon cutting Tuesday.
Volkmann has been teaching fencing through the Augusta Fencing Club since 1987. He discovered the sport in 1960, when he was 18. His college tennis instructor taught a beginner’s fencing course and suggested he take it.
“I never looked back,” he said.
He started the club shortly after moving to Augusta to teach music at Paine College.
The school consisted of a weekly class at the Augusta Ballet.
In 1999, he had open heart surgery. At that time, he had been teaching music for about 30 years, and a year later decided to give it up to focus on teaching fencing full-time.
The old space was the second floor of Clein’s Rare Coins on Telfair Street, where for the past 12 years he has taught fencing classes five nights a week.
The new, single-story space the school now occupies is more accessible for more people, including the wheelchair-bound, a demographic Volkmann is very interested in reaching.
He has one wheelchair-bound fencer who is on a national team, but would love to have more. He also wants to reach out to other groups, such as home schools, to offer special classes.
Though the fencing club has been around for more than 25 years, Volkmann said a lot of people still don’t realize there is fencing in Augusta.
He said there are other sports, such as archery, that people also aren’t aware of. His hope is that if someone isn’t interested in fencing, they will seek out one of the many other sports offered in the area.
“I think a lot of people are unaware of all of the different things that are available in the Augusta area,” he said. “I hope that people will say, ‘Well, they’ve got fencing. I wonder what else they’ve got.’”
Introductory fencing classes start Sept. 18 and last for 10 weeks. It costs $150 and includes all competitive gear.
For more information, call (706) 722-8878.