WOODSTOCK, Ga. — A small business owner is staging a comeback in metro Atlanta after the COVID-19 pandemic nearly crushed his dream. It’s a plight many local businesses have faced as they struggle to reopen even two years into the pandemic.
Instructor Chris Civello likes the way jiu-jitsu fits together.
"It's like involuntary yoga or folding laundry with a person in it. You're presented with a problem and you have to figure out a solution in real-time, with the person or the puzzle fighting back. So that always interested me," he said.
He's been working on the puzzle of this martial art for more than 20 years. And he figured out a way to open up his own academy in 2010 in New Jersey.
"It was a warehouse space with a concrete floor. It was down an alley in a basement and it didn't have an address," he said.
The only marker was a black and white sign that read, "Jiu-Jitsu Around Back."
"So, now we put it in the bathroom as a funny reminder of like where we came from," he said.
But where they came from could never have predicted where they would go. Civello saved enough to open his dream academy in a beautiful space in New Jersey in February of 2020. Two weeks later, the pandemic hit.
"It's tough to look at them and know you just have no idea what the future will be like. It was tough," he said.
He closed down his academy less than a year after opening.
"We packed up a U-Haul because we ultimately lost our house and just headed down to Georgia," he said.
It was in Woodstock where they got a fresh start, but Civello was missing that piece of himself on the mat.
"I have dedicated my life to this, so there isn't a plan B," he said.
So, he started offering classes out of the garage of his home.
"They were parked down the driveway, into the street, and a full schedule, so, we thought it was time to open up again, try again," he said.
Trying to put that puzzle together again, he opened The Sukura Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Woodstock. He said he finally found the right fit.
"I kept pushing, that's how I fight. I don't win everything but I don't give up and I keep pushing," he said.
He said it was so satisfying to finally get a grand opening in Georgia because his New Jersey spot opened so close to when everything was shutting down and he never got to bring out the balloons and cut the ribbon to his business.