AP NEWS

Mount Pleasant karate studio closure leaves parents scrambling to find summer child care, refunds

May 26, 2017 GMT

The abrupt closure of a Mount Pleasant martial arts studio has sent parents scrambling to get refunds and find alternative summer child-care options for children they had signed up for a summer camp program.

World Class Karate, located at 1145 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. in Suite 104, shut its doors May 15, said Cameron Blazer, an attorney representing the studio’s owner, Ashlina Chin.

The closure comes after Chin, 28, was arrested by Mount Pleasant police on April 20 and charged with third-degree domestic violence, a misdemeanor, according to jail records.

State Law Enforcement Division records show Chin has no other arrests or criminal convictions in South Carolina.

Parents who called the martial arts studio last week were greeted by a voice message stating the business had closed and was referring clients to Charleston Taekwondo, also based in Mount Pleasant, to continue their training.

Asked whether parents would be refunded, Blazer said Chin is “working to ensure that all parents entitled to refunds get them, but it is a work in progress because of the unexpected nature of the shutdown.”

Jaime Huffman, a James Island resident, said her 6-year-old son, Harper, took courses at the studio over winter break and loved the experience.

She decided to sign him up for the studio’s all-day summer camp. The program would keep her son occupied and provide child care while she works, Huffman said.

Then she found out about the closure.

With the last day of school for Charleston County approaching June 1, working mothers like her have been scrambling to find last-minute child care options, Huffman said. Options are slim because summer camp programs typically fill up by February or March.

“I just can’t believe a business would treat their customers like this,” Huffman said. “I think the hardest thing is we’re just left in the dark.”

Luke Manquen, head instructor at Charleston Taekwondo, said he was contacted “a couple of weeks ago” and asked if he wanted to buy World Class Karate. He declined the offer but agreed to offer spots in his studio’s summer camp program to interested students.

Manquen said he plans to offer discounts to clients coming from the now closed studio but said he could not do anything more because he is not taking over World Class Karate’s contracts.

“I do feel bad for them,” he said. “From our point of view, this is a bad situation for a lot of parents.”

Blazer, meanwhile, alleges her client has been bullied by “a small number of disgruntled parents” who attempted to pressure Chin into selling them the school after her arrest.

When Chin refused to sell, the parents allegedly spread false information about her “resulting in an immediate and precipitous decline in enrollment that left her with no choice but to close the school.”

According to the business’ website, World Class Karate Academy was established in January 2016. Chin and lead instructor, 35-year-old Mike Garelli, have taught martial arts for 15 years.

The studio has won several awards, including Best Martial Arts Instruction Winner and Best Summer Day Camp Finalist from the The Post and Courier’s 2016 Charleston Choice Awards, and Best Karate Finalist from the 2016 Moultrie News Readers’ Choice Best of the Best Award, according to the website.

Garelli could not be reached despite multiple phone calls, emails and messages on Facebook seeking comment.