GIBSONVILLE, N.C. — A family-owned martial arts gym survived the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, only to be destroyed by a nasty storm on Saturday. Now, the Alamance County family of six is devastated by the loss, along with their dozens of gym members.
The Jiu-Jitsu school, Gracie Burlington, is located in Gibsonville, NC. But now, the facility is unrecognizable: the roof has collapsed, everything inside is water-damaged, a gas line and water pipe broke, and the building was condemned.
But what hurts the most for the Canup family is losing the treasure trove of memories that were made inside the gym.
"My daughter and I just got out of the car and cried," said Karen Canup, co-owner of the business. "Thankfully nobody was hurt and thankfully nobody was in there, but when you've worked so hard for something, and it's just gone... my kids are devastated."
Spenser Canup began teaching Jiu-Jitsu classes in the building in 2017, and business steadily grew to include 150 members. His wife says teaching is his passion, and the family uses the gym as a platform for community service and donation fundraisers.
"My husband is a Gracie black belt, and it's always been his dream to own a school," said Karen. "These are not just gym members, these are people we call our friends and will help us out with anything, and vice versa."
When the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders swept across North Carolina, the Canup family scrambled to keep the business afloat - and succeeded.
"We did go down to 61 members. But we have amazing members who stuck with us and decided to pay their membership. We taught zoom classes every night from our house," said Karen.
But their dream business came crashing down on Saturday around 5:30 p.m. Intense storms rolled through Alamance County, and the roof ended up collapsing at the gym, resulting in extensive water damage all throughout the facility, broken water pipes and a gas line, and the complete loss of their hard work.
"My husband sent me a text and said 'The gym is gone,'" said Karen. "When I got there, I had to argue with the police to get up to the gym. Everything was blocked off, there was a major gas leak, you could smell it from a quarter-mile away."
One of their daughters, Gracie, said she is heartbroken to see the gym gone. She plays softball and her team used to spent time practicing in the facility.
"It was a second home for us. Every day after school, we would go there. On Saturdays and Sundays, we would be there," said Gracie. "It was hard to see that's not there anymore."
Now that the family has assessed the damage, they are hoping to eventually reopen their gym at another location. But they have a lot of work to do before restarting classes. The owners made the decision to place all memberships on hold.
"At this point, we don't even know if our insurance will help pay for anything," said Karen. "Everything is soaked, nothing is salvageable."
A family friend has started a Go-Fund-Me to help support the Canup family and their business during the rebuilding process. They are asking anyone in the community with an affordable space to rent in the Burlington/Gibsonville area to reach out to them.