WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) - The COVID-19 pandemic came with many challenges and changes for small businesses, but now they’re bouncing back in new and creative ways.
The Annese’s came to Waynesboro in 2002, bought the old Skate-A-Rena, and turned it into a martial arts school.
“At that time there really wasn’t a whole lot going on in Waynesboro, so there wasn’t a lot for youth to do, so when we came down, we had a huge influx of kids that came in right off the bat, and it ran really, really well,” Frank Annese said.
They eventually moved the school to Stuarts Draft, where they saw continued success until the pandemic hit.
“We were closed down for several months, and it was probably the most challenging period we’ve had in over 20-25 years of teaching,” said Frank.
About 30 to 40 percent of gyms shut down across the U.S. Now that things are opening back up, more people are looking forward to getting back on the mat.
Annese Martial Arts is kicking off the summer with a bigger space and bigger classes.
“Now people especially our adult program is expanding because people just want to have a friendly interaction with each other, and a martial arts floor gives them that,” said Michelle Annese.
Combat isn’t the only thing returning to Waynesboro this summer.
The Wayne Theatre closed its doors in March 2020 and moved forward with the arts in a virtual format, slowly adding more in-person opportunities with restrictions.
“As more and more got vaccinated, we were slowly seeing numbers increase, and we wanted to reach out and offer an outdoor opportunity,” said Tracy Straight, Executive Director of the Wayne Theatre.
That opportunity is the Wayne on Main, a concert series that started in May and will take place downtown on the last Wednesday of each month through September from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“During the intermission time, we passed just a pay what you will bucket for those that want to contribute something that goes toward our educational scholarships,” said Straight.
“They loved that it was all so easy to access. For many it was their first time getting out and coming back to downtown,” said Straight.
Upcoming concerts include:
-Sun Dried Opossum on June 30
-Lil’ Bill Blues Band on July 28
-SkillBilly’s on August 25
-Blue Ridge Thunder on September 29
Whether it’s on the mat or in the theatre, community members are excited to take advantage of summertime programming.
“We’re right where we need to be. We’re seeing that now We’re seeing more people come in, and people are excited to train and gather again,” said Michelle Annese.
Being back in a familiar place is resurfacing old memories and bringing people of all ages together.
“The influx of people excited and reminiscing and how they had birthday parties here and black belts test here. it really enlivened the area quite a bit,” said Michelle.