Martial Arts Instructor 'Refiring, Not Retiring'
Charlie Foxman says goodbye to his Creve Coeur studio.
The Midwest Martial Arts Academy typically closes its doors for the last week of the year.
But when Charlie Foxman did it Saturday, he did so for the last time, after 26 years in business at the location just east of Interstate 270 on Olive Boulevard in Creve Coeur.
Foxman said the decision came within the last six months when the Drury Development Corporation, which owns the shopping center, approached him about a lease extension. Instead, he decided to make a change.
"Now is the time I can enjoy what I do," he said by phone last week. That means spending with his grandchildren, volunteering, watching his first full Monday Night Football game in 26 years.
But he's quick to say he's not retiring. He calls it "refiring."
Foxman will continue doing martial arts, kickboxing classes, plus nutrition and wellness programs, through schools, corporate clients, and other groups, just without the overhead of holding it in his location.
Saturday morning, after the first of the last day's classes was over, Foxman's students and their families milled around for a half hour afterward, taking photos, sharing stories and indulging in a celebratory cake.
A bulletin board featured a large poster with tributes. "We are better, kinder stronger people for knowing you. You have made such an impact on little & big lives," one family wrote.
Cheryl Carrico, of University City, was there with her two boys, Jarron, a 1st Degree blackbelt, and Brooks Blue Belt. Carrico said Foxman filled an important gap in her sons' lives after their grandfather, an important father figure in the famiy, died.
"It's not about you coming to class, its not about paying them money. Its about who are you and its about your life and its been life-altering for my boys and for myself, and they’re family to us , and they’ll continue to be family to us,” she said.
The Foxmans will be monthly dinner guests at the Carrico family.
Another fan is the family of Sam Klein, the Parkway Northeast Middle School student who has been profiled by outlets from Patch to NBC Nightly News for the company he's started and the work he's done to help others.
“He’s been such an inspiration, he’s meant the world to me,” Klein said.
When asked what he'd learned from Foxman, Klein, a seventh grade student said "What have I not, that’s the better question. He’s taught me everything, martial arts, he’s helped me further expand my business. I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for him."
Foxman said he'll still have relationships with many of his pupils moving forward in some capacity, but did call it "a bittersweet parting," knowing how emotionally hard some of them are handling this next step.
The good news is that his students may be able to come back to the same location for martial arts instruction, just under a new banner.
Les Edwards, of ATA Martial Arts, said Foxman called him a few days ago to inquire about taking on some of his students. Edwards, who has eyed Creve Coeur for expansion of his family-owned studio in a few years, slept on it and decided they wanted to make that move now.
Edwards was on hand Saturday to pay his own tributes. The idea of taking over the space is still in the early stages. He has yet to speak to executives at Drury, but believes the idea will be well-received.
Foxman's employees have been placed in other studios. He leaves with his head high, proud that he's not in debt and that he's ready to 'refire.'
"I'm not gonna look back," he said. "I'm very happy putting the key in the door and saying, 'it's been a great run.'"