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Smith Street dojo’s got to go

for The Brooklyn Paper
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A 15-year-old martial arts school is being forced out of its Smith Street location by the end of the year, because its small operation can no longer afford one of Brooklyn’s hottest commercial corridors.

No one could have imagined being priced out of Smith Street in 1992, when Jikishinkan Akido Dojo opened. In those days, there was a real need for a black belt on Smith Street, but today, with gritty old Smith all spruced up with restaurants and shops, a tour book is indispensable instead.

“I knew the neighborhood had changed when I was going to the dojo and I got stopped by two German tourists with a Zagat guide asking me for directions to the Grocery,” said Stewart Johnson, president of the dojo’s board of directors

Jikishinkan lasted this long in the new Cobble Hill with the help of its supportive landlord, Vincent Mazzone, who kept it afloat for years by charging far less than the market rate for the space at 211 Smith St., which is between Baltic and Butler streets.

But Mazzone, a local figure who owns a hardware store on Court Street that recently win a “good service” award from Time Out New York, informed the board of directors that he would have to double their rent beginning on Jan. 1.

“He’s making it clear that he has to get to economic reality with that rent,” said Johnson, who said he was not angry about the rent hike.

But forced to choose between raising prices for its 55 members and looking for new space, the board opted for the latter.

The good news is that the dojo will run its classes in a nearby school, although the exact site remains to be determined. And, eventually, Johnson hopes to find a new home for his school and its 55 dues-paying members.

For Josh Paul, a member for several years, the location is irrelevant.

“This is home, no matter where it is,” he said.

Updated 4:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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