Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m Karl Williamson from Urban Krag Climbing Center. I started climbing in 1982 and come from a small business family. I’m the youngest of four, and at some point all of us have either owned or managed a small business. Indoor climbing was just starting to gain traction in the US in the early ’90s. Seemed like a good way for me to make a living: pursue my passion and rehab an old building!
What made you decide to open your own small business and how long have you been in operation?
I’m a fourth generation Daytonian and come from a small business family. Usually indoor rock climbing gyms are built in industrial parks, but I felt I could so something more original. I loved the idea of adaptive reuse and a location search began to open Dayton’s first rock gym. I found this old abandoned church, did some searching at the County and contacted the owner. When I contacted Tim Patterson (the previous owner) and told him what I wanted to do, his response was “You want to do what?!” We met, I told him my plan, and he helped me navigate City Hall to make it happen. We got a lot of support and help from the neighborhood residents and we probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their support. We opened our doors November 6th, 1996.
What do you enjoy about working in downtown Dayton?
Everything I need or want to do is walkable from here and if its not, the bike is the next step. I burn maybe a tank of gas a month in the summer. The neighbors look out for each other in the Oregon District.
Tell us something about your business that may surprise people to learn.
To this day, we still have folks coming in saying “my parents were married here” or “I had my children baptized here.” Churches are more than a place to worship, they are sanctuary, community centers, places of support and comfort during hard times. There was a congregation here during the Civil War – kind of makes our current hardships pale in comparison.
How is your business coping with the pandemic and how can people support you now?
We are fairing well considering. Our sales are down by 30%, but we are still making improvements and continuing to push the business forward, slowly but surely. The climbing gym industry estimates that 25% of climbing gyms will fail within the next 12 to 18 months. This is my second recession, so with that experience I was better prepared to handle this recession.
Urban Krag Climbing Center
125 Clay St.
Social media: @UrbanKrag
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