As a 5-year-old, Erik Roach knew what he wanted to do when he first saw “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on television.
He wanted to be involved in martial arts.
Now 31, he’s still a fan of martial arts. He’s even earned a black belt.
But today, he’s more interested in what his students can do with their training.
Roach owns U.S. World Class Taekwondo Tri-Cities in Richland at 93 Keene Road, and opened a second one at 3001 W. 10th Ave. in Kennewick in August.
The new location is in a strip mall across the parking lot from Fred Meyer.
“We’ve always gotten pull from all over the Tri-City area,” Roach said. “But we decided to add a second location for our clients in Kennewick. There was a demand for it.”
Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Roach went to school at Eastern Washington University and Portland State, earning his master’s in business administration at EWU in 2012.
For the next few years, he helped manage and teach at U.S. World Class Taekwondo facilities in both Camas and Happy Valley, Oregon.
According to its website, the U.S. World Class Taekwondo Association is the largest group of professional taekwondo schools in the western United States since 1988, “providing quality instruction to over 100,000 students worldwide.”
In 2014, Roach wanted to come back to the Tri-Cities.
“I wanted to be close to family, and I realized the growth potential in the Tri-Cities,” he said. “I saw a lot of martial arts businesses in the Tri-Cities, but I knew I could run one that would have excellent service.”
So he opened a U.S. World Class Taekwondo in 2014 in West Richland.
“After about a year there, we needed to move somewhere bigger,” he said.
By 2015, he moved to the current location in Richland, although it was just one storefront.
Since then, he’s done two renovations and expansions, adding 2,000 more square feet in May 2018.
“Now, the Richland store is up to 4,400 square feet,” he said. “The first expansion was six months in. The second was two years later.”
The mats were getting crowded. Throw in the parents who wanted to watch, and Roach knew he had to expand.
“In West Richland, we could put 15 students on the mat,” Roach said. “Now we could fit 35 on a mat. When you see there are so many kids in class, and you feel like every kid is getting enough attention, you feel good. If they’re not (getting enough instructor time), it’s time to expand.”
One expansion dealt with the parent viewing area.
“In the Tri-Cities, parents want to stay and watch their kids,” he said.
Roach used to be the lone instructor but he now has a full-time instructor and three part-time junior instructors, he said. He has five staff members.
The majority of his clients — 80 percent to 85 percent — are children ages 5 to 12. The remaining 15 percent consists of teenagers and adults.
There are six classes a day at each location. The first five are for kids, and there is one class for teens and adults.
Roach believes the growth is credited to his company’s attitude.
“The interest has always been the same in martial arts,” he said. “What makes us different is we have a bigger focus on the positivity. We want people to enjoy coming here, that it’s not just another activity.”
He and his instructors help their students outside the usual instruction times when they can, whether it be helping the student at a school talent show, or working at anti-bullying school assemblies.
Roach would like to have a school in each of the Tri-Cities.
“I’d love to build a location in Pasco some day,” he said. “I want to service the Tri-Cities as a whole.”
He said it makes him happy to see what martial arts can do for kids because he knows what it did for him.
“I enjoy seeing the difference it makes in people. For some of them it builds confidence,” he said. “In some cases, kids who aren’t students anymore tell me it gave them a leg up in football or baseball. That’s cool. I feel I’m making a positive impact.”
U.S. World Class Taekwondo: 3001 W. 10th Ave., Kennewick; 509-579-4225; 93 Keene Road, Richland; 509-627-5425; tkdtricities.com
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