Szablis Klee is diving deep to support Rochester’s underwater community with a new shop, travel business and even some submerged art.
Klee is launching Southeast Scuba Escape as a headquarters for the Rochester area scuba community. It will be based at 1741 Second St. SW, which also houses Klee’s Full Circle Financial firm.
A land-locked, unusually cold state might not seem like a place to inspire people to swim underwater. However, Klee says there is a “shockingly” large, active scuba community in the Rochester area that has not been served well since MDC Sports closed.
“I got certified in November and then connected with the Rochester scuba community … We’ve been talking and everyone was saying, ‘We need a shop. We need a shop. We need a shop,’” she said of how the new business was born.
A co-working center, Studio on Second, was located in Klee's Second Street building, but the pandemic made that business unworkable.
“Since co-working is actually the opposite of what people are doing right now during the pandemic, I’m re-purposing that space,” Klee said.
Southeast Scuba Escape, which she expects to open on Nov. 15, will sell a full selection of scuba gear and provide air tank filling services.
A team of six instructors and eight dive masters will offer classes and certification training at the Rochester Recreation Center as well as hosting youth birthday or "mermaid" parties and team-building events for businesses.
While much of the swim time needed for scuba certification can be done in a pool, dives in open water are also required. Klee plans to offer some solutions.
Partnering with “cousin shops” in Florida and Mexico, Southeast Scuba Escape will offer five-day trips to ocean-side locales with instructors to complete certifications in a more tropical environment. The first one is scheduled for December.
The business will also offer vacation packages that cater to divers as well as their family members who might want to do something else.
“You either love scuba or you hate it … These trips would allow the divers to enjoy themselves and their spouses or whoever to also have a good time,” Klee explained.
She is also working with the City of Rochester to offer local certification dives in nearby Cascade Lake, during the warmer months. To enhance that experience and possibly draw more people to the lake, Klee is leading a push for local artists to create a sunken sculpture garden.
“It would be a pretty cool thing. I think there will be a lot of excitement for that,” she said.