Moving your small dance business quickly to a new location—whether planned or unexpected—presents unique challenges, especially if it involves any renovations.
Owning a dance business always comes with unexpected surprises, but when you learn that you have to vacate your space on short notice, another level of stress gets unlocked: “‘Downsizing’ was not in my plans,” says Mary Ann Hanlon, owner of Mary Ann’s Dance and More in Easthampton, MA. “I was given 90 days to move, and was not prepared for that news. It was totally unexpected.”
Not only did Hanlon have to find a new space right at the peak of recital inventory buying and the start of summer intensives, but it happened two years ago, during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There was no time to organize and pack, never mind a place to go,” she says. “Had I had more time, I would have packed differently to make unpacking in the new location much easier.”
Hanlon used professional movers to take her inventory from her leased 2,000-square-foot space in a complex that included a dance studio to a leased 1,400-square-foot location just minutes away. “I’ve worked too hard to build my business and reputation to give up,” she says. “As one of only two dance apparel stores in Western Massachusetts, it’s important to be here for my customers.”
Making It Work: Less Space, but More of a Boutique Feel
Mary Ann’s Dance and More now resides in a former CPA office. Since Hanlon didn’t have time to do renovations, she no longer has an open floor plan. She has found some silver linings, though. The store now feels more like a boutique thanks to the creative use of former offices.
The new store has ample wall space available for slatwalls to display products. “We’re also closer to other businesses, making for a more convenient shopping trip,” she says, “and I have more chances to decorate outside seasonally.” Plus, there are plenty of parking spaces for customers.
That all helps make up for the reduced space, where there’s no extra storage space or room for hosting events. (The new location also is not visible from the road, and Hanlon discovered she had to pay for sign permits and business licenses again even though it was the same business with a different address.)
Questions to Ask First
If your studio or store gets a notice to vacate its leased space, make sure you speak with an attorney and review your lease with them to ensure your landlord is acting within the constraints of the lease. But even if you own your property, it doesn’t mean you are immune to having to move quickly if another business presents you with an offer that you just cannot refuse.
The Turning Pointe in Columbia, SC, had spent nearly 40 years operating on a main thoroughfare in one of Columbia’s upscale suburbs when owner Coleen Strasburger received an unsolicited offer to buy her property. A hospital network was looking to build a new two-story, 20,000-square-foot facility. “I wouldn’t have sold it unless it was worth it,” she says. “It was mostly opportune timing.”
By saying yes to the deal, however, Strasburger knew she was giving herself limited time to find a new location and less than three months to complete any necessary renovations. She ended up buying a former Spectrum retail location in Five Points, a popular shopping and dining district that is close to downtown Columbia and the University of South Carolina. (The Turning Pointe’s second location, in Charleston, SC, has continued to operate without change.)
Renovations on a Condensed Timeline
Strasburger designed an open floor plan that kept the existing curved architectural lines and track lighting, but she’s also done some extensive renovations. These include adding a French drain to help protect the foundation from water running under the building, replacing the roof, removing carpet and shellacking the newly exposed cement floor, transforming four offices into dressing rooms, laying down faux hardwood floors in the shoe fitting area, and installing a water fountain to meet code requirements. “I hope when I retire I can either rent this space or sell the business. I’m 61, so I have to think about these things,” she says, adding that she loves the extensive natural light after being in a windowless store that had been a former restaurant.
Strasburger hired a family member to manage her move, and closed her old store on Saturday, May 7. Doors opened for business at the new location on Wednesday, May 11 (after some delays due to the fire marshal and her internet provider). “Have a plan with a timeline and expect things to go wrong,” she says. “Looking back, could I have packed all the shoes and racks and shelving first? That would have made things a lot easier, especially to have all the shelves put together first. Then I would have packed all the bodywear, but that would have taken two or three more days, and I couldn’t close for that long.”
Both Hanlon’s and Strasburger’s marketing plan for sharing the news about their moves ended up being quite straightforward. “I simply said that we were moving and where we would now be located through postcards, email blasts and social media posts. I even sent press releases,” Hanlon says. “Even to this day, I just say I was given 90 days to move during COVID and that I did the best I could with the time frame and availability of spaces.”
Hannah Maria Hayes has an MA in dance education from New York University and has been writing for Dance Media publications since 2008.