MANCHESTER, CT (WFSB) -- A small family-owned store tucked in the back of a plaza right off Spencer Street in Manchester has been a go-to destination for decades.
“In 1974, my mother originally started it as a square dance business. Sold petticoats and things like that. And then eventually was contacted by someone who was a dance store going out of business and wanted to know if she wanted their stock. And she bought it, and the rest is history,” said Bonnie Ouellette, whose mother Glenda opened what’s now known as Dance Village.
Today, Bonnie is in charge.
“We have dance clothing and dance shoes ranging from toddler to adults. We have liturgical wear for praise dancing. We do a lot of pointe shoe fittings and of course we really don't have a Christmas business, so our Christmas is September when all the kids are going back to dance school,” Bonnie said.
People from Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire all make appointments and travel to Manchester for dance supplies, like leotards, tights, special tap shoes, and pointe shoes.
"The pointe shoes are a specific item that takes time. You can't just go in and put one pair on. It’s like a hockey skate, you have to have the right one in order to be safe,” Bonnie said.
However, the last year has been incredibly difficult, with no recitals and limited dance competitions.
"We lost 50 percent of our revenue in the year. September was a third of what we normally do because people were doing virtual and they didn't need to have those special requirements to do online dancing,” she said.
Things are finally starting to pick back up, and she and her staff are excited to see teachers and their students back in the store.
“We do work a lot with the local schools. They'll come in; they'll buy in bulk from us. They'll call and tell us how many pair of tights they need so that they get the match that they want. They'll come in and compare which colors are going to go best with which shoe they're picking. And that works out really well for both of us,” Bonnie said.
She even has a book full of all the requirements for most of the dance schools in the state, helping make customers' shopping experience easier.
“We get kids in who are now adults and they're bringing their children in and I’m like ‘this can't be possible. I just fit your pointe shoe last week’,” she said.
Ouellette is a familiar face for many, including Channel 3’s Caitlin Francis, who grew up dancing and later worked at Dance Village.