Front and Center with Joy Ellis
Footlights Dance & Theatre
DRN Advisory Board member Joy Ellis opened
Footlights Dance & Theatre Boutique in Frederick,
MD, in August, 1991—just in time for back-to-school season. In the 22 years since, she has nurtured and expanded her business, turning it into a pointe-shoefitting mecca for many Washington, DC–area dancers. Last fall, she pushed her store to new heights by opening a second location 40 miles away in Silver Spring, MD. This month, DRN caught up with Ellis to discuss the challenges she faced while building her business, her proudest moments as a storeowner and more.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when growing your store, and how did you
overcome it? JE: Getting the right staff is a challenge for any business. With two locations and almost 20 staff members, scheduling, training and communicating with everyone is a challenge. We have staff meetings, gatherings outside of work, in-service sessions and anything else we can to build a better team atmosphere.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer a new storeowner? JE: Make sure you take time off. I know it’s really hard to let go and let someone else be in control, but you need time to relax and recharge. Some of your best ideas are waiting in a well-rested mind and body.
Describe your proudest moment as a
storeowner. JE: I’ve had dancers from across the country visit our store after telling me they were in the Washington, DC, area and heard they needed to visit Footlights. They made time in their vacation plans and came to see us. Some continue to order from us even after they have returned home. Most tell us it was the best dance store they have ever seen.
What type of marketing works best for you, and why do you think it works so well?
JE: We always love word-of-mouth advertising from our satisfied customers. However, we do a monthly newsletter, e-mail blasts and Facebook and Twitter posts. We have younger clients, so anything you can send to a smartphone is successful.
Describe your most memorable promotion or in-store event. JE: It was an unexpected visit by the one-and-only Mark Suffolk [of Suffolk Pointe Company]. Mark and his wife Keri and his staff stopped by our store one Saturday en route to the Mid-Atlantic Dance Show in Baltimore. We were extremely busy that day with a pointe-shoe-fitting event, and Mark, Keri and staff just jumped in and started helping customers. We were thankful for the help, but the customers were totally ecstatic about having a fitting done by Mark! It was a great, spontaneous in-store event. Thank you Mark!