Why small businesses matter
Buy small, do big things for your community
Why Small Businesses Matter shines a light on local business owners who volunteer their time, talent, goods and services for the benefit of our community. The shop local movement is spreading virally as local businesses that are “tagged” have the opportunity to share their story!
You are IT Fred Astaire Dance Studio!
Four questions for owner Chris Whitten Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Ridgefield with his wife, Kristyn (pictured).
Why have you! start your business?
Kristyn and I have been professional partners for over six years now, and I was an instructor there for almost five years before the studio was sold to us in December 2019. Running a dance studio was a plan we had both of them and the Ridgefield studio is a place we fell in love with. It’s a place full of people we’ve come to know and love. We are living our dream; passing up the opportunity to own Fred Astaire in Ridgefield was not an option!
What is your best-selling product/service?
Feeling! A misconception about what we do, aided somewhat by modern television shows, tries to push people into a distorted view of what dance should be. What we offer people is the possibility of doing with this activity exactly what they want to get out of it. People come through our doors for a myriad of reasons (which they don’t necessarily admit the first time we meet). For some, it’s the thrill of seeing how much they can learn and how good they can be, whether for personal gain or through competition. For others, it’s the community and social aspect of ballroom dancing. Either way, the emotional value of time spent with us is precisely what we seek to offer everyone! Our program is to enrich the lives of all who are associated with us. This is not a “feel-good” corporate talk; it is the dogma that we operate on a daily basis.
How many local businesses do you use to support your business (products and services) and can you name them?
Tusk and Cup, just up the road, provides more coffee than we should dare to acknowledge! Many of our business meetings have taken place in the delicious atmosphere of The Barn Door, accompanied by delicious drinks and their delicious food. MyCleaners (right next door to us) has saved my clothing emergencies more times than I deserved, and they took excellent care of everyone we referred to them for dry cleaning, alterations, clothing repairs and shoes, etc. Of course, this strongly includes dancewear! And finally, not to be left in the background at Bernard’s! Our studio has hosted a number of dinner and dance events at Sarah’s Wine Bar (upstairs from Bernard’s). The food is absolutely stunning and the hospitality is simply prodigious.
Have you “reinvented” your small business?
As you would expect with any ownership transition, we’ve made a few changes, including modernizing the way we approach our work. The events of the past year have shown that with enough willingness to adapt, our lessons can transcend the immediate need for an in-person meeting, so we have found some success in virtual teaching. Some of our competitive events have taken place online, either via live video or pre-recorded dances. Our last regional event consisted entirely of pre-recorded dances, which we put together in a professional video editing program not unlike a feature film. We featured multiple dancers on one screen at a time, much like a normal in-person event, and streamed the final product online while simultaneously streaming it in the studio for our customers’ enjoyment.
Although in the future this will not be an optimal method for doing our work, it stands to reason that the instruction and participation of our customers can be carried out even during periods of travel, thanks to the implementation of modern technology.
Thanks HamletHub Fairfield County Bank for making our Why Small Businesses Matter series possible!