Russian Pointe® Retailer: Ellman's Dancewear

Rosemary Liberto and Jo Anne Draucker, owner of Ellman's Dancewear Over the last 65 years, people in Richmond, VA, have come to know that Ellman’s Dancewear is all about shoes.

The store was founded by John and Ida Ellman in 1948. At first, they sold only shoes, but later they began selling clothing, Eastern and Western horseback riding apparel, and became the first story to carry Lee jeans in the city of Richmond. And thanks to customer requests, they also started carrying dance shoes.

In the early 1980s, the Ellmans passed the business on to Jo Anne Wade Draucker, a local actress and dancer whose own business, Premiere Costumes, was located just above the store. Draucker decided to focus strictly on dance shoes and apparel, and over the last 30 years, Ellman’s has become known for their wide selection of dancewear, strong relationships with local dance schools and expert pointe shoe fittings.

“It’s generations and generations of people coming here because we were the first dancewear store in the city of Richmond,” explains Rosemary Liberto, who has been the store’s manager for the last 12 years.

Ellman’s has been carrying Russian Pointe® shoes for the last 11 years, and Liberto says Russian Pointe® is the most popular brand of shoes they sell.

“It’s such an elegant and sophisticated pointe shoe,” Liberto says. “I have so many students try on different shoes and they end up going with the Russian Pointe®, usually because Russian Pointe works so nicely with their feet and creates such a nice silhouette.”

Today the store carries every one of Russian Pointe®’s models, and Liberto says she’s always been extremely happy with the quality of Russian Pointe® shoes. “We’ve never had any manufacturing issues in 11 years,” Liberto says. “We’ve never been disappointed.”

Liberto says Ellman’s sets itself apart by providing thorough pointe shoe fittings where they assess a dancer’s entire body, not just her feet. “It’s taking the time to look at the foot structurally. You have to look at not just the feet, but the ankles, the knees and the hips,” she says.

If the pointe shoe fitter notices that a dancer is pronating her feet or rolling forward on her knees, Liberto says the store will write a note to her teacher explaining the problem and give the dancer exercises to do to correct it. The store also encourages teachers to come with dancers for every pointe shoe fitting.

“We really encourage the teachers to come with the students… so we can have a conversation with them and tell them this is what we’re seeing,” Liberto says. “There’s a nice back and forth with the instructors.”

Liberto says building that rapport with each dance school has helped them tremendously, because the more that the dance schools trust the store, the more the schools will recommend the store to their students.

In fact, Liberto says many schools now ask Ellman’s for their advice on which brands they should have their students wear. “Most of the time, the studios will listen to what you have to say with regard to products,” she says.