Russian Pointe® Retailer: Dancewear Center

If you ask dance store owners what the biggest obstacle is that they face today, most would say the same thing: the Internet.

Many dance store owners struggle to compete with discount online retailers where customers can get almost anything for a cheaper price. And when you own a dancewear store in the Seattle suburbs – near the epicenter of Google and Microsoft’s headquarters – the Internet looms even larger.

“The biggest problem in the industry is the Internet,” says Patrice Heston, who has owned Dancewear Center in Kirkland, WA, for 22 years. “Our customers are very tech savvy.”

Luckily, Heston provides something the online discount retailers can’t: personal evaluations and in-depth safety tips.

As a former dancer herself, Heston says she suffered many foot problems by being fit improperly in pointe shoes, so she strives to give her customers a thorough examination in every pointe shoe fitting. She begins by looking at a dancer’s bare feet, then reviews the dancer’s old shoes to see where they’ve worn and has the dancer perform basic exercises to view her bone structure and alignment.

“I’m really interested in educating them,” Heston says.

After evaluating the dancer’s unique foot structure, she recommends a pointe shoe that will best fit her needs. In some cases, Heston even suggests that dancers see a podiatrist in Seattle who makes special inserts for pointe shoes to ensure a proper fit. “I look for keeping their joints supported,” she says. “I’m a real stickler in having the entire metatarsal supported and not going over in the shoe,” she says.

As an Authorized Russian Pointe® retailer for more than 10 years, Heston says one of the best things about the brand is their wide variety of styles, shank strengths and width options, which help her fit every dancer with precision.

Plus, she loves their design. “Aesthetically they’re stunning, and the girls find them comfortable,” Heston says. “They’re just gorgeous.”

Currently Heston carries the Lumina and the Rubin, but she says she loves all of the Russian Pointe® shoes. “I would carry them all in a heartbeat if I had more room,” she says.

Heston gained lots of knowledge about how to fit pointe shoes correctly when she was operating a retail store that was associated with the Washington Academy of Performing Arts, a private performing arts school that offered classes in music, acting, dance and more.

“I could fit the shoes and then I could walk the halls and see the dancers in the studio. I got immediate feedback and could see what was going on with their feet,” she says.

Heston has even trained her husband, Marv, who is a dance photographer, in pointe shoe fitting as well so he can help out a customer when she gets too busy in the store.

In addition to providing quality pointe shoe fittings, Heston says the secret to staying in business for so long has been not relying too much on trends. “I’m real conservative,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of super high fashion in the store. We try to have enough of what we do have so if [a customer] has driven here, they get what they need.”