Growing Through Arts® retailer: Sara J's Dance and Activewear

Linda and Sara Johnson, owner of Sara J's Dancewear

Last Christmas, Linda Johnson was driving with her husband and daughter, Sara, home to Lubbock, TX, when Sara started talking about what she wanted to do for a career. Sara, 20, said she wanted to own a dancewear retail store, and after a few hours of talking about it in the car, the idea seemed more and more plausible.
Over the next few months, the Johnson family rented a retail space in Lubbock, built out the store, and ordered merchandise. Then in June 2013, Sara J’s Dance and Activewear opened for business -- turning Sara's Christmas wish into a reality.

Linda Johnson, a former owner of a fitness studio, says her plan is to help her daughter run the retail operation for a few years until it gets off the ground and then turn the reigns over to Sara completely. And already, Sara has a unique vision for what she wants to achieve.

In addition to offering shoes and clothes for ballet, tap, jazz and fitness, Sara – who also dances professionally and teaches ballet at the nearby Christ in the Arts dance school -- also wants the store to be a place where children of all types can be exposed to the arts.

To do that, she holds dance classes twice a week in the store for children with developmental disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome or Autism.

“We have a friend who has many children, several adopted, and two of them have Down syndrome,” Linda Johnson says. “We thought, ‘What we need is a class just for them.’”

In addition, the Johnsons decided to carry the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow Queen books and toys from Growing Through the Arts®, which teach children not only about the stories of these classic ballets and operas, but also about arts vocabulary terms.

“We love them. We’ve had many people look at them,” Johnson says.

In fact, one of the physical therapists who works with the special needs children recently bought the Nutcracker storybook to read to her students as part of their physical therapy and to familiarize them with the story before she takes them to see the ballet this Christmas.

Johnson says parents like being able to read the familiar stories to their children, and she said they also appreciate that the books and toys are packaged in a plastic case with a handle, making them easy to transport in the car.

To merchandise the items, Linda’s husband built a black and pink bookshelf to display the books, and they have the Stage Scene Play Sets and the Ballet Series Alphabet Set spread out on a low table for children to play with when they come in the store.

“One of the reasons we have that is so the little boys can play with something while their sisters are shopping,” Linda Johnson says. “You’d be surprised how many little boys like to play with it.”