Asked what the arts give to the next generation, Margarite Kennedy answered without hesitation: “Discipline.”
A dancer for her entire life, Kennedy knows about the time and effort required to achieve success. “You have to be disciplined in all of your life, balancing schoolwork and spending hours in a studio and on stage,” she said.
Kennedy also makes use of that same passion, experience and discipline in managing her business, Upstage Dancewear, in the heart of Historic Downtown McKinney.
Upstage Dancewear has been a full-service dance supply store for 29 years. Kennedy and her staff serve everyone from the beginner tot just starting to try on tutus through to the professional adult dancer, and they have been a go-to destination downtown for the last 21 of those years.
A Downtown Fixture
As you might imagine, Kennedy has seen many changes to her neighborhood in that time. When she moved into her current space in 1994, she fell in love with the area and was inspired by the warm feeling she got from a location with a long history. At that time, it was mostly discount bargain stores and antique malls, but she had a feeling it would grow. She was right.
The warm welcoming feeling that initially attracted Kennedy to her space downtown is something she hopes to extend to customers who walk through her doors.
“I want people to feel very welcome from the moment they walk in,” she said.
The staff, all with dance and theater backgrounds, offers fitting expertise that sets them apart, and the private dressing rooms in the store are great for trying on leotards and other dance or gymnastics apparel that needs to have just the right fit.
Special Customer Service
It’s that service the customers clearly appreciate. As 3-year-old Makynlie Sturgis twirls in front of the mirror admiring her orange tutu, her mother Heather explains why they enjoy coming here: “It’s their unique selection of dance attire,” she said. “Makynlie enjoys coming in and trying on leotards and practices in front of the mirror. They have a wonderful staff and are very helpful.”
Customer service that goes above and beyond is also what keeps McKinney resident Carol Beth Scott coming back. While son Joshua, 16, has his tap shoe fitting, she recalls that she has been a customer at Upstage Dancewear since they opened their doors. At that time she was a dance teacher and now comes here to supply her own children.
“Everybody knows you, knows your kids, their style of shoes and what size they wear,” she said.
Upstage helps outfit performers for area high school productions.
Community service is another way Upstage Dancewear sets itself apart. Kennedy is a proud supporter of community organizations and frequently donates products to auctions or events that help promote and bring awareness to the arts. The staff participates in charity fashion shows, educates the public about dance history, serves local drill teams with fittings and deep discounts on group orders, supports theater arts with donations and helps competition dancers with a frequent-buyer program. Kennedy and her team also participate in downtown McKinney’s “Home for the Holidays,” with their unique live window displays.
From Studio to Store
Before Upstage Dancewear, Kennedy earned her bachelor’s degree in dance from Texas Woman’s University and owned a dance studio for eight years. The necessity of working odd hours and the unique stresses of running a dance studio prompted her to make a lifestyle change from studio owner to store owner. But she still studies and performs international ballroom – rumba and cha cha being her favorite styles.
Kennedy has big plans for the future. She wants to expand the store’s online presence, as well as develop, sell and distribute her own line of fashion products and high-quality basics. In addition to developing her own line of children’s body wear, she would like to add a small amount of manufacturing to her McKinney site.
In looking back at all she has accomplished through her 29 years in the industry, Kennedy said she is most proud of her long tenure. She loves to think of all the happy and satisfied customers who have become her friends. In fact, she is now seeing former young customers come in as mothers with their own children.
“I’m seeing a second generation of customers in my store,” Kennedy said. “That’s exciting.”
About the author: Katie Soyka is a McKinney-based photographer, writer and mom, who will soon head back to Upstage to replace her 6-year-old daughter’s ballet shoes that are currently being held together by Super Glue. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her photography website at katiesoykaphotography.com.