February 25, 2014
Russian Pointe® Retailer: Mark’s Dancewear
Before Mark Chelsen opened Mark’s Dancewear in Johnston, IA, he hadn’t taken a ballet class in his life. As the manager at a trucking company and the father of two boys, he hadn’t even been around girls very much.
But all that changed when his wife, a lifelong dancer and owner of a nearby dance school, had to have multiple surgeries on her feet because of being improperly fit in pointe shoes.
Chelsen asked the surgeon what could be done to prevent injuries like his wife’s, and then and there, he decided to make it his life’s mission to make sure other girls wouldn’t suffer the same fate.
In 2002, Chelsen opened Mark’s Dancewear, a full-service dancewear store featuring shoes and accessories for jazz, tap, ballroom, show choir, and of course, a robust selection of pointe shoes. Chelsen devoted himself to learning everything he could about how to fit pointe shoes correctly, and through years of practice, today, he is considered an expert in his field.
Chelsen has a three-step pointe shoe fitting process that he’s hoping to turn into a training video. He starts by making sure the girls’ toes are straight in the box, then focuses on alignment, strength and flexibility. “If everything is in alignment, it’s pressure. If it’s out of alignment, it’s pain,” he says.
As someone who insists on providing the correct support for each dancer, Chelsen has become an avid fan of Russian Pointe® shoes. “They offer the widest selection of shanks, vamps and widths,” Chelsen says. “Russian Pointe® has the shoes that mold to the feet.”
Chelsen likes to start beginners in the Rubin model, which have a pre-arched construction and are good for girls who are accustomed to wearing flip flops and Ugg boots with little support. “They’re wide and square, so they’re like training wheels,” he explains.
Once the girls are able to stand up on their toes and gain confidence and strength, he moves them into other models. Chelsen, himself, says he’s partial to the Entradas. “I love the way the Entrada looks on the foot,” he says.
Chelsen says one of the secrets of his success has been his high volume of inventory. He carries almost every model that Russian Pointe® offers, and he says customers will call and ask if he has a lot of Russian Pointe® shoes in stock, and then drive up to five hours to find what they are looking for. “People will drive if they know you have inventory,” he says.
Chelsen has also learned that listening to your customers is key. He practices what he calls “bobblehead marketing,” which is saying yes to whatever customers ask for. “When they come in, you learn to listen and ask what else do you need?” he says.
“When they leave confident and happy, that’s what you want in a store,” he says. “You’ll see a lot of happy people come and go.”