Custom designs and an extensive pointe shoe selection make The Dancer’s Pointe a destination shop.
When Janet Marie Groom purchased The Dancer’s Pointe in 1998, she was already at the center of Pittsburgh’s dance scene. As costumier of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, she knew her dancers’ needs, from the most flattering cuts to the best-fitting shoes. So when she took over the store—which at the time was a much smaller affair open just four hours a week—she transformed it into a local institution.
Today, her daughter Kerri Angeletti manages the store while Groom continues to make costumes full-time at PBT. The mother-daughter team serves dancers from as far away as West Virginia and Ohio. These customers make the trek for the store’s abundant shoe selection and Groom’s handmade dancewear and costumes.
Locally, The Dancer’s Pointe serves about 20 studios, with the closest just a block away. Not only does it serve recreational and teen competition dancers, but the store’s wide offerings and involvement in the dance community set it apart locally as a place that caters to serious pre-professional and professional dancers.
Ashley Rivers is a writer and dancer in Boston.
1. As costumier for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Janet Marie Groom (left) developed a close relationship with the previous owner and purchased the store when the woman retired. Groom made big changes right away, expanding store hours from four hours a week to five days a week—and eventually opening on Saturdays and then Sundays. “We realized that many students couldn’t come in on Saturdays because they had classes six days a week,” says Groom. “We have been thanked many, many times for opening on Sunday.”
Her daughter Kerri Angeletti grew up dancing and helped out in the store on Saturdays. After graduating from college with a degree in business administration in 2008, she took over most of the buying and responsibility for managing the store. “I do most of the day-to-day,” says Angeletti. “But when new things come in, I always ask my mom’s opinion.”
2. Downtown destination The store is located near downtown Pittsburgh in a 100-plus-year-old building that also houses apartments, with other shops down the street. Over the years, as neighboring retailers left, Groom expanded her retail and storage areas. Large windows, on-street parking and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks bring in foot traffic.
3. A practical boutique “We want it to feel like a store that has all the essentials—but boutique-y, where you’ll find something that’s one of a kind,” says Groom. She recently updated the interior color scheme to pink and gray, adding a blackboard behind the cash wrap. “We tried to pick a pink that was brighter than the shade you see a lot in dance, and an accent of gray that would be calming and neutral—something that all of the colors in the store would look nice against,” she says.
The space is broken up into a front room housing shoes and adult dancewear, and a smaller back room for children’s dancewear and fitting rooms. “It’s open and shoppable,” says Angeletti. “But it’s not too open. It keeps the traffic flowing.”
4. One-of-a-kind product mix In addition
to carrying an expansive leotard selection for adults and children, Groom designs custom dancewear for the store. “She mainly makes skirts, but also shorts, leggings and scarves,” Angeletti says. “She finds cool, unique patterns and will sometimes dye them differently. So you’re going to class in something that’s one of a kind.”
5. A pointe shoe haven Groom and Angeletti are serious about their pointe shoe selection. “Pointe shoes are about half of store sales,” says Groom, who advises pointe shoe clients to allow a full hour for a fitting. “We don’t care how long it takes to get them into the proper shoe,” she says.
To create extra space for pointe shoe storage, Groom put up a grid wall at the back of the fitting area, into which she wove large ribbons, giving the space a custom, feminine feel. On the back side of this wall, Groom hangs pointe shoes in bins, while industrial shelving completes the makeshift, easily accessible stockroom.
Though Groom initially offered off-site fittings, over the years she has reduced this practice and now no longer conducts them. As she established her reputation for such an extensive selection, studios saw that it benefited both parties to conduct fittings in-store.
6. Custom costumes The Dancer’s Pointe is the official store for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Groom brings her expertise into the store by offering custom handmade costumes, available by request. She takes both large and small orders, which she makes in her downtime from her job at PBT. At one time she provided all the costumes for a nearby studio in West Virginia, but she now mostly takes orders on an individual basis for solos, competitions or lead roles in local productions.
8. Going above and beyond Recently, Angeletti began a pointe shoe sewing service for newer dancers or those who don’t have the time to sew. “We had so many people asking us, ‘Where can we go to have these sewn?’” she says. “We charge $10, and they’re usually ready the next day.”
Just the Facts
The Dancer’s Pointe
2821 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Employees: 2 full-time (including Angeletti),
Typical customer visits per day: anywhere from 5 to 20
Busiest time of day: 4–6 pm, weekdays; 10 am–12 pm and 2–4 pm, weekends
Busiest time of year: back-to-school (August through October)
Typical customer: “We see them all: pre-professional dancers, professional dancers, recreational dancers, adult dancers.”
Average purchase: around $100
Best-selling brands: Freed of London, Suffolk, Capezio, Só Dança, Grishko, Sansha
Most unusual customer request: Exotic dancers have walked in and said, “Oh, we thought this was a different kind of dance store.”
Biggest competition: online discounters
Photography by Michael Reed