A new dancewear shop has opened in the Thistles after its owners won a`Dragons Den’ style competition for a free retail unit.
Centre Stage Dancewear, run by Lesley Ann Craig and Leigh White, was chosen as the winner in the #ThistlesHelps campaign which was supported by Go Forth Stirling. The Thistles launched the competition in June calling for local businesses who thought a retail space in the Centre would aid their growth to apply for a free unit.
The owners of Centre Stage Dancewear, who already had popular shops in Falkirk and Linlithgow, were the winners and now benefit from five months in the 1,000 square foot unit with all rent and utility charges covered. Meanwhile, Go Forth are providing them with a shopfront grant to aid with store signage and an eCommerce grant scheme to support online activity.
Lesley Ann and Leigh were delighted to open their doors on Saturday August 28 and welcome young dancers to their store which features a stage for budding performers to try on outfits and show off their dance skills.
Lesley Ann said: “We were thrilled to win this fantastic opportunity. We had been looking to expand our business so when we saw this initiative it seemed like the ideal route for us.
We’d been looking to expand into Stirling for some time but without this competition we simply couldn’t afford such a great space. The Saturday we opened marked the one-year anniversary of our Falkirk store opening so it was great timing and a really exciting moment for us and our business.”
Leigh said: “We’d been looking at expanding, saw the competition and decided to give it a try. We did a story board at our presentation and just went in and were ourselves.We thought and hoped the interview had gone well and then we got the news that we had won and were ecstatic.”
Lesley Ann and Leigh’s children grew up attending dance lessons and the pair bought all their dancewear from Centre Stage Dancewear which first opened its doors in November 2005 in Linlithgow.
In 2018, the owner decided to sell the shop and the two women thought it was a fantastic opportunity and offered to buy it keeping the well-established name. At the time Leigh worked in her husband’s central heating business and Lesley Ann was a nursey nurse so it was a big change for the pair.
Leigh says: “We were both looking for a change and because we were doing it together, we thought it would be fun and it was. The Linlithgow shop was a great success – we brought in new products from the US and changed the layout of the shop about and did really well.”
The shop sells a wide range of adult and children’s dancewear and dance shoes stocking world leading dance brands including Capezio, So Danca, Bloch, Basilica, Grishko and Pineapple. They also sell gifts and accessories for all types of dancing, footwear for highland and country dancing plus all the uniform requirements for local dance schools.
The Linlithgow business went from strength to strength and Lesley Ann and Leigh were able to open a second shop in Falkirk last August. Leigh says: “The Falkirk shop was an excellent location and was far enough away from Linlithgow and between two dance schools. We could see a gap in the market and it meant that people from the Falkirk area would no longer need to travel to see us in Linlithgow or buy their dance outfits online so we decided to go for it.”
The pair found success again in Falkirk and began to think about expanding further when they spotted the advert for the Thistles contest. After winning the coveted prize, Leigh and Lesley Ann spent some time painting and revamping the empty shop putting in a dressing room and stage before enjoying a successful opening ceremony.
Leigh says: “It was great fun on our opening day and children kept coming in to have a dance on the stage. It’s been going well in Stirling and we’re really enjoying being in the Thistles – everything has turned out as we’d hoped so far.”
As well as selling dancewear, gymnastics gear and shoes, the shop does Pointe Shoe appointments and has a ballet area with a barre and mirror so youngsters can get a real feel for their new shoes and try them out properly.
Leigh’s daughter Stephanie, who danced as a junior associate with Scottish Ballet when she was younger, carries out the Pointe shoe fittings and Leigh and Lesley Ann both work in the Stirling shop at different times.
They cater for all ages with accessories, gifts and dancewear and there are details of the available products on the website – www.centrestagedancewear.com
More details about the shop and photos of the dancewear can also be found on the Facebook page – www.facebook.com/Centre-Stage-Dancewear-Stirling-104303638648090 – and on Instagram – www.instagram.com/centrestagedw/