10 questions with Pampos Dance owner Melanie Safer
The dressing room of Pampos Dance doubles as a veritable backstage space for impromptu fashion shows. Children can try on leotards with no tantrums because at the end of the runway stands the store’s helpful staff. Customer service is crucial to owner Melanie Safer, who understands the importance of the perfect fit when it comes to a ballet shoe — after all, she was a dancer herself. We asked Safer to tell us more about her shop, which first opened almost 30 years ago.
1. What is a typical day like for you and your team? It depends on the time of year. In back to school, it’s like we come in, put out more merchandise, have customers all day long, selling, fitting shoes. It’s up and down off the floor, constantly putting shoes back on the shelf and in order, helping the customers and always being friendly and having great customer service
2. What is your professional background? How did you get started with Pampos? My professional background is as a school teacher. I taught for one semester and decided it wasn’t for me. I had kids in dance, and I danced. And there wasn’t really a place in Baton Rouge that had a really good selection where you could see what you were purchasing for leotards and things. There was one in New Orleans called Pampos, and I decided that as I got too old to continue to dance, I asked [the previous owner] to go into business with me, and he did. Then I bought him out, and that’s history.
3. What are the first things customers see when they walk through the doors? We have such a pretty wreath of pointe shoes that I haven’t taken it down yet because I think it’s so pretty. We change the store around constantly. So right now, you see kids’ leotards if you walk straight through. Before you hit the leotards, you see some fashion from a company called AinslieWear. On the right side of the store, right now we have sale merchandise. We don’t usually have sale stuff. On the left side, we have jazz wear and gymnastics wear. Then you see benches, where kids and adults are fitted with shoes. We also have a little area where little boys who come in and don’t know what to do can play with some big Legos and at a little kids’ table.
4. What sets your store apart from other dance stores? Customer service and having what the customer wants when they come in to get it.
5. How do you keep your store’s inventory fresh and up to date? Well, the dancewear reps come to us and show us what they have. There’s always a constant classical, basic leotard and tights that you always have. They also have fashion, and they ship at different times of the year. They come and bring it to us, and we decide if the customers here would like it, if it’s priced right, that kind of stuff.
6. What is one thing you think customers should know about your store that they may not be aware of? Some parents don’t realize that we have so many shoes in so many different widths and lengths and styles. If you want a ballet shoe now, you have a choice of maybe six different styles of canvas and five or six different styles of leather. I mean, it’s unbelievable how many different shoes there are.
7. Can you share a hint about what shoppers will see in your store next season? The different textures—like mesh and lace—that are coming up on leotards are beautiful.
8. How has Pampos changed since it opened? We’re not carrying swim anymore, and I think we’ve carried swim ever since we opened. We have a few pieces of swim left, and it’s all on sale. We just decided there are too many places where people could buy swimsuits. It’s a competitive market, so we are bowing out of swim. We carry a lot of gymnastics leotards. When we first opened, we had no hot pants and crop tops. We didn’t sell that, but now we do. We used to just be mainly leotards and tights and shoes because that’s what people wore, and now it’s all different.
9. What do you anticipate people coming in to buy this season? Maybe some crazy tutus and leggings for the Spanish Town Parade. With the 2016 Olympics, I think more kids will take gymnastics, and we’ll see and increase in our gymnastics sales. Competition season, they’ll be buying jazz pants, booty shorts, tops. Then we’ll go into the recital season, and that will be tights and tights and more tights. Also with recital season and competition season, the hanging bags to put your costumes in, we’ll see them coming in for that.
10. What is your best-selling product? Overall, shoes and tights, but we sell more kids’ black leotards than anything.