After meeting on a dance floor, Andy and Anne Walls turned their passion into a revenue stream.
“Andy was a dance teacher and I met him as a student at the studio he was teaching at,” Anne says of their introduction 15 years ago.
The couple wed and opened a dance company now called Dance With Me LLC, laying the foundation for their 2009 purchase of the Savoy Ballroom on Commercial Street.
With Dance With Me, the couple had found their calling, but still needed to find a venue. A shake-up in Andy’s career put the Wallses on a path to their own space after years of teaching in makeshift venues.
“We went out and did more than just wedding couples and generally taught social dancing out of our home,” she says.
While he was working full time at Community Hospice of America, Andy found time during lunch breaks and after work to teach dance on the side. But then he lost his job as a database analyst. A decision had to be made.
Andy decided to go into teaching dance full-time, wanting to see if he could make money without touching their savings account.
“In six months, I was actually making more teaching dance than I was as a programmer,” he says.
The couple rented community centers, gyms, the Discovery Center, Hotel Vandivort, and Bruno’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar. They traveled to Lebanon, Branson and Tulsa teaching their passion.
“Anne and Andy are wonderful,” says dance student Michele Kauffman.
She has taken lessons for the last two years through Dance With Me at the Savoy.
“The facility is amazing,” Kauffman said of Savoy. “I love the large area and the chandeliers. It’s just a beautiful venue.”
Though the couple now teaches in the Savoy, one of their most memorable classes came while on the road. It was in Ava, a small city in Douglas County.
“We taught classes out there for almost a year. It was building up to their sesquicentennial,” Andy says. “The whole town basically got together and took dance lessons.”
The classes had more than 100 people in them.
“We had everyone from high school kids to grandparents,” Andy says.
Fatigued from the travel, the couple got to the point where they were shopping for buildings around 2007, looking all over town and outside of city limits.
The big city
Their search took them to Commercial Street.
“We wanted to be a classy, ’20s-style ballroom,” Andy says.
The Wallses bought the building at 224 E. Commercial St. in 2009 and opened Savoy Ballroom a year later. Dance With Me does business in the Savoy as a separate company, Anne says.
The first thing installed was nine crystal chandeliers, which Andy says cost around $10,000 apiece.
“We had been inspired by the building in Mount Vernon that houses Tango Saloon upstairs and a stained glass studio downstairs,” Anne said.
The couple incorporated the glass element designs from that building, using mirrors on one side of Savoy Ballroom to recapture that reflective feel and make the room seem more open.
The C-Street property also features an attached courtyard.
The name comes from the famous, now-defunct Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York.
“We’re primarily swing dancers, and it’s the birthplace of swing dancing,” Andy says.
The New York Savoy had the famous dancer Frankie Manning grace its floors.
“Our Savoy also has a Frankie,” Anne says, referring to the couple’s black cat Frankie Catting, who makes the space his home.
The Savoy Ballroom has about 10 part-time employees as bartenders, dance instructors, cleaning staff and room attendants.
One of their employees, Megan Dean, held her wedding reception at Savoy and also has taken dance lessons.
“I’m a restaurant hospitality major, and I was taking a class last semester where I had to interview someone who had the job I wanted,” Dean says.
Her assignment turned into employment, working for the Savoy since July as an assistant manager. Dean is slated to become an event manager in January.
She got married first at the venue before taking the job and took waltz lessons for her wedding.
Dean’s reception is one of many the Savoy has hosted.
The Wallses’ goal for the first year was to have 24 weddings. They booked 47.
“We average about 65 a year,” Andy says.
Weddings are the primary revenue stream for the Wallses at the Savoy.
“That was a big part of our business plan – making sure we did a bunch of weddings,” Andy says. “It represents 80 percent of the money we make. It’s the reason we survive.”
Last year, the Savoy Ballroom had revenue of $320,000 combined with Dance With Me, which makes up the other 20 percent of revenues.
Rental rates range from $1,600 to $3,870 depending on the day of the week and number of guests, Anne says.
Thriller on C-Street
While weddings may be the forte, the most known event held at the Savoy Ballroom is the Thriller on C-Street, a dance honoring Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video. They do it every fourth Saturday in October, through Dance With Me.
That first year in 2010 attracted a couple thousand people and received national media attention, being picked up by The Associated Press and broadcast to local markets across the country, Andy says.
“We didn’t have any crowd control,” Andy says.
After the national attention, Thriller on C-Street received funding from the Gannett Co., and now has nearly 20 sponsors. Now, the production is a full-scale show with lights.
“It’s turned from a fluke with no money spent to about a $10,000 production,” Andy says.
After changing its name at the start of the year to reflect expanded services, Loehr Health Center relocated; video gaming center Contender eSports Springfield LLC launched; and the 3-month-old Cowboy Boutique LLC rebranded as Prickly Cactus Coffee and Boutique LLC.
Tim Potthoff, project manager with Nabholz, says the construction industry needs skilled tradesmen. He says getting certified in a trade pays as well as most four year degrees without accruing as …
Paula Adams, president of Penmac, says they try to help clients find gainful employment regardless of whether they have a permanent address. She says they partner with Council of Churches to try …
“Sometimes I’m really bad at my email, other times, I’m very on top of it,” says Megan Short, executive director of Springfield Contractors Association. Short says to stay current, she often …
Donald Babb, former CEO and executive director of Citizens Memorial Hospital, says his grandfather was his first mentor. “He always told me, you can do whatever you want to do,” Babb says. “You …
Entrepreneur Amby Lewis says it’s important to show support for local businesses and events on social media. Lewis says liking. sharing and commenting on posts can increase awareness and help a …
Joe Hornickel, planning and zoning director for the city of Branson, says one of the community's goals is to have year round jobs like manufacturing. While Branson has good access to highways, …
Carrie Tennis, senior director of operations with Family Pharmacy, says focusing on communities, customers and culture is the formula for their success. Practicing kindness is a more than four decade …
Christina Ford, president and founder of The Rebound Foundation, says she used to constantly shift roles between work and home life. Another young mom told her she designated certain days to her …
Parks play a large role in our quality of life, from creating memories to generating more than $15 million in annual visitor spending. Diana Tyndall, marketing & sponsorship coordinator with the …
Chris Bryant, development and productivity coach with Murney Associates, says in real estate, you must take many factors into account to develop your business plan. Factoring in your work hour and …