When It Comes To Pointe Shoes, Family Run Retailer Is A Perfect Fit

By Michael Hinkelman
Philadelphia Daily News.


Jennifer Jenkins Ertel, 52, runs the Rosin Box with her brother Len. The store, a fixture in Philadelphia’s dance life since 1977, sells pointe shoes. Jenkins Ertel is a former professional dancer who studied under Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1979-80 in New York.

Q: How have you been able to stay in business so long?

A: I think we have a niche that’s all about customer service. There are ebbs and flows in this business. You also have to go with trends in dance, so our business has evolved. We’ve always been dance-oriented, and pointe shoes have always been our bread and butter.

Q: You sell pointe shoes primarily to ballet dancers?

A: What we’re known for is fitting pointe shoes. The fitting of pointe shoes is important because it’s not a natural thing to go up on pointe. Fitting pointe shoes accounts for 80 percent of our revenues.
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Q: The biz model?

A: It’s retail and mostly walk-in. We don’t sell online.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: After the initial sale, when people come in the door to get fitted for pointe shoes the first time, the challenge is to bring them back in. Once we fit them, unless they’re young, they’re not growing anymore and they like their shoes.
Q: The name?

A: It refers to rosin on the side of a dance floor in a little box. You put it on the tip of your pointe shoe to prevent slipping.

Q: Your customers?

A: We get Princeton Ballet all the time. We get people from North Carolina, Maryland, and we’ve even had people from Sweden shop here. The dance community is small and there are lots of summer programs. If somebody goes to the Pennylvania Ballet or Rock School, they’ll come into our store because they know where to go to get fitted pointe shoes. We get customers from all over, but I would say the main places are Princeton, South Jersey, and Philadelphia and its suburbs. Girls from 11 to 13, who are getting their first pair of pointe shoes, that’s a huge deal.

Q: Cost of pointe shoes?

A: The average is $90; if you add ribbon and toe pads, it’s about $100 per pair.

Q: With whom do you compete, and what differentiates you?

A: Baum’s (Dancewear, also in Philadelphia) has been around forever; they respect us and we respect them. Their niche is more theatrical. There are a couple of places in the suburbs I’ll send people to if we don’t have it.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: More than $100,000 in revenue. My mom and dad own it. My brother’s two sons work here, and my daughter and mother work part time.

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