Joseph and Roberta LaSalvia, co-owners of CenterStage Dance Apparel & Costume House in Belleville.
BELLEVILLE – Purchasing an existing business can be complex, particularly for first-time business owners. That is why Roberta and Joseph LaSalvia, co-owners of CenterStage Dance Apparel & Costume House in Belleville, are grateful to the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for guiding them through the acquisition process.
The LaSalvias purchased CenterStage earlier this year and opened its doors Tuesday, Aug. 16. Located at 1722 North Belt West in Belleville in a 3,500-square-foot storefront, the store offers a plethora of dance clothing, leotards, bodysuits, footwear, and accessories for all types and ages of dancers. CenterStage also provides more than 2,000 costumes that can be purchased or rented for Halloween and other occasions. The store is also quickly becoming a destination for the Metro East ballroom dancing community.
The store’s grand reopening is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.
Purchasing and operating a dance apparel business is a natural progression for Roberta LaSalvia, who spent 14 years supporting her daughter who began dancing at age two. “I am a CPA by profession, but I’ve loved every minute of being a backstage dance mom through the years,” she said. “Many times my daughter and I came to CenterStage to find the perfect shoes and apparel for a dance performance, and many times I ordered 70 pairs of shoes for the entire dance troupe. When I learned that the business was up for sale, my husband and I approached the previous owner about buying it.”
That conversation led the LaSalvias to the Illinois Metro East SBDC, where they met former Director Patrick McKeehan who provided them with an abundance of expertise at no cost.
“Patrick and the SBDC armed us with a wealth of helpful information on how to write our business plan and conduct relevant market research,” Roberta said. “Patrick challenged us to stretch our thinking and consider every aspect of acquiring and running the business. Buying a business is a long and convoluted road. The SBDC helped us navigate that road.”
Connecting the budding business owners with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) for additional guidance was another benefit of meeting with the SBDC. Through the SBDC’s connections with financial and legal partners, the LaSalvias were able to create the necessary documentation to apply for a Small Business Administration loan through Midwest Regional Bank.
“Again, thanks to the SBDC, we developed a solid relationship with Midwest Regional Bank, a prominent SBA lender,” Roberta said. “Our application for an SBA loan was approved in large part because we received spot-on expertise from the SBDC on how to formulate that application and move through the process.”
John Vitale, SBA/USDA and commercial loan officer for Midwest Regional Bank, said that as a top SBA lender in the market working directly with the SBA, he understands the importance of a quality business plan, marketing plan and realistic projections.
“Both the SBDC and SCORE have been valuable resources for providing top-notch counseling to anyone looking to start or grow a business,” said Vitale. “I have referred Jo Ann DiMaggio-May, interim director of the Illinois Metro East SBDC, to several prospects, and she has been instrumental in her due diligence and follow up with my clients.
“Having the SBDC and SCORE provide their complementary services to the local community is vital – not only in helping businesses get off the ground, but also in assisting them, so they can continue running at optimal levels. I would highly recommend anyone looking to start or grow a business to reach out to these two organizations for assistance.”
Southwest Illinois SCORE counselor Gerry Altepeter said LaSalvia’s solid work ethic will translate into continued business success.
“It has been a pleasure mentoring Roberta LaSalvia,” Altepeter said. “Roberta really worked hard and performed her due diligence on her business plan, her financials and more. She is in the 90 percentile of small business owners with regard to success rate due to her hard work, organization and determination. I am fortunate to have worked with her and know she will be successful over the long term.”
CenterStage Dance Apparel & Costume House is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In October, the store will remain open one hour later on all days of operation and will be open on Mondays as well, including Halloween.
For more information about CenterStage, call (618) 235-6032 or visit the store’s Facebook page.
— From the Illinois Business Journal