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Coronavirus shutdown forces Swartz Creek dance studio out of business

According to a recent survey from the Small Business Association, nearly 1 in 5 Michigan small businesses are expecting sales to drop by more than half in the coming months.
Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 5:37 PM EDT
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SWARTZ CREEK, Mich. (WJRT) - (10/6/2020) - Another mid-Michigan business is forced to close their doors after 65 years in the community.

Smooth Steps Dance and Gymnastics, located in Swartz Creek, has been shut down since March, when the coronavirus pandemic began.

The last few months have been difficult for every business owner and many are expecting that trend to continue.

According to a recent survey from the Small Business Association, nearly 1 in 5 Michigan small businesses are expecting sales to drop by more than half in the coming months.

But for Smooth Steps, the damage has already been done.

The dance and gymnastics studio made the announcement they’re closing on their Facebook page last week. The post was met with dozens of comments of support and gratitude. The owner said the messages are helping her through such a difficult decision.

“Just doesn’t seem real,” owner Alison Kivett-Williston said. “Kind of surreal right now, living in a surreal moment, hasn’t hit me yet.”

Smooth Steps Dance and Gymnastics has trained thousands of Genesee County kids. In many instances, three generations of the same family have walked through these doors, since the studio opened in 1956.

“My mother was 14 years old and she started it in her basement; and, she would charge kids a quarter for lessons,” Kivett-Williston shared.

As she gained more and more dancers, Kivett-Williston’s Mom moved out of her basement and into a studio on Pierson Road.

She passed the business down to her daughter in 1994 -- 25 years ago -- and Kivett-Williston moved it to Swartz Creek.

She and her staff had big plans to mark that milestone. The theme for their 25th anniversary celebration recital this spring -- oddly, enough was ‘Unstoppable’.

“It makes me angry that I’m forced to come to this. I mean, years and years of just success and just -- I just love working with the kids,” she explained. “So that’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Closing for good is a last resort for Kivett-Williston, but with no income since the shutdown, bills are continuing to pile up -- property taxes, Consumers Energy and their commercial mortgage.

While they were able to defer payments on the building, the note is due January 20th.

She adds the endless unknown of what they can legally do and fears of fines didn’t help.

“I thought, you know, we’re going to open week one, week two we’re going to get shut down. On top of it, I have staff that’s had to move on, so I lost half my staff because they needed to get other jobs,” she said.

So the ‘For Sale or Lease’ sign is up and the lights are now out, as Kivett-Williston grieves never getting the opportunity to take her final bow.

“It’s just the end of the road, I guess,” she added.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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