ROCKINGHAM —When Holly Littlefield-Bowers moved back to Rockingham to pursue her dream of becoming a dance teacher, she didn’t realize how quickly her business, Bold Moves Dance Company, would grow. She now finds herself getting ready to permanently set up shop in the place she always wanted to be — downtown.
Bowers will be taking over the former Whadda-Blast and Suede Night Club properties on East Washington Street as the city continues to see a renaissance of sorts with smaller businesses moving into the area.
“Originally, I wanted to be downtown when I opened the studio. I was working out of the Liberty Place. That was the first way to get into downtown,” said Bowers. “I just couldn’t find anything else downtown. We weren’t at a place to buy anything. After we moved to our current location, I just assumed we’d stay here and keep growing but then we exploded. I just like the downtown area. It’s where I wanted to be.”
On Tuesday — with the help of her realtor Jamie Moss — Bowers was surprised with a celebration of balloons, baked treats from Kool Kakes and a gathering of students, other downtown business owners and members of the Rockingham Downtown Corp.
“She bought this building before she bought a house. Just that experience, it’s just been a blessing that everything fell into place just magically for her,” Moss said. “She is a very business savvy woman. What ducks I didn’t have in a row, she had. She was very well-informed, she did a lot of research. The excitement from her and the excitement from her students and the Downtown Corporation, I just thought we needed to do something to celebrate.”
Bowers said her last season ended with 92 students and with summer classes in effect, that number jumps to 140 — almost three times the number she started with.
With the need for so much space, Bowers intends on using all 14,000 square feet of the property at some point. Phase one of the project will start with the Whadda-Blast building where two large dance rooms will be built. Phase two includes the 3,000 square feet space between Whadda-Blast and Food King that will eventually house her office and a large dance room that Bowers hopes can serve as an adult fitness room.
She said the plan would be to “tap into some other markets that aren’t there right now.”
Bowers added there’s no immediate plans for the Suede Night Club space, and in the meantime it will be used for storage. But she said that doesn’t mean it will go unused forever.
“It’d be cool for like a cross-fit gym,” she said. “There’s a lot of possibilities. Our main concern is getting the dance studio up and running. If we get to that point, we would love to be using the entire 14,000 square feet.”
The City of Rockingham helped Bowers with her down payment, as well as future renovations of both the interior and exterior that will include painting, taking down current signs and putting up Bold Moves Dance Company signs and landscaping to help give the building a facelift. That’s something other businesses and the RDC will appreciate, too.
“Any new business that replaces an empty building is great,” said RDC President Susan Kelly, “and Bold Moves is especially positive because they will bring a healthy, creative activity for our youth, as well as more people to eat and shop. I am very proud of Holly and excited that her dream to teach dance in downtown Rockingham is coming true.”
But it’s not just the RDC, the City of Rockingham and other business owners that are ready to see Bold Moves move in.
“I’m just super excited. Our students are just thrilled,” Bowers said. “I am just so thrilled to have all the support that we have for the last two years. The families in the community, the students, the city has been so instrumental. Everybody has gone over and beyond to help. I’m just so happy to be in Richmond County and have support from the county. It’s been a very awesome process.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.