Dec. 1, 2018
Three Times the Fun!
Question: What happens when two kids from New York who never knew each other finally meet in a bank in Anthem?
Answer: They get married and start a dance company. And a dancewear store. And a coffee shop.
Meet Danielle and Nick Cicogna, a pair of New York transplants who each settled in the desert, met, and are in the middle of their happily ever after. They’re also the owners of three businesses in North Phoenix: Diamond Dance Works, one of the largest dance studios in the North Valley; Pearl Dancewear, home of high-quality dance apparel and accessories; Crystal Coffee, serving premium coffee, tea, and baked goods in a relaxed, casual setting. What makes these businesses so special is that they are true mom & pop stores owned and operated by a real mom & pop. And if you’re wondering how they manage three businesses all at once, it’s a combination of their seemingly tireless work ethic, their first-rate staff, and the fact that all 3 businesses are next to each other.
Diamond Dance Works
Ages 2 – 92, offering ballet, acro, tap, jazz, lyrical, cheer, hip-hop, musical theatre, contemporary, plus adult tap and Mommy & Me classes. Billed as “The elite dance studio of the North Valley,” Diamond Dance Works opened with a mission of ensuring each child gains exceptional dance training in a positive atmosphere. It’s a mission that has resonated with the public. The level of instruction is second-to-none, but even more impressive is how they consistently maintain a warm, friendly, family vibe. It’s a very safe and supportive community of students and staff, which is so important for kids working to develop a positive self-image. Megan, a mother of two dancing kiddos, shared what keeps her coming back to Diamond Dance Works: “My kids love it here. And as a parent, it’s a blessing to have a place where every kid gets to show off their ‘sparkle.’” Apparently, other parents feel the same way; In less than three years of being open, Diamond Dance Works had grown to capacity. To accommodate their swelling enrollment, they added more dance rooms and a second waiting area for parents. The decision to expand was an easy one: On any given day you could walk into their lobby and find every chair (and most of the floor space) taken by students and parents waiting for the next class to begin. With the additional dance rooms and the second lobby area, there’s room for everyone - for now. At 550 students and growing, it may not be long before “phase 3” is needed to handle all the growth in North Phoenix. I researched what makes Diamond Dance Works so popular, and discovered that it starts with experience. Their instructors are held to very high standards, with many of them being former college athletes or holding a degree in dance. Danielle herself, in addition to having studied dance at ASU, spent years teaching private dance classes, coaching cheer and pom, and eventually running the entire performing arts program at Cactus High School. Being a “cheer mom” myself, I assure you that there is no better preparation for a customer service-oriented business than dealing with demanding cheer moms.
Everything you need to start dancing today. Carrying apparel and gear from Bloch, Danskin, Kandi Kouture, Sadie Jane, Covet Dance and more. With a thriving dance studio occupying most of their time, why would Danielle and Nick even consider opening another business? The answer goes back to their commitment to their customers. “We kept seeing new families come in and sign up on the spot,” says Nick. “Their kids were ready to start dancing that same day, but didn’t have the proper dance shoes or apparel. Parents would either have to drive all over town to get the right gear, or order something online, wait a few days, and hope it fits.” To fix this problem, Nick and Danielle opened Pearl Dancewear, a chic boutique of high-performance dance gear. Shoes, tights, leotards, hair ties, bows, and more. They carry everything a student needs to start class the same day. To maintain consistent quality, every item is hand-selected by Danielle. “These are the products I was already recommending to everyone,” she said. “So now we carry them.” And what about price? “We made a conscious decision to price everything fairly. We realize customers can go online and buy almost anything at a discount. So, we make sure our pricing is competitive, even against Amazon and other dance stores.” One of the biggest selling points of online shopping has always been convenience. But if you’re ordering and returning shoes that don’t fit, it suddenly becomes much more convenient to get the right product in the right size and be done in five minutes. “It’s not often ‘the little guy’ can beat Amazon for convenience,” says Danielle. “We’re just happy we can super-serve our customers and get the kids dancing right away.”
Coffee, tea, espresso drinks, bagels, pastries, fresh fruit, and snacks – and WiFi! OK, so the dance studio and dance wear boutique make perfect sense as a tandem business. But why coffee? We posed this question to Nick, and the answer was simply brilliant: “Every day, dozens of parents would sit in the waiting room at Diamond Dance Works during dance class. And every day we would hear them say ‘It would be awesome if someone sold coffee here in the building.’ We realized they were absolutely right – coffee would be pretty awesome.” So Nick did what any co-owner of a dance studio would do in this situation – he quit his corporate job and enrolled in Barista School. He’s now certified in the art of crafting high-quality coffee drinks. And with that, they opened Crystal Coffee. To nobody’s surprise, they run this shop the same way they run their other businesses: Everything is high quality, everything is done the right way, and the staff is always customer-focused. They feature locally roasted coffee and espresso, plus their amazing nitro cold brew coffee, which is brewed and kegged in-house, and served fresh from the tap over ice with a little cinnamon. It can only be described as life-changing. Something special I noticed about Crystal Coffee is that they feature house-madeseasonal flavorings like pumpkin spice and gingerbread. Yes, everyone sells flavored syrup, butCrystal Coffee literally makes the syrup in their shop, using real sugar and actual spices. If you think all pumpkin spice is created equal, just grab a bottle of commercial syrup and read the label. You’ll find at least three or four ingredients you can’t pronounce. Gross! Danielle and Nick designed the shop as a perfect hub for anyone needing a quick break from the day’s schedule. A typical dance mom (or dad) can drop off the older kid at dance class and take the younger one here for a snack pack, yogurt, or some chocolate milk. And even if you’re not part of the world of dance, you can break out the laptop and get some work done over a bagel and a latte. The WiFi is fast, the bathrooms are clean, and there’s plenty of tables, chairs, and workspaces. As an added bonus that you might not appreciate until Summer rolls around again, they have lots and lots of covered parking. In Arizona, that’s a game-changer!
When they’re not busy running their businesses, Danielle and Nick are usually home in Anthem chasing around their young daughter, who Nick tells me was dancing as soon as she was walking. “Thankfully,” says Nick, “She got her Mom’s dance genes. On a dance talent scale of 1-10, I’m a negative-five,” he says. When I asked Danielle if this is true, she assured me Nick can hold his own on the dance floor, and even rose to the occasion at their wedding. Their first dance was Brad Paisley’s “Then,” a sweet country ballad about love growing even stronger. So how did Nick do? According to Danielle, he nailed it. Nearly seven years later, their love is growing, their businesses are growing, and even their family is growing. Danielle and Nick are expecting child #2 any day now.