Home Arts & Leisure New owner, new outreach as Arthur Murray Danbury hits 40

New owner, new outreach as Arthur Murray Danbury hits 40

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Andy Cabell competing with student Debra Hendrickson, who runs consignment ballroom business Black Rock Ballroom Couture in Fairfield.

Perhaps surprisingly, “born to dance” is not the best way to describe Andy Cabell, a longtime instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Danbury. In April, Cabell bought the franchise at 345 Main St. for $185,000 and has ambitious plans for expanding its community reach — though he’s not a born entrepreneur either.

“It all started with a Craigslist ad,” he recalled with a laugh. “Arthur Murray was looking for instructors, no experience required.”

That was fortunate, he said; having graduated in 2008 with a degree in history, Cabell had been planning to go to grad school. But the cratering economy put an end to that idea. After a series of odd jobs he decided to reply to the ad — and was promptly hired in 2009.

“Arthur Murray as an organization looks for someone who’s outgoing and has a professional attitude,” Cabell said. “They feel that it’s easy to teach people how to dance.”

It apparently was for Cabell, who although he had taken tap and ballet classes as a youngster had not been considering it as a career. Since joining Murray, he has placed first in multiple teaching competitions. He has also  twice been to the international finals of the annual All Stars Tournament of Champions, an event designed to test and showcase not only its instructors’ talents but also their commitment to customer service.

Adding ownership to his portfolio was, again, a matter of being in the right place at the right time. “Nicole Almeida, who’s the daughter of the people who opened (the Danbury location) in 1979, had operated it for the last 10 years and was looking to get out of the business,” Cabell said. “She’s another person who never expected to go into this — she wanted to work in radio.”

Cabell said he jumped at the chance to own the franchise because “Even though ballroom dancing is pretty easy on the body, it’s still pretty strenuous. I’m 32, so I can expect maybe another eight years of feeling pretty comfortable doing it. But after that you have to slow down.”

He noted that he’d explored a few other avenues for his next career step. “I tried doing an office job part time a couple of years ago — and hated it,” he laughed. “So I decided to stay in the business and becoming a franchisee is a great way of doing that. It seemed like a logical next step.”

One of the biggest challenges of being in charge has been “taking on the marketing and public relations side of things. But I’ve found it very enjoyable, way more than I expected it to be.”

The biggest transition, he said, “has been in the mindset — it’s not just thinking only about your students anymore. Your view has to expand to include making sure that every student in the studio is having a good time.”

Cabell also credited Tara Aston, the center’s manager and his frequent dance partner, for helping make the transition a smooth one. “She has a lot of experience with payroll and that kind of thing,” he said. “She’s been an incredible asset for us.” All told, Arthur Murray Danbury has five employees.

That 2019 marks the franchise’s 40th anniversary in Danbury won’t go unheralded, Cabell said. “I want us to be more involved with the community, local charity events, working with as many of them as we can,” he said. A grand reopening, produced in conjunction with the chamber of commerce, will kick things off on Sept. 27, followed by what he hopes will be one “major event” each quarter of 2019 “to celebrate the different aspects of what we do.”

One of the elements the New Milford resident hopes to expand is team-building exercises offered to area companies. “We’ve had some companies reach out to us that were looking for something a little bit different,” he said. “We did Duracell a couple of years ago, where we went in and taught a couple of classes — showing how dance can be fun, simple and easy.”

Cabell said he wants to develop that aspect more by offering companies either exercise-focused programs focused on fast dances that “get the heart rate up — almost a Zumba-type thing” or more socially oriented events.

“Part of our job is to organize little dance parties that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, which can be an exciting — and valuable — thing when it comes to team-building,” he said.

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