Writer / Janelle Morrison
The award-winning store in downtown Zionsville is a mecca to many of the surrounding counties’ parents and grandparents. Store owner Steve Schwartz reflected back on the years since he opened and what it took for him to reach this impressive milestone.
“I never would’ve fathomed that I would be open nine years,” Schwartz said. “During and after the recession, I had to take a hard look at my business model and what I needed to do to stay relevant, affordable, while still providing my customers with first-class customer service and unique products that they weren’t going to find online or at big box stores. I put everything that I had from many aspects back into the business. “
He opened the store before Amazon and Etsy were created. “Retailers of the world and boutiques weren’t having to compete with Internet sales at the level that we are today,” Schwartz recalled. “It is my biggest challenge at this time.”
He said part of the store’s evolution was expanding the lines to include his already expansive infant, toddler and youth apparel and accessories to the “tween” age group up to size 14 years. Schwartz researched the market to bring in age-appropriate and reasonably priced apparel for the older youth.
“I had many customers tell me that while they loved my store, their children whom I have outfitted since birth had outgrown my store. They were disappointed in what was out in the market, especially for their tween daughters. I had to grow and evolve with my customers.
“It’s probably the most competitive and hardest market that I am dealing with because kids at this age have strong opinions and minds of their own. I am constantly asking my customers’ and friends’ kids what is ‘in’ and what is ‘cool’ and what the kids are generally wearing at school.
Schwartz said he has to balance between what kids will actually wear and what their parents approve of. “Kids are judged by their peers and on what they wear. I think that it’s important for the kids to come in, see the clothing, and pick out what they will feel comfortable wearing to school and elsewhere. If mom or dad bring it home, they are most likely to reject it. I love having them come in because it helps to educate me, as well.”
Schwartz explained that the “bohemian look” is trending big for young girls and tweens this season. “I try to do follow what’s trending in a refined and more sophisticated way,” he stated. “Fabrics are hugely important to me, and I’m amazed at how other stores don’t pay as much attention to details such as that. The clothing has to be soft and wearable, not fragile, so that the kids don’t wear them out immediately. The apparel and accessories also need to be tasteful.”
Ballerinas and Bruisers offers an incredible and unique selection of boys’ apparel. Schwartz doesn’t try to compete with the active wear lines but instead offers cool dress shirts and slacks that are fun and comfortable for young boys.
Schwartz buys six to eight months in advance of the following seasons at various U.S. markets. He constantly adds to his selection of gift items, candles, hostess gifts, books, and a myriad of unique accessories.
But he says what sets his store apart from others is his award-winning customer service and merchandise. “It is my customer service, personal shopper approach and attention to detail that sets me apart,” Schwartz emphasized. “Customers can call me almost any time of the day, and I answer texts or emails. I am available to meet by appointment before or after regular hours when available and offer free delivery in the immediate area. My store is open seven days a week.
He loves his work, saying, “I love watching these kids grow up. The number of people and families that I have grown with has been spectacular, and they are why I love coming to work every day.”
Visit Ballerinas and Bruisers store:
Address: 180 S Main St, Zionsville, IN 46077
Phone: (317) 733-3400