An Unexpected Party on a Weekday Afternoon
In 2006, Lola Kim was walking down West Illinois Street in Chicago. It was a weekday afternoon, so she was mystified when she passed a storefront that was pulsing with music and full of people dancing. A trained musical theater actor and dancer, she had to find out what was going on.
She had stumbled on an Arthur Murray Dance Center, a worldwide ballroom and social-dance training franchise. Founded by Arthur Murray in 1912 as a mail-order business, he created a simple system for teaching ballroom dances, saying, “If you can walk, we can teach you how to dance.”
Ms. Kim became a devotee of the method which teaches twenty-five dances in only ten lessons. She enjoyed participating in the three-part system, which included private lessons, group lessons, and a weekly dance party that engaged students in a real social setting.
She soon became an instructor for the downtown Chicago location. Within six months, she was promoted to the center’s Manager. Overseeing every aspect of the operation, she hired and trained new instructors, ran the payroll, and made sure the location, one of the top 5 worldwide, remained profitable.
After 12 years leading the studio, she was ready for a new challenge. Arthur Murray International asked her if she wanted to bring a franchise to the St. Louis market. As a native of the region, it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
With support from Arthur Murray International, she needed to lease retail space in a part of St. Louis that would be convenient for students as well as provide enough room for dance classes.
The Search: Finding Retail Space for Lease in St. Louis
Lola and Mark Kim went to work on the project together. Consulting with Greg Russell at Colliers International, they found space quickly in Webster Groves and came to a verbal agreement, but a national company swept in and made an offer the Kims couldn’t compete with.
After that, Ms. Kim spent nearly two years checking listings and driving around town, looking for the right retail space for lease in the St. Louis area. On one of her drives, she spotted the famous Hilliker “Red H” sign at 14334 Manchester Road. The space, at just over 5000 square feet, was the right size.
Nico Properties (owned by Nuria, and Nicholas Citrin) purchased the raw land in 2005 for its retail business, GCO Carpet, with the assistance of longtime friend and broker Frank Yocum at Hilliker Corporation. Yocum had represented Nico Properties’ interests since 1999, completing seven other transactions for them.
They built the building that housed GCO a year later. Though the Citrin family sold the business in 2011, they still own the property and the building.
Nuria Citrin, a part-owner of Nico Properties, said she was looking for a tenant that would pass muster with the City of Manchester’s rigorous business ordinances. However, she was also looking for a business that would complement the existing tenant, Sincerely Yours Bridal.
Also, Yocum and Greg Russell had worked well together in the past. They knew they could negotiate a win-win.
As the two parties began to talk, the Citrins and the Kims saw an opportunity for a mutually beneficial partnership.
Stepping into a New Retail Space
For the Arthur Murray Dance Center, the location is perfect. Situated at a stoplight on Manchester Road just west of MO-141, Wal-Mart and Costco anchor the property. The building itself has glass on three sides with signage on both Manchester and Meramec Station Road. And best of all, more than 50,000 cars pass the high-visibility location daily!
With a truck-high dock and wheel-chair accessibility, the most significant change for the new studio is the installation of a new dance floor. Mark and Lola Kim are working with R L Contracting, LLC, for that and other needed updates.
Partnering to Create a Win-Win
Ms. Kim enjoyed working with both Greg Russell and Frank Yocum.
About Yocum, she said, “Frank’s a solid guy. He was always available when we needed him, to come out to meet with a general contractor, or whatever. We asked a lot of him, and through it all, we found him to very kind, funny and entertaining!”
Mrs. Citrin says of Yocum, “We have a very good relationship. Frank has been our broker since 1999, and we’ve worked with him on every deal since.
Citrin is happy at the match between the two businesses in her building. Besides teaching classes, she sees Arthur Murray as a place “to prepare people for the wedding,” pairing perfectly with Sincerely Yours Bridal. The Kims see the opportunity as well. Mr. Kim calls the situation “just unbelievable.”
Converting the Retail Space into a Dance Studio
Ms. Kim says, “It’s an amazing space. It’s perfect, especially compared to everything else. And our new landlords are great. We believe it’s very important to develop a relationship with the owner. It’s really one of the things we’re most excited about.”
With renovations underway, Lola and Mark Kim are on schedule to open the St. Louis branch of Arthur Murray Dance Center in July 2019.
Retail Space for Lease in St. Louis: Are You on the Hunt?
At Hilliker, we have solutions for you. Whether you need help negotiating a lease for a space you’ve already found, or you’re starting from scratch, we have the expertise to guide you to a successful outcome.