MERRILLVILLE | Arthur Murray's Merrillville franchise has been selected among 24 Studios of the Year within the dance chain's 267 studios worldwide.
The franchise was opened in 1980 by John Kimmins, who now is president of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Arthur Murray International. Former student turned dance instructor Anthony Coberg bought the studio in 1987.
"There wasn't much in this area back in the early '80s," Coberg said. "A lot of people thought it would never make it. Contrary to the nation's economic trend, we've increased our business more than 10 percent a year over the previous year for the last four years. That's a reflection that our students are happy."
The 3,000-square-feet studio, which has a portable dance floor and floor-to-ceiling mirrors, is in one of the company's smallest markets. That makes the award more amazing, Coberg said.
"There are locations in Austria, Italy, Jordan, Tokyo, Canada, England, Israel and throughout the U.S. and rest of the world," he said. "In larger markets it's easier to do well because you can draw from a larger pool of people. That's why we were excited about receiving the award."
The honor is based on various factors determined through weekly reports submitted by each franchise, surveys of customer satisfaction, student achievement and the length of time students remain at the studio.
The company considers customer service, community service, annual increase in business, instructor competence, executive competence and participation in Arthur Murray training events, Coberg said.
"We give a lot of credit to our students," he said. "They make our job easier."
The business has been helped by the growing interest in learning to dance spurred by "Dancing With the Stars" and other TV dance programs, as well as weddings, Coberg said.
"We have a lot of teenagers wanting to learn ballroom and Latin dances, and dancing has become an integral part of weddings from bride dance with her father and groom dance with his mother to the couple's first dance," Coberg said. "We're catering to those people and building on that."
The Merrillville location has four trained instructors and about 130 students from ages 9 to 77. The majority of its clients are 25 to 55 years old, but Coberg said there are many younger and older than the median.
"Dancing can bridge the difference in age," Coberg said. "You don't need a partner. We teach couples and singles. We have weekly parties and create a positive, fun environment for our students."