Dance studio

Owner of Parma’s O’Connor dance studio shuts iconic business and looks back on nearly 70 years of classes and students

PARMA, Ohio – After serving the Parma community for nearly seven decades, O’Connor Dance Studio closed its doors for good earlier this year.

Over the years, O’Connor Dance Studio has taught children and adults a variety of Parma addresses, including its iconic Ridge Road storefront where visitors were greeted with the sign: “Do what you love and love what you love.” done. When in doubt, dance!

This is the environment created by Patty Kons, co-owner of the O’Connor Dance Studio with its founder, Dusti O’Connor, for 15 years before finally taking over in 1992.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that Kons – a Parma native who still lives in the Lorimer Road house her father built 65 years ago – was destined to spend her life at O’Connor Dance Studio.

“At the age of 6, I started learning tap, ballet and acrobatics with Dusti, who taught in another studio and then in his basement,” said Kons, 75, a graduate of the Academy of Nazareth in 1963.

“When I was 9, she rented a little storefront on Pearl Road. My mum used to drive me to (O’Connor’s) house, where I ran to the door and got the key. My mum drove me then dropped off at the studio, where I was getting everything ready for people to come in. I was taking money from people. I was also taking lessons.

Eventually, O’Connor Dance Studio moved to a building near Mallchok’s funeral home, where it operated for 58 years. There was even a Strongsville site that closed in the 1980s.

Kons moved to its newest Ridge Road location 11 years ago.

“When I took over ownership of it, I said we were a family-oriented, Christian studio,” Kons said. “What we tried to instill in the children is that they are part of a family here.

“We’ve always had older children expressing interest and being given the opportunity to be a student teacher, which meant a huge discount on her tuition. It was something special for them, something they worked on.

The tap studio offered classes for adults and children in jazz, acrobatics, ballet, hip-hop, pre-dance, musical, lyrical, contemporary, and competitive theater.

“We actually started teaching kids with special needs before teaching adults,” Kons said.

Looking back, Kons said some of his proudest moments were with the student volunteers, who in some cases ended up working with the studio’s special needs dancers. This is where the magic happened.

“A girl, who I took to the special needs class as a teacher, wrote me a beautiful letter saying how I had changed her life,” Kons said. “She wrote: ‘You have opened my heart.’

“She always said the special needs class was her favorite time of the week because she loved children so much. Our special needs kids are just, wow.

The O’Connor Dance Studio has played a major role in thousands of lives over the decades. This includes Parma Ward 2 councilor Debby Lime.

“I’m going to miss the dance studio,” Lime said. “They have been part of the community for a very long time and have taught many young people in the neighborhood, including myself. I took dance lessons with Ms. Kons many years ago. I have many good memories.

Mayor Tim DeGeeter said he was sorry to see the studio close.

“You hate to see it shut down, because of the nostalgia and people’s memories,” DeGeeter said. “We wish her well, but we’ll definitely miss her on Ridge Road, walking past and seeing the smiling faces learning all kinds of dances.”

For the past few years, Kons knew his time at O’Connor Dance Studio was coming to an end. As she got older, she wanted to spend more time with a newborn grandson, who had health issues.

After numerous failed attempts to find employees to take over the studio, Kons earlier this year made the difficult decision to shut down the business which had unfortunately fallen into debt over the years.

“We’ve never really operated a profit since I took it over,” Kons said. “I had no business running a business. I don’t mind that. A parent would say they should quit because they can’t afford it. I was like, ‘Don’t worry, pay me when you can.’

“In the end, I cashed out my life insurance. I paid all the studio debts – credit card bill and rent arrears.

When it comes to the legacy of O’Connor Dance Studio, it’s simple:

“A place where children learned to love dancing, where they felt safe and where they felt loved,” said an emotional Kons. “It’s been such an important part of my life for so long. It’s such a loss. I haven’t cried it yet. I still have to do it.

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