Nebraska Ballroom Dancing Emerges in South Lincoln | Magazine L

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BY DENNIS BUCKLEY FOR L MAGAZINE

A little over 20 years ago, Shelley Fritz was a budding entrepreneur about to open a new dance studio.

She was a detail-oriented businesswoman who had the financial backing of 20 investors and a firm resolve to put The DelRay Ballroom on the map. She had pre-sold 300 tickets for the long-awaited grand opening in Lincoln’s historic Haymarket neighborhood at 817 R St.

The stars seemed aligned. The DelRay Ballroom was positioned to be the hottest new dance studio in downtown Lincoln.

And then 9/11 happened…just three days before the grand opening on September 14, 2001.

A series of four terrorist attacks left nearly 3,000 dead in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. The attacks had a devastating emotional impact. The state of the US economy, already in a moderate recession at the time, was exacerbated by the attacks. Almost all sectors of the economy have been economically damaged.

“We all had our ducks in a row, and it was too late to turn back,” Fritz said.

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“We managed to get the grand opening, but the timing wasn’t good,” she recalls. “I had investors who had put in a lot of money to help me open. I felt responsible for making sure they got a return on their investment, and I had very few people walking through the door.

Work ethic

An intrinsic trait that helped Fritz persevere through those early years of business ownership was his willingness to work hard. She was introduced to manual labor at an early age on the family farm near Utica, Nebraska, where she and her three siblings raised pigs and milked cows. Hard work was a way of life.

“We had a lot of cattle, so farm chores were just part of our daily routine back then,” said Fritz, who worked in barns long before he discovered ballrooms. “Each had to pull their own weight.”

Life on the farm helped build character. Grateful for her well-rounded upbringing and excited to see what life had to offer, the Nebraska farmer went to Lincoln in pursuit of a career as a secretary, but the business left her unsatisfied. “I kept dozing off at my desk!”

Fritz came late to the dance scene, receiving her first formal dance lesson at age 19. His curiosity was piqued. Her dance lessons were taught by Ray Mikkelsen at Fred Astaire Studio, a downtown Lincoln studio in the Gold’s Building. Four months later, dancing had become her labor of love.

She was meant to dance.

“Dancing came naturally to me. I was 19 and I had discovered my career and what I was good at,” Fritz said matter-of-factly. “The best part was having the freedom to doing what I really love.”

She taught for 10 years at the local Fred Astaire Studio before going into business for herself. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance in 1993. Formerly Shelley Brackhan, she taught and operated Brackhan Dance Directive from 1994 to 2001 at 27 and O streets before moving her studio to 817 R St. and renaming it The DelRay Ballroom (named in memory of his sister, Shirdell Rae, who was killed in an accident in 2000). Al LaDuke founded Fritz’s new location, served as a business mentor and negotiated the building’s lease.

The building was owned by Bill Henkle, who also owned The Tool House, a business that sold construction equipment and was located nearby at 800 Q St. When the DelRay building became available for sale after Henkle’s death in 2009, Fritz bought the renovated warehouse building. in October this year.

It wasn’t long before the spacious building housing the dance studio became an event venue. “Someone called the dance studio one day and asked, ‘Is it available for a wedding reception?’ That wasn’t the intention at first, but I thought – sure, why not? – and another good source of income began to arrive.

Over the years, some of the DelRay dances have featured the musical talents of Fritz’s husband, guitarist/vocalist Stan Fritz, and his band, On The Fritz, a popular rock ‘n’ roll band ever since. 40 years.

Fast forward to today

Eight months ago, Shelley Fritz sold the DelRay building to Allstate insurance agent Mitch Happ and his wife, Alicia, who renamed their event center DelRay 817. Owning prime real estate for a dozen years has proven to be profitable, explained Fritz. “That was my 401(k) plan.”

Fritz and fellow teacher/new business partner Sarah Spinks renamed their dance studio Nebraska Ballroom Dance and moved into temporary space at 4820 Rentworth Dr., where they share space at CK Dance Academy. Spinks became part owner of Nebraska Ballroom Dance; the parties are working towards sole ownership of Spinks and for her to become the face of Nebraska Ballroom Dance.

Spinks, an Omaha-area native who started teaching at Fritz’s studio in 2016, also took a circuitous route to the dancing profession. Spinks said her mother made sure she was introduced to a myriad of experiences. “My mother put every musical instrument you could imagine in my hands and enrolled me in every sport and activity…including ballroom dancing.”

She graduated with a degree in social work from Chadron State College in 2014, but later decided that working with children in crisis was not for her. Working with her first dance teacher and dance pro/am partner, Jeremy Jamison, led to her career choice. She eventually logged on to Fritz’s studio in Lincoln.

“I enjoy the social environment that exists in our studio,” Spinks said. “Students have a great time here.” Spinks said the partnership with CK Dance Academy was a good interim arrangement.

Spinks, 26, and her husband, Hunter Pritchard, have a daughter, Harley, who will be 2 in April.

Nebraska Ballroom Dance is looking forward to branching out with three locations – South Lincoln, a potential new site in North Lincoln, and pursuing a partnership deal at Nebraska Dance Studio at 180th and Q streets southwest of Nebraska Ballroom Dance. Omaha.

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