The building, open for over 40 years, resides on Hayes Road.

The building, open for over 40 years, resides on Hayes Road.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Coronavirus has devastating impact on Clinton Township dance studio

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 8, 2020

 Mary Skiba, owner of Mary Skiba’s School of Dance in Clinton Township, stands with her granddaughter Gracie Johnson, 12, of Clinton Township, at the studio during a virtual ballet class Dec. 2.

Mary Skiba, owner of Mary Skiba’s School of Dance in Clinton Township, stands with her granddaughter Gracie Johnson, 12, of Clinton Township, at the studio during a virtual ballet class Dec. 2.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Skiba interacts via computer with others to conduct the class.

Skiba interacts via computer with others to conduct the class.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — This is the roughest year in Mary Skiba’s 41 years as a small business owner.

Skiba, the owner of Mary Skiba’s School of Dance on Hayes Road in Clinton Township, started her business decades ago in the basement of her former home in Clinton Township. Popularity increased due to word-of-mouth referrals and expansion occurred. Over 70 of her students have mothers who also learned under Skiba’s tutelage.

She reminisced how about only two studios existed within a 10-mile radius nearly 40 years ago. Today, she estimates there are about 40 studios within the same distance.

“As the population grew, so did the amount of competition,” said Skiba, who moved to Macomb Township about 10 years ago. “But we’ve been very fortunate to maintain our numbers.”

When COVID-19 instituted a new type of normal, her business experienced an approximate 20% drop in business.

“Parents are either afraid to have their children go out, or financially — dance lessons are an extra thing — they lost jobs or are worried about losing jobs,” she said.

Skiba and 13 staffers — all of whom she considers as a second family, who she said she loves “like her own children”— teach youth between the ages of 2 1/2 and around 19. They have tried different methods during the pandemic, including fewer hours and classes.

But having classes with only about 10 students only allows her to break even from a business standpoint. She said she hasn’t “taken a penny in pay” since the original shutdown months ago.

To make matters more difficult, her husband, former Chippewa Valley Schools Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Ed Skiba, died in June from spinal tumors — about one year after he retired.

“It was just one of those, ‘How many can you give me, God?’ (moments),” she said. “But everybody was going through it.”

Currently, Skiba and her staff conduct classes via Zoom, a platform that she admits she knew little about when the pandemic began. Teaching through a computer screen is not the same.

“I won’t say it’s great,” she said. “It’s gone well. There’s just nothing like working with the dancers and children one on one, when you can correct them and help them, and they can see you better.”

The studio’s spring recital was canceled entirely this year. Instead, a costume parade took place on the track at Dakota High School in May and provided some smiles in making the best out of what Skiba described as an “awful situation.”

Due to receiving $5,000 in small business grant funding, she employed a company to sanitize and sterilize her entire studio — just one step to protect her staff and any other visitors from surface contamination and the like.

Skiba, whose daughter is a kindergarten teacher locally and whose grandchildren are CVS students, is hoping a recital will occur in the spring of 2021. She is planning three different options: dancing inside a theater, utilizing an outdoor venue or possibly doing a drive-in setup with a giant projector.

While she acknowledged she is fortunate to have financial resources following her husband’s passing, she said she is “terrified emotionally” of not operating her business. She looks at fellow small businesses and wonders how or when this will all end.

“(It was) devastation, and it was so quick,” she said. “We didn’t have time to really prepare, as anybody else. … I tell people it was devastating personally, professionally, financially and emotionally. I think everybody is just flying by the seat of their pants because it’s changing so often.”

Call Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec at (586) 279-1118.

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