TOWNSEND — When Michelle Goodwin opened up her dance studio in Townsend, she had 39 students.
“I remember thinking at the time that was a lot,” she said. Now, four decades later, over 200 students take lessons at Michelle Goodwin’s School of Dance.
Goodwin was 17 and a senior in high school when a family friend suggested she open her own studio; she could not have foreseen the success of her business at the time.
“I remember thinking I’m so young, and I didn’t know if people had the confidence in me as I was only 17. But I guess obviously it worked,” she said.
Goodwin also didn’t know that 10 years after opening her business, the man she would marry, Thomas Panagiotes, would be running his own business, the Ice Cream Factory, right below hers.
“I always wanted an ice cream shop, ever since I was a teenager,” said Panagiotes. “I love ice cream. Could there be a better reason?”
This fall, the married duo are both celebrating business milestones. Goodwin’s studio has been open for 40 years, and the Ice Cream Factory has been open for 30.
“It’s an honor that the town has come together to support not one but two family-owned businesses for 30 and 40 years, respectively,” said Tiffany Pelletier, 30, the couple’s daughter and the studio’s assistant director.
So what’s the secret to maintaining two successful family businesses?
“We just offer a good product,” said Pelletier.
The companies have also been adaptable to fit the desires of consumers.
“As more ice cream stores crowd every corner, our ice cream (sales) has gone down a little bit, but the pizza and seafood picked up a lot, so that helps,” said Panagiotes.
As for the studio, they offer classes for all age groups, from tap to zumba, and they remain passionate about their craft and teaching their students.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 5 or 6, and now I’m 56 and … I’m proud to say I’m still dancing and I’m still teaching,” said Goodwin. “I love to be in the classroom.”
So do her students; some of the studio’s pupils have been taking lessons for 25 to 30 years. Others have brought their own children in for lessons years after they themselves were enrolled.
“That’s such a delight to see them walk through the door as an adult with a child and so excited to bring their children, too. I feel like a grandmother to a lot of people,” she said."Being from a small community, you get really close with the families.”
Panagiotes has also found a way to connect his business with members of the community. For the last 20 years or so, the Townsend Police Department has been collaborating with the Ice Cream Factory to sponsor a bike safety program geared towards children: children who get caught wearing their helmets get a “ticket"– for free ice cream.