Business ideas come in all shapes and sizes. In this case, the shapes and sizes were Tanner Whitson’s two daughters, one 9, the other 5.  

“My wife got up at 4 a.m. one morning and said she was taking our daughters to sign up for dance classes,” said Whitson, an executive at Reeder General Contractors. “Then, they came back and said they had missed out.”

That was enough business research for Whitson, who knew he had an ace in the hole. That ace was one of Reeder General Contractors estimators who had experience in the dance world. 

Fort Worth Dance Academy studio. (Courtesy photo | Fort Worth Dance Academy)

“I knew Maggie knows all about that stuff,” he said, “because I sure don’t.” 

And that’s how Whitson and Maggie Hamlin, a former TCU Showgirl captain and Dallas Mavericks dancer with three decades of dance experience, found themselves as co-owners of a dance studio, Fort Worth Dance Academy, that opens June 1 at 3548 South Hills Ave. in the Westcliff Shopping Center. 

Hamlin said Whitson came into her office, explained how his daughters couldn’t find a place to dance and asked, “Why aren’t we doing this?” 

Whitson explained that he needed Hamilin’s experience and know-how in this new business venture. 

For Hamlin it was the fulfillment of a long-sought dream. 

“Since the age of 2 1/2, maybe 3, I’ve had a burning passion for dance,” Hamlin said as drills and other machinery whirred in the background a few weeks before FWDA’s opening. “I’ve had this dream of owning my own studio for as long as I can remember.”

“Maggie’s truly the X factor,” said Whitson. “She’s a rare breed because she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around in my entire life. I wouldn’t have even screwed around with this deal if I wasn’t for her commitment and character.” 

Originally from Chicago, Hamlin followed her sister to TCU. Hamlin became a Showgirl, the Horned Frogs’ dance team that was originally formed in 1976 as part of the marching band but grew to be its own distinctive entity. Hamlin was a captain her senior year. 

After graduation, she became a Mavs dancer for a few years. She got into the business of construction and loved the work. However, she longed for that connection to the dance world that had been such a big part of her life. Little did she know that her construction career would pirouette her back into the dance world. 

“When Tanner presented this opportunity, I just saw it as the perfect puzzle piece to complete what I’ve been missing from not dancing,” she said. 

The location is a plus, said Whitson. The Westcliff Shopping Center is in a neighborhood near TCU and several Fort Worth ISD schools. It’s also not  far from private schools such as Fort Worth Country Day and Trinity Valley School, he said. 

“It’s a great location, easy access, but also in a neighborhood, so some students can walk here,” he said. 

Their timing could be good. The popularity of dance-inspired TV shows such as “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” has led to an increased interest in dance, according to statistics from IBISWorld. The COVID pandemic caused some dance studios to close, creating a rebound in the past few years, according to the statistics. 

The new dance academy features two large studios with bamboo and vinyl flooring, ample natural light, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The six professionally trained instructors at the dance academy will teach jazz, tap, ballet, hip hop, contemporary, poms/drill team and acrobatic classes, as well as offer private lessons.

Whitson is also making sure to have a comfortable place for parents – including dads like himself – to chill out while waiting for their dancers to finish class. 

“We’re going to be smart about it,” he said. “We’re not going to schedule recitals during a big game or anything like that and we’re going to have a nice waiting room area with TVs and such. Dads are involved in this, too, and sometimes they get forgotten.” 

In addition to regularly scheduled classes throughout the year, the dance academy will host a mix of camps offering programs designed specifically for kids ages 3 to 12 years old. Those will include music from Disney’s hit movies “Frozen” and “Encanto” to Taylor Swift and Texas-themed cowgirl camps. 

As they hustle to open, customers are already signing up. Some are young, even younger than Hamlin when she took her first dance steps.

“We’re starting at age 2, but we’ve got some that are turning 2 in October that are already signed up for classes starting in August,” she said.

And adults are signing up as well. 

“We’ve got requests, so why wouldn’t we do that?” she said. “It’ll be cool. It’s going to be fun.” 

Weaver refresh

It may be hard to believe, but once upon a time the West 7th area between downtown and University Drive — now known as Crockett Row and Montgomery Plaza — was a bit of an abandoned mess. Once the vibrant home of auto dealers, the giant Montgomery Wards catalog store and various businesses, many had closed up shop and left more than a few vacant buildings and storefronts in the 1980s and ’90s. 

Cypress Equities began redeveloping the area in 2007, and one of the first buildings to go up was an office complex. Weaver, a national accounting and advisory firm based in Texas, was the original lead tenant for the seven-story One West 7th development, which opened in 2009. In 2022, the firm renewed its lease to continue to occupy the top two floors and enjoy prominent, top-of-building signage in a 35,948-square-foot space at 2821 W. Seventh St.

Weaver is one of the top 35 CPA firms in the country and advises small business owners and large corporations on tax guidance and compliance in industries such as aerospace, construction commercial real estate, oil and gas, among others. 

Following the lease renewal, the company did a full “refresh” on its space using Corgan as the architect and Pacific Builders as general contractor. The renovation of the two floors emphasized a more open and united work environment. As the firm has done in its Dallas and Houston offices, Weaver installed an internal stairwell to connect the two levels for ease of collaboration.

Brad Jay, a partner in the assurance services group, and Demetrice Branch, chief people officer, said the response to the changes have been positive. 

“What we hear a lot of is that they like the natural light,” said Branch. “There is a lot more of that in the new design.” 

The fact that the business was able to move a classroom to another part of the building opened up more collaborative spaces that have proven popular, Jay said. 

“Before, each group was sort of isolated,” he said. “Now there is a lot more opportunity for some spontaneous collaboration and exchanges of ideas.” 

New business 

Southwestern Scale Company Inc., a servicer, manufacturer, and provider of industrial and commercial-grade weighing scales, has announced the opening of a new office at 10101 Hicks Field Road in Fort Worth. 

Established in 1948, Phoenix-based Southwestern Scale Company services, manufactures and delivers industrial and commercial-grade scales. 

Real estate 

Apple Glass & Mirror has renewed 9,643 square feet of industrial flex space at 2807 W. Euless Blvd. in Euless. Jason Finch, first vice president of Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services, and Michael W. Spain, executive vice president and managing partner, represented the landlord, Euless Industrial Inc. Jeff Jackson of NAI Robert Lynn represented the tenant.

Texas Lifts & Equipment LLC has leased 3,300 square feet of industrial space in Raider Business Park, 3425 Raider Drive, Hurst, from Raider EAP LLC. Jason Finch, first vice president of Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services, and Michael W. Spain, executive vice president and managing partner, represented the landlord in the direct deal.

Patricia R. Aldape has renewed 1,339 square feet of office space in Arlington Downs Tower, 2225 E. Randol Mill Road, Arlington. Erik Blais, senior vice president of Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services, and Richmond Collinsworth, senior vice president and managing partner, represented the landlord, Arlington Downs Tower, in the direct deal.

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Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at  At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Robert Francis is a Fort Worth native and journalist who has extensive experience covering business and technology locally, nationally and internationally. He is also a former president of the local Society...