My Main Street-Second Skin
After nearly four decades in the dancewear business, Rochelle Levi shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, her knowledge, passion and pride have continued to blossom.
Rochelle Levi can teach us all a thing or two about following your dreams. She was an elementary-school teacher, but always wanted to start her own business.
It was the mid-1980s and Levi had just signed her daughter up for gymnastics, which meant she was starting to shop for bodysuits, leotards and other accessories. When she looked at the prices she was paying in stores here and compared them with what was being sold south of the border, she had an idea—she was going to sell gymnastics and dancewear. “I started in my home in 1985, and in 1987, Second Skin Fashions opened in a storefront near my house,” she says. “I wanted to work and live in the same community, so I picked a location on the west side of Yonge Street that had ample parking and was near major arteries. I’ve been there now for nearly 40 years. I have the third generation of clients coming in and many of the owners of dance studios I service bought their dancewear from me when they were kids.”
After almost four decades in the industry, Levi can attest to how bodywear has changed, and she not only prides herself on keeping up with what young dancers and gymnasts are looking for, but she offers various price points, so there’s something for everyone. “It’s so different now—materials, structures, etc. There are dance sneakers for hip hop, custom tap shoes and more. Some of the bodysuits I see now don’t even look like dancewear—you can wear them with jeans,” she says, adding that, at 74 years old, dance teachers continue to value her judgement and seek her expertise when it comes to dressing their students. “Teachers also come to us for costumes. We design them, order material, get measurements and make them. We’ve made the most stunning costumes that have won many awards.”
Dance Floor and try-on area
Helping clients is of utmost importance to Levi (so is her loyal staff—some have been with her for more than 30 years), and when she was offered financial help from Vaughan’s My Main Street program, she was certainly thankful. “I saw a sign on the street and got a pamphlet in the mail, but it wasn’t until one of the Vaughan Business and Entrepreneurship Centre representatives visited me that I got on board. When the program came up, I knew I could use the funds to refurbish the store—I got new lighting and benches, and it looks more appealing,” says Levi, who also received benefits from the Starter Company Plus program. “I also branched out and brought in activewear. You must try new things as a business owner—it’s trial and error.”
It’s not easy for Levi to list one thing she’s most proud of over her years in business, but she says being there for the community is certainly up there. “I’ve helped lots of kids who wouldn’t have been able to continue dancing because their parents couldn’t afford dancewear. I’d give those clients products at cost,” she says humbly. “Knowing I’ve helped people along the way is what matters most.”
8100 Yonge Street, Vaughan