LOGAN SQUARE — A family-owned salsa studio that called Humboldt Park’s Division Street home for nearly 20 years has moved to neighboring Logan Square.
Miguel Mendez, founder of Dance Academy of Salsa, said they were struggling to pay the rent at 2731 W. Division St. due to the pandemic, so they moved to a cheaper — and smaller — spot in Logan Square at 2246 N. Western Ave.
Mendez said business is off to a good start at the Logan Square location, which opened in the beginning of March. Regulars have been eager to get back into the classroom after a long shutdown, he said.
“It’s kinda crazy because the pandemic put us out of business, but it put us in business in a new location, so it actually turned out to be something good for us,” Mendez said.
Dance Academy of Salsa offers private and drop-in salsa, bachata, merengue and cha-cha-cha dance lessons seven days a week. Mendez and his son, Michael Angelo, who both have years of dancing and teaching experience, are the current instructors.
Like so many other small business owners across the city, the father-and-son duo were forced to shut down last March and have been on a rollercoaster ride ever since. They were able to reopen the studio in August, when state restrictions loosened, but had to close it down again in November during the fall surge of COVID-19.
The pandemic put a financial strain on the family. Mendez said they were paying $2,750 in rent and a few hundred dollars in utilities to keep the studio running without any revenue coming in — and it had reached a point where it had become too difficult.
“Basically, the owner of the building made us continue to pay rent while we we were not making any money,” Mendez said. An attempt to reach the building’s landlord was unsuccessful.
Mendez said when his son found the new location in Logan Square, their landlord offered to reduce the rent, but it was “too little, too late.” Still, Mendez said they don’t feel any ill will toward their landlord, in part because the situation led them to the Logan Square location, which is a better fit.
Mendez opened Dance Academy of Salsa in 2002 after years of teaching salsa at Lakeshore Athletic Club and other venues in Chicago. He said it was his brother who initially convinced him to open his own studio. That studio was located at 2725 W. Division St.
Years later, Mendez moved the studio down the street into an old clinic at 2731 W. Division St., where it was located until December 2020.
Along the way, Mendez brought his son on board. Now, after years of training, Mendez’s son is the operator of the studio.
“He ended up moving to Dallas for five years, he started teaching there and then when he came back to Chicago, he was so amazing — it was just nuts,” Mendez said of his son’s salsa dancing skills.
Mendez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, said his family would do “kitchen salsa” growing up, meaning they’d put on salsa music and dance in the house. But he said a man he met in the army in the mid-1970s taught him the real thing.
“He put on his salsa music, he would dance alone, and he would do these moves like he was dancing with his girlfriend — and it was mesmerizing,” Mendez said.
While he said he’ll miss Humboldt Park’s sprawling namesake park, Mendez said he’s thrilled they can continue to spread their love of salsa with people in the area.The family owns the Logan Square studio.
The first few weeks in Logan Square have been “exciting,” Mendez said. “People have been coming in everyday. It’s good to be back in business,” he said.
To sign up for classes, or for more information, visit the studio’s website.
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