Durham and Dance, A Trip To Linden’s Dancewear

View from the backroom of Linden's Dancewear, on Feb. 9, 2024. Photo by Karen Zhu.

Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024

By Lesley Gonzalez

For the last 16 years, Linden’s Dancewear has served as a pillar of Durham’s vibrant dance community by filling the void that Durham dancers face with a lack of dancewear stores in the area.

Renee and Samantha Allen, the dynamic mother-daughter duo who co-own the store, work tirelessly to foster an inclusive space that is built to support Durham dancers’ needs. The store offers dance outfits, shoe fittings, accessories, and more.

The store first opened in 2008 after Renee Allen saw a need for more accessible dancewear in the Durham area. Since then, it has gone through multiple moves and renovations as it expands. Renee Allen initially came up with the idea for the store after her daughter, Samantha Allen, started her dancing career as a child. With the closest dancewear store being in Raleigh, the enterprising mom chose to open her own store—using her maiden name, Lindenberger, as inspiration for the business’s name.

“I think there’s an entrepreneurial gene in my family—I mean, a lot of my family members have run businesses. So it’s sort of one of the things I always wanted to do,” Renee Allen explained.

Samantha Allen ended up pursuing a professional dance career for a time. She would help her mom out on occasion between gigs. As she looked towards settling down, she watched the store grow and realized she wanted to take on a bigger role.

“I really enjoy the store because I’m still connected to the dance community. I’m able to help other dancers at every stage of their journey, whether they’re starting out, have been dancing awhile or have made it their career,” Samantha Allen said.

As a business, supporting Durham has always come first for Linden’s.

“We try to support the community in a variety of ways. There’s the more typical things, like donating to silent auctions and raffles, purchasing space in playbills for local performances, et cetera,” Samantha Allen said, “but we also try our best to create a safe space within the store where people feel heard. We laugh and cry with our customers, we empathize and give space for people to share their stories.”

Renee and Samantha Allen are also hugely aware of the need for inclusivity while working in Durham. 

“I think because we’re in Durham, we try to—I mean, you can see we try to carry a lot of skin tones like that. We were doing that before it was really popular, even. And so we’ve always tried to really represent Durham that way,” Renee Allen explained.

In the past two weeks, Renee and Samantha Allen attended an annual buying convention for dancewear inventory and its latest fashion trends. They both spoke on their goals: keeping a wide range of inventory in both price and diversity in order to best give back to all their customers.

“We’re also sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and want everyone to feel their best and have options for clothing in whatever makes them feel comfortable and confident. We also carry curvy and plus sizes because everyone can dance and everyone should be able to have clothes for their chosen sport,” Samantha Allen said.

Their values of care, support, and kindness show in their employees as well. Alyssa Smith, who works mainly with keeping track of inventory in the backroom, has been working at the store since April of last year. Smith said that the Allens have been incredibly supportive during her time working at the store. 

“I mean, I’ve gotten to know the owners on a different level. I honestly don’t know what I do without them. Now, they feel like part of my life, and it’s kind of like having a family at work,” Smith explained, “They’re so humble. They’re just easygoing. I’m a single mom. So if I have an emergency, they’re very lowkey. It’s no stress.”

While looking towards the future, Renee (pictured right) and Samantha Allen (left) are focused on building Linden’s online presence. They also want to continue growing to hold whatever the Durham dance community needs. The duo has built the brand from the ground up, working long nights and consistent overtime to provide for their clients and make the Linden’s experience one people remember.

“There’s always a saying that’s like, you should fall in love with your customers and not in love with your product,” Renee Allen said, “So, a lot of people start a store because they danced all their lives and they loved the product. For us, it was more just figuring out what the community needed—and then trying to do that for them.” 

Edited by Adrian Tillman