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Stylish, Smart, and Sassy: “Taffy’s” Founder Taffy Epstein Dies

Obituary from Dance Studio Life.

Taffy_Epstein-207x300Studio dancers and teachers everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Taffy Epstein, who based her costume company and line of coast-to-coast dance retail stores on the then-radical ideas of style, quality, and convenience. She died June 10 at age 92.

Art Stone says he built his own successful costume company by “copying everything she did. I learned more from her than anyone in the industry,” he says of his longtime friend. “She was the leader-the first to come out with a color costume catalog, the first to open more than one store. She was quite a woman, and I w ill miss her desperately.”

Epstein was born Harriett Gombossy on July 20, 1920, in Akron, Ohio.

An amateur hoofer, she shared a love of the arts with her h sband, Harvey Epstein, a shoe designer. Noting the growing interest in tap shoes, the two opened a shop In 1954. Officially Cleveland Dance Footwear, it was known as
“Taffy’s place,” the Epsteins’ daughter, Susan Epstein, told Dance Studio Life. Taffy Epstein, a woman with impeccable style and an indomitable “Auntie Mame” attitude, plunged in. In the days when leotards were unshapely cotton garments and many dance students sported recital costumes sewn by their moms, Epstein demanded well-designed, top-quality garments. One Taffy’s store expanded to become a chain of 14, from Seattle to Dallas to New York City.

Taffy’s was the first retail distributor of Danskin tights, Susan Epstein said, and the first to design and sell dance dresses. To support studio industry retailers, Taffy Epstein worked toward the creation of the United Dance Merchants of America. She hired innovative employees and listened to them, threw legendary parties, feverishly followed the Cleveland Indians, and never stopped taking risks.

In 1990 Epstein sold Taffy’s to Capezio– when it “stopped being “fun,” she said in published stories.

“It all just sort of happened,” Susan Epstein said of her mother’s storied career “It was the right place, the right time, and the right product.”

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3 replies on “Stylish, Smart, and Sassy: “Taffy’s” Founder Taffy Epstein Dies”

One of my acting colleagues told me of how roughly forty years ago he appeared in the Taffy’s Dance Catalogue. He wore costumes and full face makeup as harlequin, or the like, and some abstract patterns of make-up. Is it at all possible that these images still exist? If they exist would it be possible to get copies of them or the catalogue. My colleague is named Wayne Turney it is possible that he was a student at Wayne State in Detroit at the time. Thank You for your time, and I hope to hear from you. Sincerely Will Neuert

I loved going to Taffy’s for my pointe shoes and dance wear during my preteen and latter years. I miss those days. What a wonderful woman and icon. Are there any photographs of the original store in the old Arcade?

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