2 friends take over dance wear business

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Alison Stratton and Samantha Rice had no previous business experience, but they shared a passion for dance.

When Ms. Stratton, 29, learned the longtime owner of Danceware wanted to sell his business, she walked into the store and told him she wanted to buy it.

She became the new owner of the Monte Sano Avenue store three months ago and appointed Ms. Rice, her childhood friend, as the store manager.

Ms. Rice, 30, has danced since middle school and says she always wanted to open a dance store.

The friends have a new vision for the store -- to branch out into more diverse styles of dance. The previous owner, Robert Toole, who started the business in 1986, focused primarily on ballet, tap and jazz.

"We want to expand on liturgical and belly dancing attire and focus a little more on hip hop," Ms. Rice said.

They are expanding the store's product lines and maintaining the popular brands, such as Capezio, Bloch and Eurotard. New product lines include Natalie and Moondance. The store specializes in dance attire such as leotards, shoes, dance bags and fashion accessories. They said they will soon carry Russian pointe shoes, which dancers must now buy in Columbia, Ms. Stratton said.

"Samantha has been called by a couple of teachers as the best pointe shoe fitter in Augusta," Ms. Stratton said. "She'll go through 10 to 15 different styles just to find the one that properly fits."

Ms. Stratton said the store doesn't carry any merchandise they "haven't danced or performed in."

The friends are remodeling the store to have a boutique atmosphere.

They have gone without pay for months, but they say they believe the business will one day be profitable. Ms. Stratton still holds down her regular full-time job.

"This is really at times a labor of love," she said.

They have plans to open an additional store location in Evans.

"We always want to keep this location because this is what everybody knows," Ms. Stratton said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

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momma mia
momma mia 08/06/08 - 09:05 am
Good luck, ladies!

Good luck, ladies!

Acantha 08/06/08 - 03:38 pm
As one of Augusta's

As one of Augusta's bellydancers, I will be sure to pass along to my troupe/classmates this information. We would LOVE to be able to find the things we need easily and be able to see/test what we're buying.

cethompson 08/06/08 - 06:44 pm
Samantha Rice is a GREAT

Samantha Rice is a GREAT helper....I came into the store in July with a pair of ballet shoes that I bought from another dance store. I was concerned that they may not fit my daughter as good as they should. Keep in mind that I bought these ballet shoes from a DIFFERENT dance store. She put 2 other brands of shoes on my daughter and then the ones that I had already bought and was honest with me about the shoes. She told me that the ones that I had already bought were the best ones for her. She said they fit her better than any of the ones that I have here. Of course me as a customer appreciated her honesty. I would have thought she would have encouraged me to buy her shoe no matter what! That made my mind up that I would shop at Dancewear. A lot of times it doesn't matter what a sales person has to do to make a sale even if it involves selling the person something that is wrong! I left out of Dancewear with a smile, my shoes (from a different store), and a leotard that I bought from Dancewear. Most of all the feeling of knowing I wasn't ripped off and dealt with an HONEST PERSON! Thanks Samantha!!!!

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