2 friends take over dance wear business

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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