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Dance Studio Owner Celebrates 20 Years Of Being On Her Toes
Pointe of Dance studio founder and owner Rachel Turnage, center, is shown with her current team of teachers following their anniversary recital earlier this summer. The studio marked two decades in operation in the local area. Photo Contributed

To say it started “small’ would not be an understatement to describe the early years of Rachel Turnage’s Pointe of Dance studio. Even more accurate would be to state she came from what she knew.

This year the lifelong dancer and studio owner along with her dance families and staff are celebrating 20 years of business. A business which first began in 2002 in the two-car garage of her Burchell Hill home.

“I think I was so naive. I just loved to dance. There was no business plan,” she said of first opening the business in early fall of 2002. “I knew some stuff about business because I had been working for my dad, so I did understand some things of business.”

She also knew a lot about passion and how a passion could translate to successful business if partnered with hard work.

Turnage herself first began dancing at the age of three learning from the late Juline Frowein Schmitz.

“She started in her garage and I began dance classes in her garage when I was three,” the local studio owner shared.

Turnage continued taking classes with Juline School of Dance in Modesto until Junior High. She then began cheerleading and dancing with other valley dance programs. By the time she was at Oakdale High School, she knew it was a passion she would hope to pursue beyond graduation.

During her senior year she won a scholarship through the Oakdale High School dance production team to travel to Paris and dance at the Universal Dance Association Parade.

“So fun,” she said, recalling the opportunity. “We were there for a week and we did two performances, one in Paris and one outside of Paris. I was 17.”

Following her graduation from OHS she married Jason Turnage, had children and began teaching for Juline School of Dance.

“I wanted to learn from people who were obviously older than me and had been in the business much longer,” she said of returning to teaching.

Opening the studio in the garage was a much different time and space than what now is Pointe of Dance located in Hi-Tech Center. In 2002 she had 15 dancers in total, while she juggled three kids at the same time. Now the studio occupies a large space with multiple rooms, a team of teachers and 150 registered dancers.

But implementing her passion into a business early on wasn’t always easy. Eventually her husband Jason, founder of Apparel Graphics, had a little heart to heart with his wife.

“You can’t teach dance classes for free, which is probably what I would have done,” the passionate dancer said of the early years.

Spending her first two years in the garage and another two-and-a-half in a rented space on F Street, the young couple had identified a space they wished to build her studio. Being constructed by her father and his business partner, the upgrades to make it a studio relied on the Turnage family and their creativity. With thousands of dollars being spent on floors, air conditioning and interior construction, the studio owner shared it was her husband’s wisdom which was the game changer in her business.

“There was just a lot of money going into that,” she said of creating the studio, noting that her husband Jason shared with her, “This can’t be a hobby. This has to be a business.”

From there forward her mindset changed.

“He helped me realize you have to be profitable. Not only am I taking care of my own family, I have a staff who is taking care of their families as well,” she explained. “Thankfully it did, because had I not turned it into a business, I would not have been able to support my three children when he was gone. It just would have kind of been a mess.”

“Gone” by way of passing. In 2008, Jason was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer; a diagnosis which caught the young couple completely off guard.

“He was actually diagnosed during recital, which was really overwhelming and I didn’t understand what was going to be happening for the next few years,” Turnage confided.

The young mother, wife and business owner shared she was not prepared for any of what would come. The doctor’s appointments, running two businesses as well as managing a young family. Offering kudos to her team who “really stepped up to the plate and helped.”

Turnage shared the couple was also filed with a lot of hope and shared moments of feeling as if they would overcome the battle of his diagnosis.

“For me the studio kind of became my space not to think about cancer. It was kind of my spot not to think about those things for a moment,” she shared of a journey which would stretch close to four years.

“If he were to die, I have to raise three kids on this,” she said of her thought on the income of the business, during that time.

Her husband Jason succumbed to the disease in March of 2012, he was 39 at the time.

“That’s why I love when women can figure things out, because you just don’t know,” she said of independence and being prepared for the future. “Having systems in place and a solid team was instrumental in the business maintaining and succeeding.”

The passionate dancer shared she’s also found it important to network and partner with other studio owners as a valuable tool for both learning and growing.

“I’m always learning. Business is changing fast, all the time and you have to stay on top of that,” she said. “The biggest thing you can do is find a network of people who are in the same arena as you and doing it really well. People who have ideas, people who have support, everything.”

It was a network which proved to be incredibly helpful in 2020, as studios had to learn how to navigate during the pandemic.

“COVID has definitely impacted the business, teaching and the dancers. Some of the two-year-olds had never been out of the house,” the owner shared, adding that now the staff is looking at how to modify for the betterment of the students and the families as they transition to a more “normal” dance environment.

Since the start of her business in 2002, Turnage has not only learned to adjust to the changes of her personal life by way of her loss, as well as the struggles of COVID, she also relocated to Reno and opened a second studio.

The move came, she said, as she felt she had accomplished what she needed to in Oakdale and wanted a fresh start for her family.

“I basically built another Oakdale studio in Reno in five years,” she said of the years following the passing of her husband. “We had an amazing clientele. We were doing very, very well, but I couldn’t get people to come back to work after COVID.”

Eventually Turnage would have to close that studio, yet the Oakdale studio continues to thrive and host a strong clientele.

“There’s no signs of it going anywhere,” she shared of the local studio and what she’s most proud of 20 years later. “We’ve built a really strong foundation that it would be really difficult for somebody to mess that up.”

As for what drives her the most, two decades later, Turnage notes the network of strong women she’s found in the business, sharing she’s always surrounded herself with those doing it better, always looking to grow as a person as well as a business owner.

And as for the studio and the clientele, she shared, “Building those memories with those kids who still call me today or still contact me today. Who are now married or have kids. Those are the best things. Relationships are important and that we can do that through what we do is really special.”

Ten years since his passing, the passionate dancer shared she feels her husband would be really proud.

“To be honest, he’s instrumental in why it’s lasted so long,” she concluded. “Had he never said to me, this needs to run as a business and not as a hobby it may have never run as a business,” she stated. “He’s my mentor.”

Shown, the early years Pointe of Dance Studio dancers at their first recital 20 years ago just after the opening of the Oakdale studio. Photo Contributed