Editor's Note: This is the 13th in a series about iconic Westerville businesses that are featured monthly.
Straub Dance Center, 501 McCorkle Blvd., has been teaching proper dance techniques to thousands of students since 1967.
Director Carole Straub said it all started when she wanted to make a little bit of money, so she made space in the basement of the home she shared with her late husband, Donald, and her oldest daughter, Melynda, who was 11 at the time.
“We had a few classes,” she said. “I think we charged 25 cents in the beginning. We worked out of the basement for six years. It started building and building. I went out one day with my husband and looked for places uptown and found a spot above a laundromat. We were there for 22 years.”
Straub said the current home of the dance center was built around 2000.
The 83-year-old said the key to the longevity of the studio is a lot of hard work and keeping the message out there.
“I think we’ve built up a really solid reputation,” she said. “I think we still have a strong reputation that our kids have very good technique. That’s the most important thing you can give them. We’ve had four (Radio City) Rockettes that we’ve trained, Suzy mostly.”
Suzy Straub Kiefaber, the youngest of Carole’s four daughters, said she grew up on Cherrington Court where it all started.
“My mom started the studio in the basement of our house before I was ever born,” she said. “Honestly, it was started in part because my mom had a massive passion for dance. She always loved dance and adored Fred Astaire. I think she always had that passion, and then it led to her starting the studio, to pay for my older sister’s dance classes. I grew up into it.”
And so did her daughter, Caroline Straub Kiefaber, 16, a Westerville Central High School junior.
“I’ve always loved dance,” she said. “When I graduate high school, I want to be a Rockette. If she will let me teach here, I would love to.”
Suzy Straub Kiefaber said she always knew she wanted one of two things. “I wanted to be a school teacher or dance teacher because I enjoy working with kids,” she said.
She’s the artistic director and an instructor at the dance center and said “the dream” is to take over with her sisters when her mom decides to retire.
Straub said her four daughters, Melynda, Cindy, Angie and Suzy, are all involved in dance and son, David, has his own successful business.
Straub said her grandchildren take lessons at the center, as does generations of other local families.
Bridget Hoban said she took lessons at Straub, as did her daughter and now her granddaughter.
“I like the family atmosphere, the technique the kids learn from an early age,” she said. “They make it fun. They experience it, and then they just love it and there’s the camaraderie of the girls. My daughter is still really good friends with her friends she danced here with. Those were her core friends.”
Abby Brokamp, who attends St. Paul Catholic School, takes ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical lessons.
The 14-year-old said she really likes the Straub atmosphere.
“There’s a lot of friendship here,” Brokamp said. “The teachers are really nice. You can tell they try to help you reach your fullest potential and help you become really talented and skilled.”
Allison Spiers, 14, takes ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical classes.
“I like all types of dance,” said Spiers, who attends St. Brigid Catholic School in Dublin.
“I like all the teachers here,” she said. “I just like to dance. Maybe tap is my favorite because I think it’s what I’m best at. It’s fun.”
Straub said most of the studio’s students are from Westerville and Olentangy.
“They can start at 2 and usually after they graduate, they go on to college,” she said.
Straub said students are encouraged to take ballet to learn body control.
“Tap used to be very, very popular,” she said. “I wasn’t really a dancer per se. I taught some simple stuff. I twirled the baton and taught some baton. For the most part, Melynda did what we started out with. I saw to it they were trained with the best people possible.”
She said there are currently eight instructors who teach a variety of different dance styles.
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Iconic Westerville Businesses: Straub Dance Center taps 55 years of talent from basement to Radio City