Hunkered down in their home, Jay and Beth Handline got their first glance through photographs of their business Dance Trance after Hurricane Irma.

 

Worry crept in as they saw the water level covered the 4-foot high sandbag barrier they placed around the building.

When they finally opened the warped doors of the dance studio, anxiety turned to heartbreak.

The flooding bent and warped the $30,000 wood fitness floor — turning the surface into waves — settled into the subwoofers of the studio’s sound system, soaked its music collection and drywall behind the studio’s interior walls and ruined all the merchandise in its store.

“Anything that was 5 feet down was devastated,” said Jay Handline. “We walked around like zombies for the better part of two weeks. We didn’t know what we were going to do.”

The San Marco location was the couple’s model dance studio for Dance Trance, a dance fitness program.

Beth Handline, with Jay’s help and support, turned their passion for dance fitness into a business franchise in the early 2000s. The first Dance Trance dance studio opened in Neptune Beach in 2002.

They rented a San Marco storefront in 2007, and saw it as an opportunity to create the dance studio they’d always imagined Dance Trance could be. The business’s second location included a state-of-the-art fitness flooring and concert-quality sound and light system.

The couple decided if they were going to tear out the inside of the building the day they walked inside. With so much money already invested in the location, they didn’t know if they had the money to rebuild.

“It was devastating for Jay and I, because that was our model studio. That was our baby. It was shocking that it was just gone,” said Beth Handline.

Directors of Dance Trance locations in Richmond and Orlando started an online fundraising campaign for rebuilding the San Marco location, but couldn’t raise enough money in time for the couple to rebuild.

The only option was to find a new studio, and use the fundraising money to invest in the new location. The Handlines packed all the surviving equipment and started asking around about space at all the dance studios where they’ve taught dance fitness sessions.

They received a few offers, but scheduling conflicts got in the way.

A mutual friend told the Handlines about Anytime Fitness in downtown, opened since January 2015, and connected them to the owners Billy Frick and David Robinson.

Frick told Beth and Jay that the gym had a large room that was only occasionally used for fitness classes during the week. They went to the second-floor gym in the Center Bank building on North Laura Street and found that the space was the perfect fit.

Beth Handline said the room off of the main gym area was just as big as their San Marco location and already had a few full-length wall mirrors installed on one wall. They brought in their sound system, a majority of it fixed for free by local sound engineering business Stellar Sound, and invited their members for free classes and to try out the space.

The Handlines said that Anytime Fitness is now Dance Trance’s new home. It’s a dream come true for Beth Handline, who said that she originally wanted to expand Dance Trance into the downtown area.

They resumed their regular class schedule Monday.

Robinson said that he’s happy the partnership worked out, especially after hearing about what happened to the San Marco Dance Trance location.

“Opportunities present themselves and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Robinson said. “We’re happy to help and we want to be involved in the growing of downtown and the growing of Jacksonville as a business and a community.”

Tiffanie Reynolds: (904) 359-4450