To say that Jackie Stanton-Conley was destined to run a dance boutique is not a stretch. As the owner of White River Ballet Academy in Vermont for 14 years, opening a store to serve her dancers and others in the region was a natural next step.
“Ballet is my passion. I've always wanted to go as far as I can and accomplish as much as I can. I feel like opening this boutique is an obvious next step in my career. I'm a dreamer and I have many more aspirations that I intend to fulfill," she said.
Last month, Stanton-Conley opened Junction Dance Boutique in a newly renovated space next door to her ballet academy. The store gives Upper Valley dancers a space to try on and buy dance shoes, leotards and other gear.
Opening the store was a long time coming for Stanton-Conley, who said she’d known she wanted her career to revolve around dance since she was a child. She and her sisters grew up dancing and after high school, she moved to Philadelphia and danced professionally for three years.
After she and her twin sister were in a car accident that resulted in career-ending injuries, Stanton-Conley decided to shift her focus to teaching and choreography. After moving to Vermont, she began teaching for Vermont Ballet Theater School and eventually opened White River Ballet 14 years ago.
She considered opening a dance boutique for many years, but it was only recently that she decided it was time to make it a reality. The process began after the region’s main dance store - owned by her friend - closed about two years ago. While her friend offered her the business, Stanton-Conley said she wasn’t ready at the time.
Back in July 2021, however, she knew it was time and reached out to SCORE for help. Over the six months that followed, she and her mentor, Bruce Butler, worked tirelessly to create a business plan that helped her find and prepare a space and open the store successfully.
That experience, she said, was a profound one and a big reason why she was able to open the store confidently.
“I know the dance world so well, but to approach a new business in the right way was crucial,” she said.
The mentor relationship she built with Butler, was just as powerful and something Stanton-Conley said she will always be grateful for.
“He is a lifetime friend,” she said. “I feel like I've found somebody really special in my life…We worked until the very end. We were exhausted. We pushed and pushed and pushed. I will never forget everything he gave me and continues to give me.”