By Danny Schrafel
Huntington’s Tanya Neary has a way of packing a lot of milestones into a short period of time.
Six months after she graduated from the Long Island School for the Arts in June 2000, she launched her own dance academy the following January – in between her freshman-year semesters at Hofstra University.
Now, a week after her studio’s 15th anniversary recital, she’s preparing to begin the move from her current studio space on East Second Street in Huntington Station to the former arcade at Station Sports on where she plans to start begin classes by the week of July 6.
The move will begin this Saturday. Next Friday, she’s getting married to fiancée Joe Papaleo.
“Just a few things going on,” she said with a laugh.
The Stars of Tomorrow Dance Academy is assuming the 5,000 square-foot space that was Station Sports’ video arcade, which is located across the street from an outdoor sports center with mini golf, batting cages and a paintball shooting gallery.
The arcade closed in November, owner Brad Rosen said. He chalked it up to a sign of the times, one in which home consoles and cell-phone games weakened the appeal of arcade gaming.
“Unfortunately, that was a mistake on our part when we built the place,” Rosen said of the arcade. “Thankfully, the mini-golf, batting cage and paintball are doing well.”
Rosen said he had entertained an offer from McDonald’s to lease the space late last year, but as negotiations were heating up, McDonald’s fell on hard times. By the time they had returned to make an offer to Rosen, he had already signed a lease with Neary.
A dancer since age 5, Neary grew up dancing at Pat Hannasin’s studio in Dix Hills. She taught there starting at age 14, and during her junior and senior years of high school, she took over many operational responsibilities after the owner suffered a stroke. After the studio closed, several parents approached Neary about continuing to work with their kids, and the Stars of Tomorrow academy was born.
After six months in temporary space in Deer Park, Neary found her first permanent studio space in Greenlawn in 2001. Four years later, she expanded to a three-room studio on Park Avenue in Huntington and later expanded again to a facility in the industrial complex near Manor Field Park in Huntington Station. She also has a studio in Centerport.
Still seeking more space and greater visibility, she jumped at the opportunity when she learned that the Station Sports arcade was available.
“A lot of it is already perfectly suited for us,” she commented.
The large arcade space will become studios where Neary will be able to run as many as four classes simultaneously. While she previously had a capacity of approximately 85 classes per week, she’ll be able to do up to 100 per week on Depot Road – an array of tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop and contemporary instruction; the academy also sponsors a competitive team.
As much of a great fit Neary feels the Station Sports space is for her business, Rosen hopes it’s an even better fit for Huntington Station.
“McDonald’s would have been great for McDonald’s,” Rosen said. “The dance studio is going to be a better addition to Huntington Station.”