Playhouse Studio of Dance

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Playhouse Studio Storefront.jpg
On the McClure block, on the south side of the square in Marion, stands a building that is now Playhouse Studio of Dance. This structure has had a variety of uses and been very convenient for the residents of Marion and surrounding areas. It has varied from a drug store to a dance studio. During the early years of this structure, it was predominantly a drug store. During the fifties to the mid-sixties it was clothing shops and vacant for a couple of years. From the late sixties to present it has been C & H Shoes and is currently Playhouse Studio of Dance. The history of this building has had a wide range of businesses and uses.

Uses in the Early Years

In 1838, Mr. Hugh Smiley Mark bought the land for 112 East Fourth Street. (BLM) Fifty two years later he turned it into Books and Notions, which was at this location for six years. In 1895, there was a barber shop in the basement owned by John W. Long. In 1896, Mr. Mark added jewelry and stationary to the items in his store. In 1901, Mr. A.W. Leedy purchased the building and it became a drug store. Leedy ran this store for four years. Mr. B. Barber, the next owner of the same drug store, ran the store from 1905-1920. From 1920-1931, the building was a jewelry and book store. (Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps) Mr. Jerry Torrence, owner of Davis Drug Co., occupied the area from 1931 to about 1935. The actual date is unknown due to lack of records kept. In 1935, Mr. John Groom opened Groom Drugs and remained there until 1948 (City Directory). A volunteer at Marion Public Library provided information that Groom Drugs was the local “hang out” after school for the high school students. They would come and get sodas and candy after a long, hard day at school.

In 1949, a shop for women’s clothing opened it’s doors to Marion. The name of this shop was Diana Shops. This business remained in this location until 1962 (City Directory). For two years, 112 East Fourth Street was vacant. Finally, in 1965, Village Casuals, another women’s clothing shop opened up. It only stayed for that year, presumably for lack of business.

C&H Shoes

Telephone book advertisement for S&H Shoes
In 1966, a very popular shoe store opened it’s doors to the public. C & H Shoes “drew from a wide area” according to the headline in the Chronicle Tribune on February 27, 1966. An area sales manager that had just installed their shoe brand at the shore store called C & H the “darndest shoe store in the United States.” Customers from all over the state of Indiana, parts of Ohio and Illinois and even as far away as Canada came to C & H because they offered a wide variety of shoes and also hard to find sizes. The company moved after 35 years at another location. The reason for this move, the owner stated is “to offer more styles and sizes” The owner of the “darndest shoe store” was Mr. William 0. Pickering. He believed the success of the store contributed to the fact that “we carry over 50 different brands, we have a large stock of each and we try to give our buyers service.” (Chronicle Tribune).

C & H had three annual sales at the beginning of the year. The first sale would be the women’s shoe sale, followed by the men’s, and finally the children’s. Mr. Pickering ran a poll and counted the different places the people came from the opening day of the women’s sale and found that 202 pairs of shoes were sold to people from 53 different towns including Marion and one from Ohio. As soon as the new year sale had come and gone, families were back for the spring and summertime shoes (“Shoe Firm Draws From Wide Area” 3).

Mr. Pickering had many regular customers and some drove a good distance to get the quality and service that C & H was so well known for. As a matter of fact one of his regular customers used to drive all the way from Danville, Illinois. Another loyal and devoted customer drove even farther, from Canada. C & H and predecessor companies have been in Marion for over 56 years. Mr. William H. Clothier and Mr. Robert Hutton originally owned the company and Pickering bought it in 1945 from an estate of one of the founders (“Shoe Firm Draws From Wide Area” 3).

Playhouse Studio of Dance

Inside the studio at Playhouse in January 2001
In 1988, Playhouse Studio of Dance moved from Washington Street to Fourth Street under the ownership of Mrs. Estatella Royer also known as Teal. 2000 was Mrs. Royer’s final year after 29 years of owning, teaching, and directing Playhouse. Under new ownership of Mrs. Deborah Thomason, Playhouse has been making a few changes. The building is currently being remodeled, outside and in. The actual dance recital which is usually scheduled for the middle of May each year has been rearranged a little. The recital for years has been a mixture of tap, ballet, pointe, lyrical, and jazz. This year though the recital will be sectioned off into three categories: ballet and pointe first, tap second, and jazz and lyrical finally. The dance season begins in September and ends in May. Most students only have class only once a week, Monday through Friday from 2:00 PM until 8:30 PM and Saturdays from 7:00 AM until 1:00 PM, but some older students are teacher aides and are at the studio at least one more night during the week.

Every year the studio has a different theme for that year’s recital. The theme is portrayed on T-shirts and sweatshirts the dancers can purchase. The classes at Playhouse are offered to a variety of ages, starting as young as 3 years of age and continuing on to adults. The classes are offered by skill level; beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Playhouse also has studios located in Gas City and Wabash which are also owned by Mrs. Thomason. Until this year, Playhouse has sold Yankee Candles at the studio. Mrs. Royer took the candles and sold them at the annual Craft Show that is held at the Coliseum on the day of the Christmas parade and lighting of the Walkway of Lights. When the move from Washington to Fourth was made a tanning salon, SCA Wolff Tanning Salon, was opened to the public. The salon closed in 1995.

The Playhouse Studio trophy case
Playhouse has traveled around the world to many different locations over the previous years. The studio has traveled to Bermuda, Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland in California, Europe at EuroDisney, Hawaii, and many more places. The studio also participates in competitions in different cities around the state. Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Lafayette are three of the multiple competition areas that the students and teachers travel to. Also, Playhouse has traveled to workshops around the country. Last year the students traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Years before Mrs. Royer took the students to other cities, like Cincinnati, Ohio.

When a student reaches his/her senior year in high school, they have the option of doing what is called a senior solo, where they can choose the song and costume that they can perform to and in at the recital in May. Also at the recital, the teachers all do a comical number at the end of the show just to lighten up the mood at bit. The recital is opened with the “Miss America Pageant” is which the tiny tots, ages three to five and one half represent each state. This is always the “proud parent" moment.

Every year in mid to late March the dance studio has professional pictures taken, usually by Clique Photography. Any student who chooses to have their individual picture taken comes on the day of their class in the costume of their choice. Class photos are also taken and displayed in the showcase windows outside of the studio. In the studio are remains from the past. On one of the walls in the lobby is shelves where the shoes used to be placed when C & H was located in the building.

Playhouse is not the only dance studio located in Marion. La Danz Studio owned by Jamie Bragg has often been a silent rival of Playhouse for many years. Both studios will continue to offer the care and teaching to the students for many more years to come. Playhouse teaches students how to stay on task and concentrate on what they are doing. Also, interacting with others helps to establish a social background at a very young age. All in all, it is a wonderful learning experience for children and teenagers alike. All of the events that occur at Playhouse are helpful and enjoying to the students and parents alike.


This town has gone through a lot of changes and will continue to go through more in the future. The actual structure of the building has not changed in many years. There is an ad in the telephone book for C & H that looks exactly like the building do at this present time. Only a few months ago did the outside change. A sign on the front of Playhouse fell down and now has to be replaced. A new paint job and a new sign will be placed in the same place.

The commercial building on the south side of the square has seen many different businesses and a variety of people. It will continue to grow and bring business to the community. No one knows what will come of this building in the future. Continuing to follow up on what this building becomes in the years to come will be an interesting and challenging task as this one has been. Citizens of Marion should know about their past and where they came from.

Works Cited

  • Bureau of Land Management. General Land Office Records. 4 Jan. 2001.
  • City Directory. Marion, 1931: 126.
  • City Directory. Marion, 1935: 129.
  • City Directory. Marion, 1949: 13.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Map. Marion: 1890- 1931.
  • “Shoe Firm Draws From Wide Area.” Marion Chronicle Tribune, 27 Feb. 1966: 3.


This article was written by Aubrey Ashmore and submitted on January 16, 2001 for Mr. Lakes’ and Mr. Munn’s classes at Marion High School.