by: Jim Strickland Updated:
NEWTON COUNTY, Ga - When Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland arrived in Porterdale in Newton County, a group of angry parents had already gathered outside the Starbound Dance studio.
Starbound Dance studio suddenly closed only days before the year-end recital planned for Saturday. Families had already paid for tickets, costumes and a fee to rent a local school auditorium. Strickland confirmed with school officials the dance studio never finalized the rental deal and never paid.
"Anytime you mess with my kids, you mess with me," said dance parent Michele Stephens.
"I'm sad that they had to close down right before recital. All my friends have worked really hard and I think this has disappointed my friends," said Stephens' 7-year-old daughter and dance student Marley.
"Oh, she told me, ‘You'll get your money back, don't worry about it.’ I have yet to receive any refund. I've yet to receive anything from her," said parent Cinnamon Sarten, referring to studio owner Valerie Odom.
Strickland discovered Odom has had money trouble before, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in 2006, and having her debts discharged in 2010.
"What's that tell you about the chances you're going to get your money back?" Strickland asked Stephens.
"There is no chance that I'm gonna get my money back from her," she replied.
Odom told Strickland by phone that between 60 and 75 students will miss out on the recital, but that she is planning refunds when she can afford it.
"It would be nice if they would try to understand. I never intended to keep the money. It was just a business that failed that I tried very hard to make work," said Odom. "If I could have changed anything I would have. It was my dream too. I'm trying to do what's right."
A notice taped to the door says the parents are holding their own meeting Friday night in Conyers to plan a recital on their own.