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Active listening fuels growth at The Tanning Studio

Owner launched complementary apparel business in 2014

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March 4, 2024

NORTH CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Entrepreneurs are sometimes described as artists – recognizing opportunities amid chaos.

That was how Jodi Krenz said she turned a small, independent travel agency into successful regional tanning salons and apparel clothiers.

Before opening The Tanning Studio in 1999, and the embedded Urban Chic Boutique later, Jodi worked as a travel agent.

In the mid-1990s, she said she noticed that a lot of her clients would tan before embarking on warm-weather hot spots.

Sensing an opportunity to create a side stream of revenue, Jodi said she installed a tanning bed at her travel agency office.

However, after attending a business conference, she said she learned an uncomfortable truth. 

“My gosh, I’m doing it all wrong,” she said. “(The speaker) said that most businesses will add a product and what you want to add is an experience.” 

Jodi said she visited a hair salon in Appleton that had 45 tanning beds and was impressed with the efficiency of the system they’d set up. 

“The way they had people flowing from one point to another,” she said. 

Now with three locations – Wausau (1999), Weston (2004) and Plover (2009) – 70 tanning beds and 25 trained professionals, Jodi said The Tanning Studio has come a long way in the past quarter century.

In the beginning, Jodi said not everyone saw the potential of The Tanning Studio.

“She had a hard time getting a loan and construction,” Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Krenz said. “They said it was a vanity-type business, so it wasn’t common. Most places had four beds, so to have 25 was unheard of. Contractors were hesitant because they didn’t think they were going to get paid.” 

Though the studio had to open as a scaled-down version of what it’s become, Jodi said she added beds as things got rolling. 

Listening to customers came in handy again, as the Krenzes took note of where customers were coming from to guide their expansion. 

“When this location couldn’t handle everybody, we opened our studio in Weston to relieve some of that,” Jeremy said. “Then we opened Plover because we felt comfortable being a little more remote. And it’s the same marketing demographic with TV and radio.” 

Branching out

Though the tanning studios carried clothing right away, Jodi said they weren’t set up under the Urban Chic Boutique brand until 2014. 

“We always carried clothing – vacation wear and swimsuits,” Jeremy Krenz said of an assortment that included shorts, loose comfortable tops and wide-brim hats. “But when people would ask where they got that outfit and they’d say ‘The Tanning Studio,’ people would just get puzzled.” 

So, the Krenzes said they established a DBA (doing business as) for Urban Chic Boutique – offering original, first-run clothing and jewelry that include such brands as Birkenstock and Pandora.

Jodi said the apparel initially was meant to be ideal for a beach setting or warm sunny getaway but has become more seasonal. 

“It’s become a year-round business,” she said. 

And it’s going mobile.

The Krenzes acquired a trailer and branded it “Urban Chic Boutique On The Road,” which will be stocked with samplings of apparel that’s consistent with what folks can find in-store. 

“We’ll take it to Girls Night Out, we work with The Garage Bar (for that),” she said. “We’ll be taking it to concert venues, to Hodag, (etc.).” 

Jodi said the DBA accounts for about 25% of The Tanning Studio’s revenue. 

She said she estimates that her client base is roughly equal among younger, middle-aged and older adults – and that it’s roughly 60/40 female.

Since opening, Jodi said The Tanning Studio’s message has evolved slightly into one of overall wellness – particularly concerning one’s appearance, mood and even production of Vitamin D.

For more information on The Tanning Studio, visit

For more on Urban Chic Boutique, visit

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