WESTMINSTER — The former racks and dressing rooms of J.C. Penney have been transformed into a youthful discotheque, where colored lights from a suspended grid illuminate the kids hopping and bopping on the brass-railed dance floor.
Mannequins that silently enticed shoppers to buy have seemingly sprung to life, becoming animated models of the latest fashions in a teen world of see and be seen.
"We come to dance and meet a lot of hot guys," said Nadeen Stuartand Crystal Meleo, both 15-year-old students at Westminster High School and regular visitors to Profiles at 56 W. Main St.
Pizza and sodas are sold in the restaurant area overlooking the club, complete with tables, chairs and seats against the rail of the balcony to scopeout the scene.
A month after moving from the Carroll Plaza Shopping Center off Route 140, the club at its new location continues to provide an alcohol-free social option for youths under 21.
Cover charge is $6 per person.
"We knew that some bars were doing under-21 nights on Sunday that were a big success, so we decided to do it on Friday and Saturday when the kids really need it," said Ross Jones, 26, who co-owns the club with partner Jim Maddox, 27, of Baltimore.
Jones, a native of Mount Airy, and his wife, Staci, said they experienced Carroll's lack of social opportunities while they were dating asteens.
"We're about three years apart, so when they raised the drinking age to 21, there wasn't much we could do together," said Staci, 24.
"We hung out at the movies, and that was about it. It's (theclub) great for the kids, especially now that it's so expensive to go on a date."
Young people at the club agreed.
"Any under-21 club (in Carroll) could do a good business," said Charles Seal, 17. "This is not a real happening county."
However, at Saturday's Beach Party -- a new annual "tradition" -- opinions varied on whether the old or the new Profiles was better.
"There's a place to eat and drink now, more variety of food and a better dance floor," said Seal.
The newly installed video games and the increased space to socialize also drew compliments.
Some, though, preferred the intimacy of theold Profiles.
"The other place was more personal, smaller," said Jennifer Wilson, 16, who attends South Carroll High.
Wilson said she found it easier to socialize in the closer confines of the old club, which was one-quarter the size of the new facility. She agreed with those who waxed nostalgic for their former hangout.
"There's a lot of memories, and I met a lot of people there," said Karen Plummer,14, a student at Liberty High. "More of my friends came to the old place."
Most agreed that simple changes -- like special events, more publicity and different music -- would draw more young people in.
"If there was better music, there would be a better turnout," said Todd Smith, 18. "The music is not as good as in the old place."
Smith and friends Tom Owens, 19, Van Matthews, 17, and Jeff Dixon, 17, said they would prefer more rap music. The new Profiles has been playing mostly Top 40 songs.
Jones said that club attendance is usually light during the summer.
"There are a lot of other things for kids to do during the summer," he said. "Many of them go to the beach and things like that."
New activities for fall -- directed at attracting a slightly older crowd -- will be college nights, done in cooperation with Western Maryland College, Jones said. Participants will have to be 17 or older to attend the Thursday evening shows featuring a live band.