Carrboro Commons

Carrboro music store plays a different tune

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 in Business by jock

By Trevor Kapp

Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

In a town in which trendy new stores, apartments buildings and restaurants move in by the week, The Music Loft of Carrboro is a throwback.

The shop—which has been at its 116 W. Main St. location since the mid 1980s—has four employees, does extensive non-profit work for the town, does not sell any of its products online and offers discounts to loyal customers, nearly all of whom store owner Jim Dennis knows by name.

Music Loft of Carrboro Store Owner Jim Dennis plays one of the store’s 150 guitars and basses. Staff photo by Trevor Kapp

“Our philosophy is the most important thing that we have to sell is service,” Dennis said. “The people who work here know about this stuff, and you can ask us questions on lots of different music topics and recording or guitar setups.”

Dennis, 48, said that when he purchased the 2,600-square-foot store in 2002, he made several adjustments to adapt it to Carrboro’s increasingly younger community.

He added additional lighting, changed the location of where the instruments were inside the store and removed the dozens of posters that covered the front windows, which prevented potential shoppers from seeing inside.

“I wanted to make it so a soccer mom could come in or somebody who never played (music) before could come in and not feel intimidated,” Dennis said.

What sets the store apart, customers and employees agreed, is the combination of the music services and supplies it offers and the employees’ hands-on approach.

“That’s part of the only reason we’re still here,” said 22-year-old employee Cody Anderson of Carrboro. “We’re kind of the small business that knows your pain.”

Anderson said that unlike many other shops, this one allows customers to come in and actually play the instruments.

“We have instruments you have to ask for, but we don’t mind you playing at all,” he said.

One customer, steel drummer Mickey Mills—who has performed with Mick Jagger and Kenny Chesney, among others—enjoys looking at the store’s drum sets and keyboards.

“I get all my equipment from here,” said Mills of Carrboro. “I buy everything from here because they are wonderful people. They will take time to give you what you need.”

Musician Mickey Mills tests one of the keyboards inside the Music Loft of Carrboro. Staff photo by Trevor Kapp

The Music Loft of Carrboro offers everything from swabs for a tenor saxophone for $13 to a 200-year-old Czechoslovakian violin for $580.

The store’s true calling card is its guitars.

Dennis said it currently has about 150 guitars and basses, ranging from basic Takamine models to a Fender Stratocaster from 1962, which is on sale for $23,800.

Over the past two and a half years, customer unease about the economy has led to a decrease in sales, Dennis said.

Instead of spending money on a new guitar or amplifier, people are using the shop’s repair and restringing services.

Bill McKellar, 74, said that he immediately brought in his Takamine Guitar when he noticed it was not working properly.

“I’ve always got what I’ve paid for,” said McKellar, a Hillsborough resident.

Dennis said that the key to running a successful music store is to be flexible to customers’ tastes and to listen to what shoppers say.

“If (a new artist) is real hot and is playing the guitar, then people will want that,” he said.

The Music Loft of Carrboro is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Asked whether he would ever consider moving the shop to a different town, Dennis said, “I just like this community. It’s the only place I’d want to have a music store.”

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