Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Q Fest goes back to original date

Q-FEST, ORIGINALLY known as MidSummer Arts Faire, is going back to the fourth weekend in June. This year it will be June 22-23-24 in Washington Park, and we at Second String Music could not be happier.

Last year it was at the beginning of June. Organizers changed the date, in part, because they thought the weather would be a little cooler. Turned out it was hot and humid as it normally is in Quincy in early June.

Q-Fest is also partnering with Blues In The District, and there will be another street dance party with live bands on Saturday night. Geesh. A stage right in front of our building with killer bands? I think we can live with that!

We are going to encourage the Q-Fest organizers to not close down Maine Street at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. Last year it stopped our normally busy Friday afternoon traffic in the store. It would be a huge problem for Blues in the District that night too. Hopefully they don't close the streets on Saturday either, though it will take time to setup stages and vendors. We have high hopes.

Hooray for downtown Quincy and again, what a great event and great time of year to have it in Washington Park. It’s gonna be another rocking summer down here!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Looking for music

ONCE AGAIN, I am in search of musical acts for various downtown Quincy events. These include the Concerts In The Plaza, Q Fest and Noon Blues shows in Washington Park. All of them are paid and the PA is provided.

Molly would rock the

I am always looking for newer artists who want a good-paying gig without a ton of pressure. Most of these events are casual and the atmosphere is laid back, and there is no admission charge. These are probably not a good place to play your first gig, but I’ve thrown a few performers into the fire knowing they’d do fine.

Most of these are better for the solo or acoustic duo players. No tracks, please. You have to play, not do karaoke. For the Q Fest event I’ll consider a band if there isn’t too much setup involved, as we do have a good PA system and Garris Brown does an excellent job running it.

You can track me down on Facebook or call Second String Music at 217 223-8008. I’ve already started scheduling acts and the slots will fill up fast.

As always, please support live music, and show your appreciation for the many talented performers we have in our area!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Timing and being swamped

TIMING IS EVERYTHING, of course. Sheryl had to run some errands yesterday morning. Big storm coming, you know. Ice, sleet, snowmaggedon, empty bread and milk shelves, all that stuff.

I had a lesson at 10:30. The young man came in early. So I said, "Let's get started. It hasn't been busy in here in the mornings. We'll be fine."

You know what that means. Two minutes later a guy comes in wanting guitar lessons, info about guitars, pedals, strings, etc. Then a gal comes in and buys a guitar. Then another gal comes in with a Christmas Project guitar (she bought it somewhere, and it doesn't work, and now we are fixing it). Then two more guitar students show up because they want to get their lessons in early due to the pending snowmaggedon. Sheryl gets back and immediately starts putting out fires and consoling poor Angus, who was sitting by the door waiting patiently for her to return.

All part of the deal in a small retail business. I like being busy and running around with my head cut off, actually. And we still had a good lesson. Of course Sheryl had to fix all my screwups when she got back, but she's used to it and doesn't complain too loudly.

So this morning Sheryl has taken our new Jeep to get serviced for a minor issue. Angus is all out of sorts - he is not used to just me being here, and he's sitting by the front door with a confused look on his face, saying, "Where is my mooooommmmmm?"

I'm ready for the rush. Let's sell some guitars, cables, microphones, amps. Let's move some Fender basses, Ibanez electrics, Takamine 12-string acoustics. Let's go!

And .... cue the sound of birds chirping.

It's okay. Angus and I are ready.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

MS Communications saves us $$$$$

DALE STEINKAMP IS known for many things - bus driver for the Quincy band Eleven, father of three beautiful daughters, husband of the amazing Wendy and purveyor of bad jokes about parking in downtown Quincy.

Dale also works for MS Communications. He came into the store a month ago and said he could save us a bit of money on our phone plan, AT&T specifically.

About once a week some shyster, usually from Chicago, comes in and promises us a big pot of gold and the end of the phone, electric, credit card transaction and internet rainbows. I used to listen for a minute or two. Now it’s out the door in under 30 seconds.

Anyway, Sheryl decided to listen to Dale because he’s a good guy and we had nothing to lose. Lo and behold, MS Communications found out that AT&T had been inadvertently overcharging us for years on our landline phone bill.

Today we got notice that our account will be credited with $744.23 due to charges and taxes that were incorrectly billed for the last seven years. That’s a lot of money for a small retail business, or any business.

Word of mouth is crucial in our world. Sheryl and I are beyond grateful to Dale and Nick Steinkamp. We recommend you give them a call or listen when they come in to talk about saving your business money. We don't normally recommend this type of behavior but since it is Dale, it's OK. A "Smart Review" could be very smart.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Newspaper? What’s that?

I ENJOY WORKING a couple of nights a week at The Whig is sports. Mostly I work with the younger college guys who take game results and turn them into stories. I like seeing them improve. I also write a few recaps and once in a while type all the box score stuff in correctly.

Last Saturday night was the busiest night of the year, literally. We had more than 40 games or matches to track down and it was hectic but fun.

One of the college kids was writing a game story when Whig sports writer Matt Schuckman suggested he look up how one of the teams was ranked in the latest state poll. The young guy poked around on his computer for a while and finally said, “How do I find the rankings?”

Matt said, “They were in Thursday’s paper.” So the young man, once he was told where to find the paper, walked over and picked up the sports section.
How it used to be done. Olden days.

“How do you work this thing?” he said.

He literally did not know how to pick up a newspaper and open it up to find the agate page, or the page with the tiny writing and all the standings and schedules. Matt rolled his eyes in disgust and could hardly believe it. I said, “There’s an ‘on button’ on Page 3. Just hit it and it will pop up.’” 

We had a good laugh about, and the young man eventually found what he was looking for. I am willing to bet he has almost never picked up a newspaper - why should he, when it’s all right there on his computer screen or phone? Matt had a hard time believing it - “This is a newspaper,” he said. But newspapers are becoming more and more obsolete, and by the time my run on this earth is done (good Lord willing), they’ll probably become extinct.

To cheer myself up, I’ll try to go see The Post, and also read as many newspapers and watch as much fake news as possible. As soon as I find the on button, that is.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Credit card charges

WE ARE NOT ones to complain about the challenges of owning a small business. We bust our butts to overcome, give our customers the best small music store experience, and most people couldn't care less about the massive property taxes we pay for our old building, or the fees associated with running a small business or becoming a big label guitar dealer.

It's all part of the bigger picture of having a fun retail music store.

But today, we're making the general public aware of credit and debit card processing fees and how big of a burden they can be for a small business. I keep seeing Facebook posts about people who refuse to use cash and then have issues with their cards. And I understand the debit card convenience - I use it myself quite a bit. The problem with cash is that it gets spent. (Always get a receipt!)

Last year at Second String Music, we paid a staggering $4,700 in credit card fees. We are charged a percentage for each total and a .25 cent fee per swipe. Sheryl just did the math this morning and we are both in shock.

It isn't $4,700 in our pocket. That is a Fender amplifier order! Sheryl and I will make deals on instruments, but it's kind of tough to have sales and slash prices when the cost of simply swiping a credit card is so financially burdensome.

So, we are encouraging people to use cash, and our guitar students are always allowed to pay with checks. Our prices have always been internet-friendly and competitive. We are just going to work on keeping credit card fees out of the hands of credit card processors. It can be done!

It just makes you wonder how anybody, especially the small retail store, stays in business. I guess our new years resolutions are to be more mindful of how we pay and how that affects the place we are paying.

Edit: We have the lowest rates possible thru First Data. We don't pay machine fees, charge-back fees, AMEX fees, machine rental fees or anything extra. So it really is a VERY tiny percentage of our overall sales but in total for the year is a very intimidating number. These are the fees that a small business pays when we have gotten into the lowest rate anywhere and own our in store equipment. We also have to file a PCI plan every year to make sure they don't charge us $9.99 a month for a PCI security waiver. Geesh, they do nickel and dime everyone to death.