Tuesday, August 20, 2019

School band rentals - we are rocking!

SCHOOL BAND INSTRUMENT rental season is upon us, earlier than usual, and it's been a challenge to get ready this year.

Sheryl, last Friday...
The other music store in town is closing and no longer has instruments to rent or school music books to buy. Sheryl doubled all our school band book and accessory orders this year and we've had an intense few days of sales and figuring out what everybody needs. I picked a bad weekend to bail and work for Gus Macker in Indianapolis, because Sheryl (and Steve Rees on Saturday morning) had her hands full with a ton of people coming in for instruments, supplies and books. She was alone all day Friday and that was a terrible idea. Somehow she makes do and it all turns out ok in the end.

Making things even more challenging is Boyd Music of Jacksonville closing. They issued a rather confusing letter to parents earlier this summer, and just to clarify, Second String Music is NOT closing. We've done our school band instruments through Boyd for a long time and enjoyed a good relationship with them. Now they have sold their instrument rental business to the Music Shoppe, based out of Normal, Ill. It's been a challenge during the transition but we finally got a huge shipment of instruments last week, put them in inventory, and we are ready for the first wave of rentals.

Sheryl told me yesterday afternoon to stick around in the store because it was going to get crazy. I went into the back for two minutes and came back out to five people standing there asking questions about instruments, books and guitars. I opened the store before 10 this morning during the nasty thunderstorm and people were coming in to buy books and get rental info before we officially opened.

We appreciate our loyal customers and we appreciate your patience and support. The biggest thing is parents coming in with confusion about how rentals works, and that's why we are here - we will walk you through it and make it as simple and painless as possible. It will be a challenging five weeks while parents get their childs instrument.

Bear with us, have patience, shop early, let us get your info if needed and get back to you with answers and most of all, help us enjoy this crazy time of year. We are here to help and make the process as easy, hopefully.

We are ready for fall, and we are even getting ready for Christmas, believe it or not. Come see us at Fifth and Maine - we are thriving and rocking as usual!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Thank you alert coffee drinkers!

THIS MORNING WE were driving to the store and noticed a couple of police officers near Sixth and Maine. I went into the EFB coffee shop in our building, and the employee told us there was a guy with hospital pants, a hospital wristband and no shirt walking down the street and peering into the windows of parked cars.

Who knows what he was looking for. It's yet another reason to always lock your car, no matter where you park.

There was an EFB customer sitting outside who noticed the strange behavior. He wisely and quickly called the police, and they came down to take care of a person who obviously was having issues. He was in the back of the police vehicle when we drove past.

Thank you to the customer who saw something wasn't quite right and called. It's dangerous to assume what was going on, but the man who called did the right thing and may have saved a lot of trouble to the people who were parked on Maine Street and for the man in question.

The moral of the story? Always go to Electric Fountain Brewing for your coffee. (They have two locations now!) And don't hesitate to let authorities know if you see something suspicious, especially when drinking coffee! Yum, Coffee.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tree removal

THE CITY CAME by this morning and removed a tree in front of our house. It was between the sidewalk and the street, so it was the city's responsibility.

This morning
Not sure how old it was, but the tree was top heavy and crowding another tree just to the east. Branches were dying on the top of the tree and they couldn't fall to the ground because it was too thick and intersecting with the other tree. We thought about just having it trimmed, but in the end removing the tree means the other tree next to it has a much better chance of surviving and doing well.

We've planted five trees in our backyard in the 10 years we've lived in Calftown. Two of the them are pear trees and there were a lot of pears this year. But strangely enough, one day the tree had tons of pears, and the very next day most of the them were gone. We assume the squirrels came by in a gang and carted them all away.

When we bought the house in 2009, there was a nasty sweet gum tree that dropped those spiky balls. We had it removed in a year and replaced by another tree. Sheryl spent the next five years picking up the spiky balls that had been ground into the soil.

It's nice and shady back there now. I sat in the backyard last night as dusk settled in and thought about how nice it is to have a shady spot to sit and contemplate life.

This Afternoon!
We know how important trees are to the environment. It's always sad when a living thing goes away, no matter how sick or healthy it is. Perhaps the city can plant another tree further west so it doesn't get in the way of any other trees.

But the front of the house looks much better and all the other trees have room to breathe, so we are happy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Red guitars sell

ONE OF THE many challenges in small retail is selling items in demand. Second String Music has learned through research and trial and error what sells and what doesn't, but sometimes you just never know.

This morning we sold a beautiful dark cherry metallic Gretsch Electromatic to a young man looking to up his game. The list price is more than $600, but we match the internet price of $450 and our new Gretsch owner is thrilled.

This guitar sells like crazy at Fifth and Maine!
It's the third cherry metallic Electromatic we've sold in less than a week. There's no explanation, other than our customers were in the right place and the right time and we had them in stock. We still have a couple of gorgeous metallic gold and metallic green models on the wall and I doubt they last long.

Actually, I want the green one. I asked Sheryl about it the other day. She said, "You already own 49 percent of it, silly." The whole need vs. want argument doesn't always work, sadly. Or thankfully, since we are in business.

Also this morning we helped a young man who is physically challenged with his hands. We explained how pickups on guitars work, and how playing in open tunings can make it easier and fun to learn. The young man was happy somebody took a little time and answered his questions and treated him fairly and with respect. He'll be back and we'll set him up down the road.

It's the nature of small retail - you just never know who will walk in and pull the trigger. Two weeks ago a guy walked in and sat cross-legged on the floor strumming electric guitars. He played for about an hour, then got up and said, "I'm gonna go across the street and get a beer, and I'll be back to get something."

Sure enough, an hour later, he came back and ended up doing major business with us.

Second String Music isn't just a job - it's an adventure, and we're proud to be Quincy's music store!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thunderstorms at 5,000 feet

EVER FIGHT YOUR way through a thunderstorm at 6,000 feet? It's an adventure. Make sure you have an experienced pilot who isn't color blind if you are going to do it.

Saturday morning the Pepper Spray Express took off for great rural Vicksburg, Michigan, the home of Jon and Mariann Barnard. We had a great time hooting and hollering at their awesome lakefront home, and the boys (Adam Yates, Tim Smith and Frank Haxel) got a good idea of what inland lake living is all about.

We flew in Tim's Piper Cherokee. The flight to Michigan was uneventful and we landed at Three Rivers Airport with no issues. Coming home yesterday morning, however, proved to be interesting.

Zig zaging our way home ....
We left a hair early to beat weather coming into Quincy, but then discovered a massive front rolling through upper and central Illinois. Frank and I helped navigate by lightly dozing in the back while Tim and Adam scanned the radar and listened to Chicago air traffic control give us warnings about the stuff ahead.

"I won't go through orange or purple," Tim said. We assumed he meant really bad weather. We were good with it. He even made sure to know where some of the local airports were located in case it was too much to fly through.

We started heading south just after clearing Chicago and all we heard was Tim talking about "gaps" and "stair-stepping our way through" the storms. After getting permission to deviate from the original flight plan, Tim steered south until he saw a "small gap" near Decatur.

"It's gonna get a little bumpy, boys," he said.

This was our fourth trip with Tim and we've experienced "a little bumpy" before. Tim merely shrugged and sang along with the music on the radio like he didn't have a care in the world. I'm not sure what the other guys did but I closed my eyes and got ready for "the roller coaster," as Adam put it.

"Man. Can you feel that air pushing us up?" Tim said.

Yes, Tim. We can. Maybe it was my head hitting the roof of the plane three times in a row, or me looking for my stomach we'd left behind a few knots.

In the end it wasn't so bad. We had a few minutes of bumping around and then Tim said "Hey! We can see the ground!" and we assumed that was a good thing. It was.

Geesh. What a great time! We floated around the lake all day and played music all night. Some of us got to bed a little later than others. And we made it home in a quarter of the time it takes to drive. And didn't get stuck in traffic.

A little weather ain't gonna stop the Pepper Spray Express!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Art in crosswalks

IT WOULD BE way cool to have our crosswalks painted and jazz up our Fifth and Maine area. We could paint a keyboard from our store to Washington Park. With a bank and accounting firms on the other corners, we could put a money-themed crosswalk like dollar signs or bank vaults.

A friend suggested this idea and was very enthusiastic about it. She had a lot of good ideas and it's a forward-thinking project. She also said it would "bring downtown Quincy back to life" and it would "attract people to actually come downtown." Also, we could get the businesses to donate and the paint stores to give us free paint, and the artists could volunteer their time.

Downtown Quincy has a long way to go but it isn't dead, and a fancy crosswalk won't bring a gazillion tourists. But it would add a lot of flavor and help us stand out, for sure.

Why is it artists always have to "volunteer" their time? They have amazing skills and deserve to be compensated, even more so for a public piece. I would volunteer time to help it get done, and I'm all for community service, but why not make it worth the while for the artist actually doing the work? Yup, WORK. Like you and I do to get paid.

Then there's paint and the road. How long would it last? Fifth and Maine is busy, you know. How would we maintain it? Who is in charge of repainting it if it wears out? Is it legal to paint on the road? Would we have to get permit or waive some sort of zoning thing? All stuff to figure out.

Fourth and Maine would be a nightmare. For one thing, I think it's a state highway so who knows what kind of red tape you'd have to go through. And closing the intersection, even on a Sunday, would be next to impossible. Streets would have to close and all the work would have to be done on a Sunday to minimize the impact on our downtown businesses.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. I'm all for the idea, and I'll start pushing it to some of our movers and shakers in town. We need to do stuff like this because Quincy tends to stand still and resist change. Tempered with reality, it should be considered and maybe we can add some color and flavor to our downtown.