Friday, September 30, 2016

Parents who care and band rental season

SHERYL DEALT WITH crabby band parents this morning. They complained about the price of the book ($10). They complained about their kid not sticking with the instrument. They complained about the school music program, the cork in the mouthpiece, life itself.

Sheryl just smiled. We understand. It has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It's all about wanting your child to succeed.

Sheryl left to vote early. As soon as she walked out, three parents came in asking about band rentals. They were patient and put up with my bumbling. One mother decided to rent a clarinet, and Sheryl was surprised that I had her fill out the paperwork correctly and had done almost everything right. Almost everything. Nothing she couldn't fix.

The other two parents asked about instruments and said they'd be back. They grasp the value of renting a brand new instrument and owning it after two years, and having a maintenance agreement to address any issues.

Boyd Music of Jacksonville has been fantastic, and we are doing a lot of rentals. It's a challenging time. But we love seeing parents and their children get involved in music. You have to give them a chance and let music take them to new and exciting places.

Maybe they will play it for a few months and decide it isn't for them. Maybe they will play through school. Maybe they will pursue a college degree and masters in music and end up teaching at a four-year university. Who knows? It can and does happen.

They will be better off for the experience. That much we do know, and we support parents who support their children.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our elevator is running for president

I AM HAVING a political fundraiser next week. It's to promote the new Elevator Party. That's right, the Elevator Party.

The candidate is on the far east end of our historic Fifth and Maine building. His name is Hollister Whitney. He was born in 1920. He stopped working in the early 1960s. It will cost $50,000 to get him up and running again. We have an Elevator Restoration Fund started, but it's a tip jar and the biggest bills are Mauler Buckeroos (fake money stamped with America's best tribute band instead of Bens and Georges).

You'd think the people who birthed Hollister would be interested. They know about him. But we've received no response. We can prove his birth records! But in the end it is up to us to fix him and get him back on the ballot.

HW for Prez?
Ideally, he'd run for president The problem is that Hollister has more class, chutzpah and sense than the two major candidates. Actually, I'm thinking about inviting Gary Johnson over for a photo op. And maybe voting for him, too. So we are doing a write-in campaign, instead of a ride along campaign, since Hollister's engine is busted and rusting away in the attic.

Quincy just had an event like this. It cost $100 to get in. It cost $1,000 to get your photo taken with the family member of a person running for president. Sheryl says that is a very sad statement no matter how you say it. Three hundred people attended, according to a reporter who was there, though the TV stations said the press was not allowed to enter.

Do the math - that's about $30,000 raised, without photo ops. It might buy a 30-second TV ad in a major market. Maybe. I don't know about these things.

So I'm doing the same thing for Hollister. A hundred bucks is nothing to the deep pocketed around here. More power to 'em if they go. And a thousand to take a picture with ole HW? No big deal for the rich. It's like us investing in a leaf blower. Huff and puff, huff and puff, huff and puff. Politics, right? Come out and spend your money locally and help a guy out.

So come meet Hollister, learn about his platform, and find out why he'd make a great candidate. And if you want to find out more, just climb the stairs in our five-story building. Hollister, like the other presidential candidates, is stuck on the first floor and ain't moving till we can give him a boost.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I'm with Her

PEOPLE ARE OFTEN surprised when they learn Sheryl works on guitars. In the early days customers, mostly men, would come in and ask if I was around so I could look at their guitar. This was motivation for her to get up to speed on guitar repair quickly.

Sheryl worked hard and learned quickly the ins and outs of routine guitar maintenance. She is not a guitar player, but she is a computer geek and she takes a more analytical approach to it, a huge advantage.

Yesterday a guy came in and was wondering about strings for his higher end guitar. He hemmed and hawed and admitted that he knew little about working on his guitars, even though he owned a lot of them. We explained his options and let him know something could be done for his baby. Finally he caved and let Sheryl restring it and do some intonation and action work on it.

She Devil by ESP/ltd guitars
He was surprised when she got done. "This is so much better," he said. "Wow. You cracked the code. You do great work!"

Sheryl just shrugged it off. She's been dealing with biased people who have preconceived notions about women in a music store for more than five years. In the beginning we felt that part of our challenge in business would come because she was running the place. It really was a concern early on but throughout the years we have held firm in our belief that musicians are open minded enough to give a gal a chance.

In this strange political year, with the possibility of a woman finally breaking though the presidential glass ceiling, we don't think it is too hard to imagine that women can do anything. Underestimating Sheryl is probably the least of my concerns though.

I'm with Her.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fast Eddie and Angus debate - not humanely

FAST EDDIE PROMISES cat nip for all when he's elected president. Since he thinks he won his debate with Angus The Young last night, it's just a matter of time.

While the rest of you were watching "Lies WRONG SNIFFLE  lies WRONG SNIFFLE lies and WRONG SNIFFLE lies," I watched Fast Eddie and Angus talk about the issues at Second String Music. They both agreed more than disagreed, such as cold weather means no more Outside People in the park and cat nip can be a beautiful thing, but not in moderation. (You can't OD on Nepetalacton, according to the fat cat.)

It stayed civil until the very end. Angus accused Eddie of being a pussy, which he is so that was rated as "True." Then Eddie accused Angus of being a mongrel, but he's not, he's a mutt, so that was rated as "Mostly False." Politico quickly pointed it out and all of the sudden social media started going wild. Fortunately cat and dog came to their respective senses, especially when Angus was threatened with a leash and Eddie was told he'd never get another treat again if he didn't behave.

Fast Eddie wants more sunny nap spots, cat treats three times a day (minimum) and Medicat to pay for any neuter/spay procedures. Angus is all about building a wall around Woodland Cemetery so no more moles can get in. When pointed out by moderator Les Nessman that moles dig under fences, Angus said "WRONG WRONG WRONG WOOF, sniffle" and dug up the carpet in protest.

I could bore you with the rest of the debate, which had a lot of barking, baying and meowing, but I don't want to talk about Trump and Clinton. The dog and cat behaved pretty well and stuck to the issues - Fast Eddie thinks free kitty litter is a right. Angus thinks going outside and taking care of bidness is the way to go.

After hearing about the Trump and Clinton debate (I didn't watch, my stomach isn't strong enough), I can say with confidence that Angus and Fast Eddie didn't act humanely at all in their debate. And that's the highest compliment we can pay them.

Monday, September 26, 2016

20 years

TWENTY YEARS AGO to the day I arrived in Quincy. Geesh, what I would say to that version of me now, two decades later ....

I was young and dumb, for sure. Those first few weeks were a blur, yet I still remember some stuff like it was yesterday. And it's staggering to think of what was and what is.

Quincy Newspapers Inc. put me up in the Hotel Quincy. It was ... an experience, 40 days and nights of my life I'm never getting back. But I didn't have to sleep on somebody else's couch or pay for a one-month apartment. I got used to the smells and stairs and interesting people coming and going at all hours.

I'd flown to Quincy for my interview at The Whig so it was my first time driving from Michigan. It seemed to take forever, and I-72 was one long and boring stretch of road. For some reason I distinctly remember listening to a Cubs-Cardinals game, and thinking how bad the Cardinals radio announcers were - some things never change.

I came in along Ill. 57 and it seemed .... industrial. Then I tried to park at the Hotel Quincy, but there was a huge carting race downtown and I couldn't get near the place. I finally grabbed a shopping cart (a shopping cart?) and used it to haul all my crap into the room.

My first night in town was Don Crim's 40th birthday party. I met nearly everybody I needed to meet right then and there. People made me feel at home right away. Wouldn't you know it - The Cheeseburgers are playing at Don's birthday party this Saturday. You do the math to figure out how old he is!

I'd walk to the office early in the morning, and it amazed me people were in the Branding Iron at Fifth and Hampshire at 5:30 a.m. Later, it didn't amaze me. I walked past the corner of Fifth and Maine four or five times a day, and I never in a million years thought I'd be a co-owner of a music store and building there.

I remember walking up Hampshire to catch a $1 movie at the Adams Theater. Now it's known as One Restaurant.

I remember driving to a Hannibal High School football game and thinking, "Holy crap, I'm in Missouri covering a football game."

Now I'm back at The Whig a couple of nights a week helping out in sports. There are a bunch of college kids taking calls and writing short stories, and the other night I met a new full-time reporter.

I want to scream at them and tell them to slow down and enjoy being young. These are the halycon days you can't get back, and you'll appreciate them more and more as the years go by.

Also, don't blink. Twenty years disappears like a flash.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Returning and keeping guitars

WE HAD A young man, a street musician, come into the store and buy some nice stuff a few weeks ago. I think he's 19 years old. We saw him playing in the street in Hannibal last weekend and he seems to be doing well. He's quit his job and he wants to play music. More power to him.

For Sale!
with custom case
Then this week he purchased a rather unique guitar, for about $300. "My mom is going to kill me," he said. Well, she didn't kill him. But she made him bring it back.

We have return policies, and it's a part of being in the retail business. We took the guitar back and it was all good. Then Sheryl said, "The next time you want to buy a guitar from us, we'll have to make sure your mother says it is okay."

This didn't sit well with the customer. But he seemed to get Sheryl's point.

Earlier in the week, one of my young guitar students bought a beautiful mahogany Breedlove. She thought about it for a long time, and it's going to be a birthday-Christmas present sort of thing. She is turning into an amazing guitar player and she loves playing, loves loves LOVES playing. So she and her parents finally pulled the trigger this week, and the Breedlove has found a new home.

A well made decision takes time. We love selling guitars and getting them into a good home. A permanent new home. And we couldn't be happier.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grapes on the river

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, I will be at the Great River Grape Escape at Clat Adams Park. Second String Music is an official event sponsor and we can't wait to soak in the early-fall sunshine and enjoy a great time by the river. Nine local wineries will offer their wares and the live entertainment is stellar.

Saturday also features the End Of The World party east of town. There are some great musical acts at this event too, and there is no reason you can't make both if you are really into it.

As usual, there is way too much going on in Quincy and the surrounding area - The Cheeseburgers are even playing late Sunday afternoon in Hannibal at a private party. Take our advice and cram it all in - Monday is coming and there's nothing you can do about it, so you may as well be worn out when it gets here!

Great River Grape Escape Music
Saturday, Sept. 24
1 p.m. - Logan Kammerer
3 p.m. - Seth Wade and Mike Moore
5 p.m. - George Cate
Sunday, Sept. 25
1 p.m. - Johnny B & Friends

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Barbie Trump? No Thanks ....

SO DONALD TRUMP'S daughter is coming to Quincy next week, to raise money for the Republican party. Tickets are $100 a pop. Great! Count me in!


Can I see the river when I'm here next week?
I am not naive. I know how this political stuff works. Of course it's all about money! Let's bring in Barbie and a lot of people will shell out big bucks to see it. She won't say anything, but the newly-appointed Secret Service guys will look good.

Lest you think this is about bashing Republicans, it's not. I wouldn't do it if Hillary or Billary or Barack or Mrs. Barack showed up, either. And if I was still a reporter and forced to "cover" the event, I'd only go because I was ordered to go.

I hope Barbie has a great time in Quincy, gets to know the people, gets to see what the city is all about and what the issues are facing us in a Mississippi River town.

What? She's only going to be here for a few minutes?

Well, I hope it's worth it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cats and birthdays

EMILY HART TURNS 25 today. Wow. Double wow. Am I that old? Wasn't she just getting done with third grade at Berrian? Wasn't she just zipping by me playing sock football?

Emily wants a cat. I don't think she can have one right now, seeing as her apartment in Macomb is pet-free. When we were up there recently we walked around the square and we kept seeing cats in stores - it made me want to go in, except it was at night and they were closed. But a store with a dog or a cat is the place to be, and I'm pretty sure Emily has been in the stores to see the cats. Fast Eddie, of course, approves.

Someday Emily will get a cat. In the meantime, her friend, Ginny Helmer, found this gem on YouTube. I can't stop laughing, because it's so goofy and ludicrous and serious and .... and .... it's so Emily.

So happy birthday, Ya Big! These cats are for you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

One Restaurant is NOT closing

RUMORS GET STARTED and then spiral out of control in the Q-Town all the time. I attribute them to Trump, the Zika virus, Cori Lyssy's dogs and Greg Ellery running for mayor.

There is one rumor we need to quash right now. One Restaurant at Sixth and Hampshire is NOT closing. I repeat, NOT, closing.

Yes, the restaurant is for sale. Yes, the owners, Noi and Tenille Sonethongkham, are shopping the building in the hopes in could be taken to the next level, but "it's business as usual until we find a buyer," Tenille says.

"We just want to find someone with more time to devote to the restaurant," she says.

Noi and Tenille have mortgage and insurance businesses, not to mention their kids. So it's time for somebody else to run the show. One Restaurant has been very good to the local music scene - bands every weekend, open mic night on Thursdays. We are hopeful somebody sees the potential and keeps it musician-friendly.

One is still open, and will stay open. Thank you. I'm voting for Greg Ellery, too.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A girl, a Luna uke and winning contests

I DON'T WATCH stupid talent shows or voice contests. It's all a bunch of clever camera angles and they focus more on judges than participants. I understand the whole concept, but to me it's the easy way out to get famous - I'll just be on a show, look cute, and boom! I'm famous!


Last night a 12-year-old girl named Grace VanderWall won a contest. I think Simon Mandell was one of the judges. Anyway, what makes Grace's story cool, besides having an awesome Dutch last name, is the fact she plays a Luna ukulele, and writes her own songs. Second String Music has the same uke she played on her way to TV stardom, and they continue to be popular items in the store.

So good for her. I hope she buys a lot of neat stuff with her millions and her Las Vegas residency. She probably does have a lot of talent. And a Luna uke. So we think that is fabulous.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Technology blech

I'VE KNOWN RAY Weast at R&R Golf for a long time. He's a legend around here - famous for his one-liners and working the scorer's tables at various basketball gyms around the area. I could tell you a story about Ray hugging a tree during a Gus Macker tournament one year, but we need to get to the point.

I was at R&R Golf last week picking up a few supplies. When he rang me up, he took out a sales receipt notepad and wrote everything down.

"I just keep track of it better this way," he said.

We live in a world of computers and life made easy with automation. So it struck me that Ray simply thinks it's easier and better for him to do it the old fashioned way. We use QuickBooks here at Second String Music and it's relatively straightforward, but sometimes it's hard for me to find the items because Sheryl handles the transactions most of the time.

Last night I tried to log in at The Whig when I went to help out in sports. They just switched to a new online timeclock system. Me and another guy couldn't get in. It was explained to us this morning we weren't on the right company (apparently there are a few), and now I feel like an idiot. On the one hand, this could have been explained better, but on the other, I should have figured it out.

I miss the old days, when I put down my hours on a piece of paper. I know it's easier, and saves trees, and makes the world go round faster. Blah blah blah.

But there's something to be said for paper and pen, and a simpler way of doing things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Woodland looking good

ERIC BRUNS WAS named the superintendent of Woodland Cemetery a few months ago, and the grounds are looking really good. Eric is from around the Camp Point area and was once the superintendent of Arrowhead Heights Gold Course in Camp Point.

It's nice to see Eric and his staff out on the grounds every day. Eric himself can be found trimming and mowing and doing all the dirty work. And the little things, like the edges of the grass by the road being trimmed and the brush and debris picked up right away, are getting done.

Damaged eagle of the Civil War Monument, now repaired.
The Civil War Monument was recently restored and put back up after being damaged in the July 2015 storm. It looks great and it was a huge project that took many people to accomplish.

There's been more traffic and people in the cemetery, too. It was designed in a Victorian park setting, so I'm glad people are discovering it. Personally, I'd rather it stay nice and quiet. Right when Eric started this Pokey Man craze was going on and there were a lot of people wandering around with their faces glued to their phone screens instead of taking in the historic setting, but fortunately that has died down.

I believe there are going to be expanded Woodland tours in October, instead of just the one annual Nov. 1 tour, so keep your eyes open for that event.

Woodland is looking good!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Golf - I remember you!

MANY YEARS AGO I played golf all the time. I got pretty good at it. I could launch the ball off the tee, even if I didn't know where it was going. "Stay out of your own fairway if you don't like my game," I would say. Or yell, from the tee.

I lived in Northeast Michigan, a hub of beautiful golf courses. I'd have time in the summer to go hacking - a weekly game at the Alpena Golf Club, and lots of trips to other incredible courses less than an hour away.

Then I moved to Quincy and started working 100 hours a week, then got busier with Emily's activities and music. Excuses, I know. But golf isn't something you can just go do in an hour - it takes a big chunk out of your day. And it isn't cheap.

Now I play two or three times a summer, and it's a shame, because I love "A Good Walk Spoiled" (thank you Mark Twain) and the company.

Golf is like anything else - if you do it enough, you get better at it. It's also frustrating - the harder you try the harder it gets, it seems. I like it now, where I can swing and laugh when the ball slices slightly to the right, or all the way to Marblehead.

My old boss from The Whig, Don Crim, invites me every year to play in the Cedar Crest Country Club Junior/Senior scramble. He's the senior, by the way. It's always a lot of fun whacking it around, even if I have no idea where it's going.

I miss the game!
When we played and I was still at The Whig, the joke was that I had to play well or I'd end up covering a school board meeting the next week. Right. Just a joke. Ahem. I don't miss my old job, but I do miss some of the people I worked with, so it's great to hang out with Don and his much better half, Peggy, at the golf course. She plays too and hits it long and straight - how boring is that?

Anyway, we started the two-day tournament Saturday and didn't do very well. I could not have cared less. It was a beautiful day and I was outside. Teams were put in three flights, and we were in the bottom flight. Then yesterday, Don made a couple of bombs (long putts), including one on the last hole we played, and we ended up winning by a shot.

Sure, it makes it fun. But I've played in this tournament and not won a thing and it was just as enjoyable.

Maybe some day I'll have more time and can get back out on the golf course a little bit more. Until then, I'll just whack it around and play it where I find it, and appreciate the time and company.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Name The Place - Table 16 wins again!

OUR FRIENDS AT Table 16 Productions, Chris and Victoria Kelley, have struck gold again. Sure, they do sensational commercials and goofy music store videos, and even award-winning feature films.

But this time, they have a film short, or short film, or just take a few minutes of your dull and dreary life to watch this .... short film. It's tremendous.

Now it's on Funny Or Die, and we'd like to see it go viral. It stars Jeff Baird, he of Washington Park patrol fame, as Gunnar Skull. He's about to face his mortal enemy. I have a feeling they will finally meet in Washington Park - that's an inside Outside People joke, by the way.

What's really cool, having both worked with the Kelleys and seen their work, is that you can tell it's a Table 16 Production. It has the look and feel of Chris behind the camera, and I can only imagine how long this short film took to make, and how many times he shot certain scenes.

Check it out - there's no violence or language. And should Le Menemy and Gunnar Skull finally meet - I'll be there to take it all in.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Christmas is coming

IT'S SEPTEMBER. IT'S still 90 degrees outside. Summer seems to be holding on.

Yet we are thinking about Christmas and the holiday season. A small business has to get ready early, you know. This month we received all of the stock we have to order for the busy season ahead.

In the past few weeks we've received our new Gretsch instruments, and restocked our Takamine, Ibanez and Breedlove acoustic guitars. We have full stock now of our Roland guitar and bass amplifiers. We now carry Gretsch and Luna ukuleles, all beautiful instruments. Second String Music is bulging with amazing instruments at affordable prices. 

We are seeing it already, people coming in with an eye toward getting that guitar or bass or amp. One guy even said, "Well, it's my Christmas present for myself." However you want to talk yourself into it, we're ready to help!

I hate the commercialization of the season. Sheryl tells people that this is the time of year to choose a great instrument because we have every model in stock.
So we straddle that fine line of getting ready early enough without beating everybody over the head. And if I hear any Christmas music before Thanksgiving, we will ask you to play something else in our store.

The other day I noticed a Christmas tree already up at a local gift shop business. I started to get mad. Then I stopped. We all do it. And at least the tree wasn't plugged in. Yet.

Enjoy the dog days of summer with our dogs at Second String Music. And we won't put up the tree until after Thanksgiving. Promise!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

DOB moves on

DON O'BRIEN WORKS his last day at The Herald-Whig this week. I hired him nearly 20 years ago when I was the sports editor at the paper. When I went over to the news side, Don took over as sports editor. And when I left the paper four years ago, Don took my job as crime and courts reporter - sports guys make good crime reporters. Last year was a busy one for high-profile murder trials and DOB did a fantastic job, the only media guy who completely got it and was on the inside.

Sports Guys make good court reporter guys ...
Don's wife, Stacy, took a job in Collinsville a while back, so the move was inevitable. Don landed a job at the Belleville paper, and they are lucky to have him. The Whig has big shoes to fill.

The first story I made DOB do was about a horse. It was a frigid January morning, and I don't think he ever completely thawed out or forgave me. It was a pretty good story, from what I barely remember.

Don didn't have it easy in Quincy - he's from Galesburg, Quincy's huge basketball rival, and he took a lot of grief from people. I put him on the Quincy High School basketball beat right away and instead of backing away from the few but loud haters, DOB actually encouraged feedback and wasn't afraid to put them in their place. "It doesn't MATTER what your name is!" he'd say. Amen.

Then came the infamous day he got to play Augusta National after he covered the Masters for the paper. Perhaps you've heard about his birdie on No. 15. No? Then you are dead.

DOB likes to talk smack. The best times were at his house when we'd watch the WWE pay per views. Of course he got the WWE network, so we made annual pilgrimages to watch WrestleMania, Summer Slam, Survivor Series, etc. There's no way I can cruise past his house off of Harrison and not feel a twinge of sadness - we laughed our butts off and had great times.

His oldest son is a senior at QHS and finishing out the year here, so I'm sure he'll be back and around for the next little bit. But a big chapter in Quincy and at the paper is coming to a close.

Best of luck, Don. Quincy is better off for having you for 20 years, and worse off for you leaving.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Disconnecting on the lake

SHERYL, EMILY AND I had a fabulous weekend on a Lake Michigan beach. My Uncle Peter and Aunt Helen are gracious hosts and it was so good to see family again.

The sun, the beach, great people and cold beer. Need I say more?

Another great thing about going up there is the disconnection. Our phones don't get service on a high sand dune above the big hole in the ground full of water. So I'm learning to simply leave the phone in the car or someplace I can't see it. It doesn't matter if somebody is calling or emailing about the store, the band, space for rent, life itself. It. Doesn't. Matter. We will catch up later.

We took Angus The Young with us and even he chillaxed. He spent most of his time swimming in the creek, chasing his new Michigan frisbee, and meeting other dogs. On Sunday afternoon, he eventually dug a hole in the sand under Sheryl's chair and snoozed the rest of our beach time away. It's a dogs life!

When we got home, I hauled everything into the house, flopped on the couch, and .... turned on the computer.

I've lost the ability to disconnect at home. There are times when it's just better to leave it alone, and maybe do something constructive, like, talk with your wife, or take the dogs for a walk, or make dinner. So Sheryl gently reminded me that I was expected to stay off the computer.

Screw the computer. The outside world and everything going on can wait. It's important to be aware and to stay in touch to and hear the latest Trumptastic disaster. I get it. Shoot - you are reading this blog, which I am grateful for, don't get me wrong.

So it's back to real life today. I'm good with it. Sheryl has a light tan on her face, my legs and back ache from the spirited beach volleyball game Sunday, and the dogs are happy to see us again.

I'm ready for the world, with memories of a sun-drenched beach and a turned-off phone to keep me going. Lake Michigan has renewed us for another year.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Second floor space available

OUR SECOND FLOOR space at Fifth and Maine is up for rent again. The previous tenants did an amazing job of updating the corner office area, fixing windows, painting and putting down new flooring. This is commercial space only and would make a great office, with a view of Washington Park.

There are two areas up there - one runs the length of Maine Street, and that was refurbished as well by the prior tenant. Combined, the spaces have all kinds of possibilities.

You'd have reasonable rent, great landlords on site to help with any issue, and a safe and secure location.

Let us know if you are interested - (217) 223-8008. I'd be glad to show you around, and we are proud to continue to breathe new life into a historic building.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Steve Rees is The Man

LIFE HAS BEEN good at Fifth and Maine recently. So good, in fact, that we've officially hired a part-time employee.

Santa Steve?
Steve Rees has been with us from the start. I will never forget after we opened the store at Eighth and Washington more than five years ago, and Steve ambled into the store from his place just down the street. He had all sorts of used instruments he wanted us to sell for him - banjos, guitars, basses, seven-string guitars. We instantly tripled our inventory and improved the "wow" factor of walking into our store.

Steve has worked seasonally for us and always helps when we go out of town. This month we've had a ton of band rental sales and more traffic, so we've decided to hire him on a regular part-time basis.

Sheryl feels a lot better about it, especially since I'm in lessons most afternoons. Steve is also a wiz at doing repairs and restringing instruments. He's just a great guy to have around. And he's a fantastic musician who plays all kinds of instruments. I consider the highlight of my musical career the night we played "The Joker" by Steve Miller at open mic night, with Steve on the bagpipes.

He'll be here Wednesday and Friday afternoons and all day Saturday. Fast Eddie drives him nuts when we aren't in the store, so make sure you stop by and play with the cat this weekend. Steve will appreciate it!