Monday, October 31, 2016

Sports and good people

IT WAS REALLY cool to go back in time and be a simple sports writer again. I went up to Camp Point Saturday afternoon and watched Central play Carrollton in a Class 1A state playoff football game. Sadly for Central, they were routed by a really good Carrollton team, 48-0.

Covering blowouts is never easy. You have to find an angle or get an idea to write the story, because recapping a lopsided game isn't fun. Fortunately, the two coaches made it easy.

Carrollton coach Tim Flowers is an impressive man. He gathered his team at midfield and had the parents and fans who made the long trip surround the team. He recapped the game and gave his players credit for a great effort. Then he made his seniors stand in the middle of the circle, and each one gave a very short but direct statement - what a great way to recognize kids, and make them own the moment.

Then I tracked down Central coach Brad Dixon -  he and his team have faced a lot of adversity this year, from injuries to the illness of his young daughter. Whig sports writer Mat Mikesell had a great story about him a few weeks ago, click here. Coach Dixon addressed his team calmly after the game, then held his child in his arms and got hugs from family, players, coaches and fans.

When I went up to him, he said, "Thank you for coming out and covering our game."

Wow. It might not seem like much, but think about it for a second - your season has just ended and you just got thumped at home in the playoffs. Yet he remained composed and gracious and kept it all in perspective.

What a class act. Central is fortunate to have him. I hope he can decompress and actually spend some time with his family now - most of us have no idea of the hours and how hard it is to coach at any level.

Also, thanks to the staff at Camp Point and friendly guys in the press box. It was a nice experience. Writing about a game is just like "falling off a bike," as former Quincy University guard Jay Driscoll once said. I hope I get to ride it again!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Back in the press box

I'VE BEEN WORKING a night or two in sports at The Herald-Whig this fall. It's been a lot of fun. Basically I'm just working on the desk, taking a few calls, writing some short stories, and helping the younger reporters. Whig sports guys David Adam and Matt Schuckman have been very good to me.

Saturday I fall off the sports guy truck and am covering a high school playoff football game in Camp Point. It comes almost exactly 18 years to the day I last wrote about a prep gridiron contest. It was Oct. 31, 1998, in Rushville. I think the home team lost, from what I barely remember. I do recall hurrying back to Quincy from Rushville to see Emily in her Halloween costume, then spending the next seven hours at the office. I worked about 20 hours the day before. It's a wonder I lasted as long as I did in sports.

Going to football games was one of my favorite things to do as a sports guy. There is nothing like the feeling you get on a crisp fall Friday night, driving up to the field and seeing the lights. Saturday afternoon is supposed to be gorgeous, and I'll miss the lights, but the feeling of going to a game and knowing there is a lot of excitement in the air is unmatched.

From what I've been told, you still get four downs to make a first down, a touchdown is still worth six points, and there is no instant replay at the high school level. I have never gone to a Camp Point Central High School football game, so it's all new and intriguing to me. I do know Brad Dixon is the Central coach and is respected around here for turning the Panthers into a really good program.

Best of luck to all of our area teams - Quincy High School has a home playoff game Saturday too. Go Blue Devils! It will be a blast getting back to the field and press box, talking to coaches and players after the game, and writing it all up.

You can take the boy outta sports, but you can't take the sports outta the boy.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Teal Pumpkin event a winner

SECOND STRING MUSIC is proud to be part of Saturday's Teal Pumpkin event in Washington Park. It's sponsored by The District and Quincy Medical Group. It's a great alternative to traditional Halloween candy grabs, though I love grabbing candy, too.

It's simple. Come to Washington Park between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday to participate in the festivities. It's free. You can can download a form on the website here, or sign up when you get to the park. Bring a non-candy item to give away. Fun stuff like picks, a small toy, stickers, etc.

We are one of many stores in The District to participate, and we have a bag full of fun non-candy items to give to your kids when they trick or treat downtown Saturday. Plus there's entertainment in the Washington Park gazebo, a parade, and it's the last farmer's market event of the season.

As usual, Fifth and Maine is the place to be on a busy Saturday morning. Come on down and enjoy our downtown and have some fun in the park.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Go Cubbies or Indians - let me know who wins

I AM NOT a baseball fan. I lost my appetite for the big leagues many years ago. I have been to one Major League game in 20-plus years, and it was because of free tickets. So I really couldn't care less about the World Series.

I used to be a huge baseball fan. Then came the strike of 1994, when my beloved Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays were the two-time defending World Series champs. My father says he has a good memory, it's just short. Well, I'm the opposite. I have a bad memory. But it's long. The last time I watched all nine innings of a baseball game on television was 1993.
Memes abound.

The Cubs, of course, are the story, and it's a good one. For the team, the city and their many long-suffering fans, this is a magic ride and I hope they enjoy it. Sheryl hates baseball (and 108 is not her lucky number! She finds it hilarious), but her father is a huge Cubs fans so I imagine he'll be watching. I can't even name one player for Cleveland, unless LeBron James plays for the baseball team, too.

I might watch a few innings if it's close, or if I have insomnia. I will turn the TV volume off and listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer, who call the games on the radio and have a sense of humor, and know everything there is to know about the game without being condescending. I listened to a few games on long road trips home from Mackers and other adventures, and they made the trips easier.

So, Go Cubs Go, and yes, it's happening. Let me know how it turns out if I don't catch the last game.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Coach Connell and tonight's big game

CONGRATULATIONS TO QUINCY Notre Dame football coach Bill Connell, recently selected as a finalist for the U.S. Cellular Most Valuable Coach award. Coach Connell is one of 15 finalists from around the country. This is a huge deal, and I'm going to vote for him, and I hope he wins the whole dang thing.

I have a lot of respect for Coach Connell. First of all, he's a huge reason our Quincy Gus Macker continues to thrive. His football team shows up every Memorial Day Weekend to help us with set up and tear down, and I'm never so glad in my life as I am Sunday afternoon when the Raiders arrive to help us with the final push. They. Get. It. Done. Period.

Coach Connell is a character, with his booming voice. But you know one thing about him as soon as you meet him - he demands respect and doesn't tolerate foolishness. You might be the star player on the team, but if you don't follow the rules or if you goof around, well .... you'll look good from the bench.

Secondly, Coach Connell has impacted young lives for years at QND. Look, my daughter went to Quincy High School and her Blue Devils had some epic girls basketball games against Notre Dame - name the last time Quincy High School beat QND in girls hoops (hint, it was when Emily was a sophomore, it was in a regional semifinal game in Springfield, and it was nine years ago). So I'm not vested at Notre Dame, but I respect the school and the fact they represent Quincy.

Actually, I think Rick Little should also be nominated for this award, given the incredible job he's done for the QHS football program. It looks like the Blue Devils will host a first-round playoff game next week and it's great to see them get state-wide respect - winning a Western Big 6 title will do it for you.

Tonight is the big QHS vs. QND football game at 10th and Jackson. The place will be packed and I'm sure emotions will run high. But keep it all in perspective, and remember that this is high school athletics, not the freaking Super Bowl.

Best of luck to all the players and coaches. It doesn't matter who you cheer for - we all win, with such great coaches and leaders.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's a small, small world

I HAD MORE fun than should be allowed hanging out with Professor Emily Hart Tuesday at Western Illinois University. I did a very poor Elvis imitation but the discussion about Elvis and his impact on music and culture in general went over well with the students, I think.

The Rev. Wally Carlson made the trip over from Canton, Ill., to watch. Emily ended up getting him talk to the kids for a few minutes - he actually met Elvis once in Nashville and he remembers seeing Elvis on television, and how his parents and older people in general feared and loathed Elvis.

Wally was a pastor of a Quincy church for many years and we had some musical and worship adventures, specifically with our U2charist services with Rev. Bob Morwell and the young people of his church. Gosh, those were fun and powerful experiences.

Wally's son, Nick, just got a job in Michigan working at a theater. Emily asked Wally the name of the town. "Ah, you probably never heard of it. It's called Alpena," Wally said.

Well, we have heard of Alpena. In fact, Emily was born there. In fact, I spent seven years as sports editor of The Alpena News newspaper, and they were great years. Oh, to be that young and dumb again! I'm sure Nick is much smarter than I was at that age - Alpena is a beautiful place to live, as long as you can shrug off the long winters, and the people up there were good to me. I still have friends up there and somebody I'll get back for a visit, I hope. Nick picked a great place to start the ride, that's for sure.

Small world, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dogs and commercials in Washington Park

IT'S A GOOD thing when Chris Kelley of Table 16 Productions walks into the store and says, "I have to wear a dog costume for a commercial we are shooting. Can I use your back room to change?"

Chris and Victoria Kelley are the most creative and outside-the-box people we have ever met. I recently watched the video they did for Second  String Music a few years ago and it never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, Chris and Victoria were in Washington Park yesterday afternoon, shooting a commercial for Farm & Home. I won't let the cat (or dog) out of the bag, but it involved a dog reading a newspaper.

I got to help by being a body double so Chris could position the camera and lights, and by blocking the sun and keeping a dog food bag in the shade. They could have asked some of the Outside People - they were out in force yesterday, but fortunately on the other side of the park.

Watching them work and watching our video gets us fired up about having a jam session at the store. We don't do them all that much anymore. So, here it is - Friday, Nov. 4, 4 p.m. until .... whenever.

And don't forget about our store party on Saturday, Nov. 19. We'll have a jam session, a performance by one of Quiincy's best bands (details coming) and all kinds of food, fun and mayhem.

It's enough to make us say .... "WOOF."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Learning about Elvis, and somebody named Posner

I'M HEADED TO Macomb in a bit to help Emily with her American Pop Music class. Yup. Western Illinois University, beware! Gold Lame Elvis is on his way!

Emily wants me to play a couple of Elvis songs and talk about his impact on music. I've been reading up on him and it's exhaustive - there is so much to talk about, and to tell these young people. The music they love today wouldn't be around if Elvis didn't make an impact more than 60 years ago.

This morning I was watching a news show and they had a feature on a singer and songwriter named Michael Posner. I've never heard of him. I would have to listen a little bit more to be fair, but his music just doesn't appeal to me. I did like the fact that he got famous, then dropped out for a bit and decided to learn how to play the piano and the guitar. He was hearing too much "candy bar" approaches to music and wanted something more substantial.

Apparently this guy is all the rage. Why haven't I heard of of him? Well, I don't listen to Top 40 music, and I think much of the stuff out there today is crap. His music is fine, it just doesn't appeal to me.

Then again, a lot of people thought the same of Elvis in the mid 1950s.

I just hope Emily's students gain a little appreciation and insight into music, culture and how Elvis impacted the world when it came to entertainment. And maybe embarrass my daughter, just a hair.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lova ya, Ginny

FRIDAY AFTERNOON WAS a great example of riding the highs and lows of retail, running your own small business, and feeling the love from customers.

It started when Sheryl left early. The Tin Dusters were arriving early and clogging up the parking, and it had been a long week. She went home to hang out with the dogs and recover with no-carb pancakes.

It had been pretty quiet all day, but as soon as she left around 3, you guessed it - the place went nuts.

One of my favorite people in the world is Ginny Steinkamp, and her awesome parents, Wendy and Dale. Ginny is a senior now at Quincy Notre Dame and she was one of my best guitar students a few years back - she's progressed incredibly on her own and I'm very proud of her. She was getting her senior pictures taken in and by the store, and Wendy decided to buy her a very nice Levy guitar strap.

"She never spends her own money. This is so worth it!" Wendy said. It looks great with her beautiful blue Dean acoustic guitar. We made her happy.

Then a guy walks in, and you know how you can tell some people have an attitude as soon as you see them? Yup. This guy had it. "CAPOS," he barked. "Where are they?" I pointed him in the right direction, and immediately I heard a stream of foul language and accusations we were trying to rip him off. I ignored him. He came to the counter with a capo and literally threw it to me.

"I can't believe you charge so much for a stupid capo," he said.

Actually, it's a smart capo, smarter than you, made by Kyser, and too bad you didn't buy the orange one because it makes you play better. I later checked and we actually charge less than some of the online places. There were a million other things I wanted to say to the guy, but there were other people in the store and I just bit my tongue.

"Well, everybody has to make a living," he growled.

I wanted to stand up and scream at him, and tell him every single dime we take in goes into paying bills, keeping up a historic old building in downtown Quincy, and growing the business. Of course the guy pulled out a $50 bill from a fat wallet.

He walked away and I couldn't help myself, and bleeped out what I thought of him as he got into his car and drove away. I apologized to Wendy and the other folks in the room. "I wouldn't have put up with it," one of them said.

Not five minutes later, one of our better store customers and guitar players walked in and dropped $100 without blinking an eye - he bought a Big River harmonica, strings, picks and two Snark tuners. He was happy. I was happy. I forgot about crabby capo guy.

Wait a second ... Crabby Capo Guy would make a great band name! See? You always gotta look on the bright side around here.

The moral of the story is you learn to deal with all kids of people when you are in a small business. The overwhelming number are positive and joys to work with and to help. They understand the challenges of running a small business in a small town.

Our in-store special runs through Christmas, spend $150 in our store and receive two free restrings that include the strings. You get to pick from a variety of strings and have your acoustic or electric guitar restrung by a professional. What a deal!

Now I'm off to start my new band, Crabby Capo Guy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Helping the skateboarders

A SKATEBOARD PARK in Quincy is very close to reality, and the group behind the project goes before City Council Monday to get approval for a raffle.

The Adams County Skate Park Movement is raising money for the facility in Lincoln Park. Sure, Lincoln Park is located out of the way and by the river, but it's way better than the former facility at Flinn Stadium, and the park is connected by the Cedar Creek trail.

A dedicated facility is a good idea because skateboarders often go to private property or places that are not safe. All they want is a place to go. Skateboarding is exercise and it's outdoors, and it beats rotting your brain with video games.

The group is dedicated and involved, and thus, invested. Second String Music is honored to help them with the raffle with a guitar. If they can raise the money, construction could start next spring.

We wish them the best in getting the new skate park.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Closed Saturday morning

SECOND STRING MUSIC will be open from 1 to 5 Saturday afternoon. The main reason we are taking the morning off is because it's Tin Dusters weekend, and access to the store is limited because the streets around the store are blocked off.

We are very careful about keeping consistent store hours. We don't like not being here. We have been proactive and given our customers notice about opening later Saturday, and we hope they understand.

I think Tin Dusters is a good event in Quincy. I wish them all the best. Other businesses do well down here during Tin Dusters weekend. We don't. So we'll open a little later Saturday, when the event begins to thin out down here and the streets open again. Parking around the store is important for our customers and you will be able to get a spot as the cars begin to move out.

It will be nice to take a Saturday morning off. We are in the store every Saturday, all day. Well, at least Sheryl is, since I'm off on Gus Macker and golf adventures every now and then, or at Cheeseburger shows.

Speaking of Gus, I'm headed to DeKalb Saturday morning to meet Scott McNeal, AKA Gus Macker. We are watching our beloved Central Michigan University Chippewas play football at Northern Illinois. I'm getting a little bit fired up and emotional about it. The last time we went was during the infamous weeknight Fog Bowl game a few years back, and it was epic. I just hope we get to kick field goals on the turf after the game, and our quarterback's priest is there to bless the event.

So have a great weekend, Q-Town, and thank you for understanding and supporting small businesses!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Grapes and gardens grow to music

I AM APOLOGIZING to my neighbors now, maybe eight months early. Next spring, when we plant our garden, we are going to rock. And by we, I mean us and the garden plants and vegetables.

Check out this fascinating story about an Italian wine maker who grows grapes. He claims playing classical music makes the grapes bigger and better, with higher sugar content. He thinks the grapes actually respond to the music and like it so much, they grow more.

These huge tomatoes are rocking out!
A scientist says the grapes may grow more because sound waves and frequencies keep away pests and birds.

Whatever. I think a plant is a growing and living thing, and I think listening to music is good for anybody or anything, human or otherwise. Even classical music - wine and Mozart seem to go together.

Here's my idea - next spring, when Sheryl plants the garden and I studiously sit by the firepit and smoke a stogie (somebody's gotta watch her work), I will blast out Who's Next or The Yes Album or maybe Diver Down. The plants will respond. We had huge amounts of tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers this year. Next year, we might be able to open our own produce stand.

I am hoping Bose sees this and donates the speakers, like they did for the Italian grape grower. Shoot - I hope Van Halen sees this and agrees to play a show in my backyard. Free stogies for the band! We promise to be done by midnight.

The neighbors will be warned. The plants will rock out and grow wild. And once again, my theory that rock and roll is better for everything and everybody will be proven correct.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jeff runs for mayor

RUN, JEFF, RUN! See Jeff run. Jeff is a good guy. His last name is VanCamp. He is an alderman in Quincy. But he is a special alderman. You see, Jeff is neither a Republican or a Democrat.

And that makes us like Jeff. A lot.

Run, Jeff, run! Jeff announced he is running for mayor next year. He sees problems in the city. He is tired of bipartisan bickering and stalemates. He couldn't care less if you are an R or a D. Run, Jeff. Run!

Independents aren't supposed to be in politics. You need money to be in politics. A lot of money. You need to have meetings and precincts and committees and bake cookies for fundraisers, or just ask your smarmy party chairman for the dough. Jeff say, "I don't want your money." I think Jeff likes cookies. But only for himself.

Run, Jeff, run! Normally I don't talk a lot about politics. It makes people mad. It's stupid, really.

Here is what the Trump fanatics and the Hillary wannabees don't realize. Republicans and Democrats don't decide elections. Independents do. I am an independent. I will decide who is the best candidate, regardless of the donkey or the horse, or whatever the party animal is. Me. An independent.

So, run and run and run, Jeff. Supposedly our current mayor, Kyle Moore, is running again. And I'm sure the Dems will trot somebody out. Let's make it a three-way race. Run and run and run! And we will see who the people like the most, and who gets to be our mayor.

Don't get tired, Jeff. Run and run and run! I think it's great, and I will cheer you running.

And may the best runner, regardless of R or D or I, win.

Monday, October 10, 2016


We are thrilled that the Quincy Memorial bridge has opened back up today. The loss of traffic on Maine Street was significant this summer. We watched day after day as the streets around our store had fewer parking problems, no accidents or any police stops. We wondered how long we would have to suffer at the hands of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

You don't realize how much you rely on the traffic from Missouri until the main artery from that state is moved 3 blocks over. We enjoyed many a tale from customers about how they were going to head home but the traffic back over to Missouri was so snarled they decided to pay us a visit instead. We appreciate all the customers that went out of their way to visit our store and buy their guitars and amplifiers this summer.

What was missing the most this summer was the surprised drop ins from new customers that "never knew there was a music store here!" We hear that a lot and love to make new friends and customers. Musicians need the music store in their life to give them a place to hang out and visit and learn new stuff. We need the musicians in our store to challenge us and teach us about new products they want in our store. It is a synergistic life in our music store. We need you as much as you need us.

To celebrate we are starting our Holiday Special EARLY! For all purchases over $150, through December 3rd, we are giving our wonderful customers two (2) free re-strings. This includes the strings of your choice from D'Addario, DR Strings, Ernie Ball, or GHS. This applies to Acoustic and Electric guitars. Plus, it doesn't expire so you can save them for anytime you need a restring.

Thank you all for shopping our small business, supporting local musicians and keeping your money in your local economy. We truly do appreciate your support!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Support Quincy's music stores and your local economy

SHERYL AND I were not amused by a recent effort to promote the idea of getting a Guitar Center in Quincy.

Why should we have a big box behemoth infamous for lousy service and financial issues? We have two music stores in Quincy - down from three since TTP closed in July. Do you really think Quincy could support this kind of store?

No. It couldn't. St. Louis had two Guitar Centers but one closed not long ago. I'd rather go to Fazio's than a Guitar Center, any day, or the Rock Shop in Springfield.

Asking people to sign a Guitar Center petition is like asking people to sign a Ruby Tuesday or Red Lobster petition. Why? Why? WHY? We have great local restaurants in town already. Why go to a cookie-cutter for watered down and overpriced entrees?

If a Guitar Center comes to Quincy, Second String Music will have no choice but to go out of business. We cannot compete. You might save a few bucks on strings, maybe look at higher end guitars or play a high end Gibson. Then go buy it online to save the sale tax. Actually, our major competition anymore is the internet, and it's forced us to cut margins in order to compete. But we do it. We try our best to stay competitive and give our musicians the best possible prices locally.

We are a small mom and pop music store that does its best to support the community, especially downtown. I guarantee you Guitar Center wouldn't give two bleeps about Quincy, wouldn't support any of its many music-themed events, and would exist solely to make a profit for people who live nowhere near our community.

Before I got into the music store bidness, I'd go to Guitar Center and suffer low guitar blood sugar. But I never made major purchases there - Smith Music and Vegas Music got my business, because I understood the lifeblood of my community is small business.

We are the ones who care about Quincy and care about the local music scene. The big boys don't, never will, and we will all be better off if they never come.

If you need the lecture about small town economics, talk to Sheryl. She will remind you that every dollar you spend in your small town at small business will recirculate within your economy six times before leaving. When you spend on the internet your money leaves your small economy forever, never to return. When you spend your money in a big box store your money recirculates within you economy two times and exits permanently.

When you are wondering where the jobs went, review where you are spending your money. Buy from local small businesses and GROW your local economy. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Oktoberfest and window wells

SATURDAY IS OKTOBERFEST on York Street in front of the Dick Brothers Brewery buildings. This is the fourth year the Quincy Rotary Club has put the event on. The Cheeseburgers played at the first two and had a blast both times. Click here for more info on Saturday's event.

By the way, The Cheeseburgers are playing at One Restaurant Saturday night, and we won't start until 8:30 or 9, so after you get your fill of brats and beer on York, head the half mile north and west to Sixth and Hampshire to continue your rocking good time!

Oktoberfest is a good event because it includes two things you need - beer and a great venue. This is also the one-year anniversary of the legendary "Greg Ellery falling into a window well" episode, truly one of the most epic nights in recent Quincy history.

Before I go any further, let's make it clear that Greg is my brother and I love him to death, and God broke the mold when making Greg. Wait. Did God make G-Dawg? Then God DOES have a sense of humor. Phew.

So last year Greg shows up at Oktoberfest ready and raring to go. He had that demented gleam in his eye. I have seen it a few times. You simply get out of his way, let him double-fist it and get it on, then stand back and try not to die of laughter.

I regret not staying longer that night. Not long after we left, the event closed down, but Greg was nowhere to be found. Frank Haxel says he kept hearing a voice between the buildings calling out something. Greg disappearing into thin air is common, so nobody thought a thing of it.

But just as everybody was ready to leave, Greg limped onto the street. His glasses were broken, his clothing ripped, and there was blood everywhere. Turns out he'd fallen into a window well along the side of one of the buildings, but nobody could hear him or come to his rescue.

"He looked like walking death and he was babbling a bunch of gibberish," Frank said. In other words, Greg was being Greg.

One of our friends, a firefighter, checked him out to make sure there were no serious injuries. We are still not sure how he fell into the window well, which was quite deep, and we are not sure how he managed to climb out, but maybe G-Dawg just used his super powers.

Greg couldn't find his phone and was quite upset. Somehow they managed to get him home. The next day he went back and checked out the window well, and found his phone. The phone case was cracked, if I remember right.

If G-Dawg is out and about again Saturday night, I hope he simply wears a lampshade on his head at One while watching the Cheeseburgers (that's another story) and not falling into window wells. But we'll help him out if we find him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The competition is staring

DEREK OWNS A cigar store. It's been his pipe dream for many years. He is off and running with the business, though he basically pays his bills and his rent, then gets more cigars and increases inventory. It can take a decade to really start making money in small business.

Cigar Box guitars ROCK!
George down the street has a cigar store, too. He's been in business for more than 50 years. He's a legendary figure in town. Some people love him. Others run screaming out of his store covering their ears and swearing they will never set foot in his cigar store again. The store is George's life. He can't even fathom doing anything else, even though he is well past retirement age.

The other day, Derek built a display in his front window. It had a lot of new and fun cigars, accessories, even books and magazines. It's eye-catching and a lot of people are checking it out.

Derek closed his store last night and walked out to his car. Lo and behold, George was parked behind him, and he was staring at his window display. George did not look happy. Then he noticed Derek, and he scowled, and he quickly pulled out and left.

Derek is unsure what to think of this. He would like to talk to George, but George is a bitter old man who won't give him the time of day. Derek thinks he and George have a lot in common. Both stores are doing pretty well. Going out on your own is a risky proposition, and it takes guts, endurance and faith you are going to make it. Derek has faith after five years of running his own business.

And while Derek is aware of his competition, he doesn't sweat what other people do. He does his homework and he offers cigars he knows his customers like. He treats his customers well. He makes sure each one is greeted when they come in to his store. He likes the personal interaction.

So Derek just lets it go when hearing about the other cigar store in town. He really doesn't care what the other place does. He takes care of business in his own cigar shop.

And if the competition wants to gawk at his nice window display, it's just fine by him.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Band rentals blow up

MONDAY WAS PERHAPS the single craziest day in the five-plus years of Second String Music. Band rental season is upon us, and it exploded from about 3:30 to 6 yesterday afternoon.

Fortunately, we were ready. We rented 20 instruments in a little more than two hours - trombones, trumpets, violas, violins, flutes, even two cellos. We have been steadily renting band instruments since early August but yesterday the lid blew off.

Boyd's Display in our store window.
We work with Boyd Music out of Jackonsville. Craig and Brenda Boyd showed up at the store just as the rush started, and they were a huge help - without them, Sheryl and I wouldn't have been able to handle the crush. They are great people and Craig even built an awesome display for our 503 Maine window, then took us out to dinner to celebrate a great rental season.

Today is the first time students are supposed to report with instruments in Quincy, but we know we'll rent more all week and even until the end of the month.

Some things to remember about our program ...
- All of our instruments are new.
- All come with a maintenance agreement.
- Most are paid off in two years after the initial 90-day rental.
- We have all the books and supplies, too.
- We are here to help with any problems, questions, or accidents. If you need in person support, we are here for you.

I'm even learning how to tune violins. Stop the presses .... really?

Really. So come on down to Fifth and Maine - you won't better instruments or better service anywhere else, unless you go to Boyd Music in Jacksonville, of course!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Slide with the lighter

JOE IS ONE of our favorite customers at Second String Music. He's in his early 60s, a self-professed retired hipee, and he's into blues guitar. He came in this morning looking for a small practice amp. "Gotta have reverb. That's about it," he said with his usual smile.

I showed him the Roland MicroCube, an amazing little amp with all kinds of fun things to boost his tone. We also have a used Vox amp with the same features. Joe was blown away by how good they sounded, and that they are battery powered.

I invited him to play one of our new Gretsch hollow body guitars. He took it out and reached into his pocket - I expected him to pull out a pick. Instead, he had a lighter in his hand, and he proceeded to pump out some tasty blues licks using the lighter as a slide.

You don't need a billion dollars or a rock star attitude to play music. You take what works and you have fun, and you love making noise.

"I'll be back," Joe said with a smile. He made my morning. This is why we are here, and we are far better off knowing loyal customers like Joe.