Inventory, store key to next phase for 66-year-old downtown fixture
SANTA ROSA — Stanroy Music Center, which has been a downtown fixture for instrument repair, sales and training for 66 years, came close to closing recently before a longtime employee and a former one stepped up to keep the name alive and revamp its reputation via expanded inventory and a larger venue.
Thirty-three-year store guitar technician Steve Shirrell, 64, and Dustin Heald, 37, in August acquired the Stanroy name and inventory from Tupper & Reed, Inc. The company had operated a Berkeley music store until its closing in 2005 after 99 years in business, and earlier it had ran a Walnut Creek store.
“Stanroy is back to hometown ownership for the first time in 33 years,” Mr. Heald said.
“If we didn’t do this, it would have closed down,” he added.
In May, Stanroy is set to move from 4,600 square feet and little storage and parking at 640 Fourth St. to 850 Fourth with 5,000 square feet of store, shop and lesson space and 1,500 square feet of upstairs storage.
With an impending closure of the store at the end of August, Mr. Shirrell brought in Mr. Heald, who worked there from 2001–2004 before careers in Hollywood and international special-effects makeup and in insurance sales. They struck a deal with remaining Tupper & Reed, Inc., partner Wayne Anderson.
Tupper & Reed partners kept the Santa Rosa store open because it was still profitable. And it was still in the black operationally up to the time of sale, according to Mr. Shirrell.
“I give credit to Wayne who captained it when most of the partners had left,” Mr. Shirrell said.
Mr. Shirrell started working at Stanroy in 1983, three years after partners in Tupper & Reed acquired the store from founders Stan Goldberg and Roy Chilton. He said he’s grateful that Mr. Anderson kept the store going until he was able make the acquisition happen.
One of the challenges in taking over the store was the inventory of instruments had dwindled, according to Mr. Shirrell. Once a dealer for major brands of electric guitars, mixers and amplifiers in the 1980s and ’90s, Stanroy gradually stopped carrying such items, which were picked up in the area by as Bananas at Large’s Santa Rosa store and Tall Toad Music.
“We’re trying to rebuild our credibility,” Mr. Shirrell said.
Key to that, the new owners said, is selectively bringing back major brands that aren’t available elsewhere. The store still carries G&L guitars but doesn’t no longer carries Martin and Taylor acoustic guitars, though Stanroy remains a local authorized warranty repair shop. So they are scouting for quality beginner- and moveup-priced instruments from Asia and North America.
“We do not sell as many $600 guitars as $300 guitars,” Mr. Shirrell said.
The store also recently added the German-made Sonor brand of drum sets and equipment, another distinguishing product line.
Other major strengths for Stanroy over the years have been sheet music, school band instruments and folk and international instruments such as bagpipes and ukeleles, the latter of which are becoming in more widespread demand.
Mr. Shirrell and the three other shop techs work with more than two dozen local schools to rent and repair instruments. Storage is key at the end of the school year, when school instruments flood the store for maintenance and cleaning over the summer. The shop waives labor charges for adjustments to instruments purchased from the store.
Having enough instruments for returning students to rent and buy became a major concern as the handoff of Stanroy was in the works last summer. Before the deal closed, Mr. Shirrell personally bought pallets worth of band instruments to avoid an inventory hiccup.
Rounding out the complement at Stanroy are a manager and two salespeople plus a dozen regular and a number of occasional instrument instructors who rent studios.
A unique product selection is how Stanroy plans to compete in the Internet age, according to the owners. Online sales were a contributor to the closure of Zone Music in Cotati a few years ago and the scaling back of a brick-and-mortar presence for large-scale instrument retailers such as Guitar World.
“We’re not trying to get into Internet sales at this time,” Mr. Heald said.
O’Brien Watters & Davis of Santa Rosa advised the new owners on legal matters in the sale.
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