Spotlight: Music City USA
As thousands in our industry descend on Nashville for the Summer NAMM gathering, we take a look at those who call the area home. Like L.A. for rock, and New York for jazz, it’s often assumed that those making music in Nashville are playing variations of country music, but those selling instruments out of brick and mortars, large and small, are quick to set that record straight.
“Nashville has a thriving classical community,” says Bill Metcalfe of the Steinway Gallery. “We have a highly regarded symphony. We have many schools that train classical musicians. We have jazz workshops.” He also paints a parallel universe of L.A. where every waiter is also an actor who likely really wants to direct. “You go to the barber, and he’s also a bass player playing out three nights a week.”
“Our National Symphony is a well-known symphony, and we have another smaller orchestra and a thriving Suzuki String community,” Dave Washer of Nashville Violin says. “And we probably have as much rock and alternative music going on as country.”
But the stores are doing well by country musicians – and vice versa.
“I think Nashville is growing,” says Gary Forkum of Fork’s Drum Shop. “Country music is on an upswing that’s fueled in part by Country Music Television being a popular 24-hour-a-day presence. We have a lot of drummers moving here, and if they don’t get work as a full time musician, they realize it’s a great place to live.”
Forkum, a native of the town, does note that they’ve not been immune to nationwide trends, however. “There a lot more independent stores here up until 1996 when a MARS landed. We had at least 20, and after they came, about 10 bailed.”
“Nashville is better than most other cities, and the new convention center is on schedule and that’s caused a downtown real estate boom,” says George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitars. “The music market has been affected by the Internet and downloading of tunes, so musicians make more from performing and touring than recording. And the studios are suffering – they don’t get the work they used to, as for $2,500 you can set up your own recording studio in your home that’s way better than Elvis, the Rolling Stones, or the Beatles ever had.”
Excellent retailers covering all aspects of the market all give each other duly deserved respect, though there’s one that is especially nationally known, and while hundreds of visitors to Summer NAMM will walk through his doors, they may just be going through a different doorway next year…
“George Gruhn has the art, the collectibles,” says Corner Music owner Larry Garris. “And he’s the best at it. In fact when I get a guitar that transcends the player and is a collectable item, I often sell it to him.”
Gruhn is a celebrity in his own right, having been featured in a 1992 Visa commercial. In 2006, Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor visited the store with one of Gruhn’s best customers, Vince Gill. His is one of the nation’s go-to stores for players and celebrities and the list of customers over the decades span the likes of Duane Allman, Mark Knopfler, Conan O’Brien, Robert Plant, and Eric Clapton, among so many others.
“Nashville is changing dramatically, and some of that is very good, and some of that change is putting me in a position to adapt in ways that might surprise people…” says Gruhn.
What the nationally renowned expert on vintage guitars is alluding to, with apologies to Mae West, is that too much of a good thing can actually be bad. His location on historic Broadway brings high visibility to a fault. “Marty Stewart calls it ‘Hillbilly Bourbon Street.’” Millions of visitors come to a street that decades ago had plenty of retail shops, but has evolved into a horde of honky-tonks, western wear stores, restaurants, and souvenir shops. While people swarm Gruhn’s famous shop, they ain’t necessarily buying. “I’m about the only retailer on the street not geared strictly to tourists, and when I get 300 to 500 people in my door, it screws up business. My employees spend 80 percent of their time on crowd control.”
Then there’s a three-story bar across the street from him with live music on every floor spilling out of floor-to-ceiling windows. Add to all that the lack of parking and it’s understandable that he’s actually considering moving. “I’ve been in the neighborhood for 42 years, but I do want to think about looking around. Also, I’m splitting at the seams on the four floors I have here – I have more than 400 guitars I can’t even display because I don’t have the room.”
But for the guitarists who do fight the looky-loos, they find plenty of new Martins and Taylors. “I also have some Beard Resonator guitars that do well for us, some Collins, and a few boutique makers, but what I’m mostly about is used and vintage instruments. It’s what got me into the business – a hobby that got way out of hand! I got started searching for certain things, and I was like that prospector panning for gold.”
The Internet has deeply affected Gruhn’s business: “It makes it easier for someone to reach out to me, and it makes it easier to bypass me completely,” he says. “eBay is not my friend. eBay is a way to avoid dealers entirely.” He reflects back to when he was one of only three vintage dealers in the country that went to the trouble of developing a mailing list and then would write, print, and mail a newsletter. “Now any 13-year-old with a modem can set up a web page and sell used guitars. Now the pie is sliced into a million pieces. I preferred it when the pie was just in three pieces.”
What’s trending in vintage is… well, vintage is vintage and there are no trends. “People want the same instruments they wanted 40 years ago,” Gruhn says. “They want the original golden era pieces.” The Martin flat tops from late 1920s through 1939, the Gibson f-hole archtops from 1922–1942, the “pre-CBS” Fender guitars and bases, and other similar instruments, are still in demand, and their price increases with each passing year.
Client-wise, Gruhn doesn’t often see the new kid to come to town to be that next country music star because he or she typically doesn’t have the money to buy one of his premium instruments. “They might buy a medium-priced guitar from me, but I get a lot of doctor and dentist types – people who are actually good musicians, but they just don’t do it professionally. And if I had to rely on just professional musicians, I’d go broke. Vince Gill is a very good customer, and I sold a nice guitar to Brad Paisley last year, but otherwise it’s plenty of Taylor and Martins in that $1,000 to $3,000 range.” Of course he does decently in fiddles, banjos, mandolins, and dobros.
The largest family owned MI chain in the country is a cornerstone of the metro-Nashville music scene, currently occupying a large space in Madison, just north of the city.
“The store started out as a Circuit City, and when that closed it became a Thoroughbred Music,” explains Sammy Ash of the Madison digs. “When we took over Thoroughbred in 1999 and looked at the plans there was a space that was called ‘The Gibson Café,’ so I am sure that Elliott (Rubinson) and Gibson were going to do something together. It was never developed, but we were paying for the empty space. For the first ten years we used it as a second warehouse. Last year we decided that the store needed to be the destination store in the town to give people a reason to come by blowing their minds, and we did just that. I can say without a doubt it is the best music store in the country. I will put this store up against any other store and we will win hands down. The layout, the departments, the staging and most importantly the staff – it is one of our finer teams.”
Clay Rigdon, regional manager for Sam Ash, picks up the story of the recent renovations and upgrades: “We constructed a 4,900 sq ft PA and Technology department that includes a professional stage for special events, clinics and performances with state of the art lighting and sound. We tripled the size of the acoustic guitar department, added wood flooring, and created a smaller stage area that we call the ‘Pickin’ Porch.’ The guitar department was moved to where the Pro Audio department had been and opened up to allow over 800 guitars to be displayed on one very impressive, continuous wall with 60 feet of counters for accessories and guitar pedals. A pewter colored slat wall provides a beautiful and unique guitar backdrop that allows the guitars to ‘pop.’
“We created a room especially for our high end and vintage guitars and amplifiers. With the help of our guitar buyers we have filled the room with some of the finest guitars available to Nashville. We created a new parts and service department and placed our guitar technician in an area where the public can view him working and also can interact with him for advice and suggestions regarding repairs and maintenance. New carpeting, lighting, and painted walls and trim help to update and freshen the other areas of the store. A complete overhaul of the bathrooms and learning center were also performed. We are still putting the finishing touches on an area that was created by moving the drum department to the center of the store. This will be a designated room for special clinics and gatherings that may require to be away from the main areas.”
Sammy continues: “We put a ton of time, money and thought into making the renovation and all we have gotten is positive feedback. Since we now fly speakers and have the monster stage we are seeing a lot more church business. With the expanded guitar departments we are seeing a wider group of customers than in the past. The acoustic showroom is four times the size of the old one. The electric guitar department is the biggest one we have in the chain and, since amps are in their own section, it the easiest one to sell from for lack of noise. I must give props to Mike Aurigemma who masterminded the changes and saw things in that store I didn’t envision. We love Nashville and we think Nashville loves us – the proof is in the sales.”
Rigdon, who used to run the Nashville store, has insight into how the local market has evolved. “The trends in the Nashville market have certainly changed over the past decade,” he says. “Our shoppers are buying lots of accessories and small good items. That is one of the reasons that we have so much on display and available. We understand that the economy today does not allow a lot of customers the option to spend hundreds of dollars on big-ticket items. But, there are plenty of customers that can spend twenty or thirty dollars. Our goal is to provide them with enough choices to still make it a significant and enjoyable purchase.”
Discussing the effects – and remaining after-affects – of the flood of 2010, Clay notes that, “The marks of the flood levels are still noticeable in some areas. Gibson Custom shop has new garage door panels that are a complete contrast to the old ones that remain above the flood line. It really is unbelievable to see and comprehend. I visited an area of town that was used to stage gear from touring artists that had been damaged in the floods and it was devastating. To see the amount of instruments that were ruined and to know the history behind some of them was hard to handle. However, one thing that stands out about this town, and this is something that I came to know for myself, is that people here are genuine and they truly care about each other as, not only fellow musicians, but people as well.”
To any who may feel the presence of big chains, like Sam Ash and Guitar Center are detrimental to the “true” Nashville MI retail scene, Sammy Ash has this response: “I don’t know if I would say that it’s ‘highly detrimental.’ One of the best drum shops in the country, Forks, seems to be doing well and, next door, Corner Music also has customers every time I walk in there. Personally I feel that the area was underserved now maybe a bit more than is necessary. Remember that before GC and Sam Ash, there was a Monster MARS there. I know of several boutique shops that are faring well because they are specializing in certain segments. We specialize in all segments, but not all customers feel comfortable with such a huge store and selection.”
And to what degree does the local market benefit from the annual NAMM meeting?
“Nashville is a music town and I believe that store-owners, retailers, and vendors welcome any reason to visit the city,” states Rigdon. “Just as any other function, it stimulates the economy here. Nashville is great fun and great food and, since it’s in a different part of the country, many dealers will come to this show instead of going to Anaheim. It is much more cost effective for many people.”
Larry Garris opened his store in 1976 to serve the working musicians of Nashville. It’s a big, full service store with one exception – drums, though he spawned the Five Star drum shop that shares his parking lot. “Gary [Forkum] ran our drum department, but he was too energetic,” Garris jokes. “So I said, ‘here! Just buy the drum department!’” That store became Fork’s Drum Closet, and in 1984, Garris moved to larger digs.
Garris was working for a distributor of Aria Guitars when he came into Nashville and opened his store. Today it’s impressive for his large selection of everything not drums that is MI. There’s an extensive offering of acoustic Taylors and Larrivee, plus some Takamine and Guild. For electrics they are a heavy Fender operation including Fender Custom Shop, have a big selection of Gibson, plus some G&Ls, Godin, and Gretsch. “We carry LSL guitars, which is a small builder in California that makes really great guitars. Then there’s Rickenbackers which do well.” There’s a lot of Gold Tone for the folk/bluegrass instruments, plus plenty of “weird instruments – 12-string mandolins, six-string banjos, bouzoukis, and tons of ukes.”
Amps include Fender, Marshall, Vox, Peavey, Rivera, Carr, and Ampeg – “a lot of Ampeg and the reason is they make a good amp!” There’s a big keyboard selection with Kurzweil, Nord, Casio Privia, Yamaha, and Roland gear. They have an impressive P.A. department to and do a good business in installs.
Today he operates in a 7,000 square feet storefront and has 18 employees, including four in the repair shop. “We have the greatest customers in the world – they really keep us on our toes,” he says. “The pros and good studio players tend to make you carry the better stuff.”
As far as who comes through the door: “We don’t turn anybody down! We have the stars, the doctors, the lawyers, the local club players, and we have plenty who do a little [music performance] at church or just for fun. We get a good amount of tourists too. We have people coming from Europe, Canada, Australia.” The draw is Corner’s selection of upper-end gear. “We’re not really in the $200 guitar market. We try to have things that the mainline chain stores don’t.” (The local Guitar Center is just two miles away.)
Garris knows his market well and doesn’t compete in the low end. “Our philosophy is: If you’re going to buy something, buy something you can be proud of. The Chinese guitar made for $300 is like that $10 Pizza Hut pizza. You wouldn’t invite friends over for dinner, open a fine bottle of wine, and serve that pizza! That’s why we sell a lot of Gibsons and Taylors.”
Corner Music is a toolshed full of functional instruments for the serious musician and the player who takes music seriously. And business is getting a slow rise, as Garris is happy to say it’s a little better than last year. His install market has decidedly picked up.
He has a good online presence, selling to customers that way while using the platform to bring people in the door. “We started it a couple of years ago and it’s been a slow process,” he says. “We don’t do a tremendous business online, but I can’t tell you the times we’ve had a guy drive eight hours from Cleveland to buy something he saw on our online store. In generates more in-store sales than I thought it would.”
And Garris has created a destination, too: He adds recently, a woman graduated from college and to celebrate she and her mom flew in from Connecticut to buy two guitars from him.
Fork’s Drum Closet
“When you make a pro a good, loyal customer, they send others to you,” says Gary Forkum of Fork’s Drum Closet. “That’s really why I started the store. I wanted to keep local professionals from going to mail order. The local stores at the time weren’t discounting heavily, and were losing customers because of it. One of my goals was keeping that business in Nashville. I think we’ve done a good job at that.”
Fork’s Drum Closet is nestled in a funky downtown neighborhood, and run by Forkum, a Nashville native, with his wife Melissa handling accounting duties and with assistance from his kids: son Matt and daughter Jaime. At a modest 5,600 square feet, the store is such that… well, as Forkum will tell you, nothing else can be crammed into it.
Forkum says that 2010 was especially rough – they had experimented two years before with opening a store in Knoxville but then had to shut it down. “In 2011, we focused on our web business including eBay, putting more time and attention in that, hired a full time person to work on that, my son and daughter are on Facebook, and because of all that, we had a good year. We are blessed to have the walk-in business we do, as there are a ton of drummers in Nashville and they certainly know us and turn to us for their needs – but we’re trying to grow through the web.”
To do that he’s put “everything” online – and they have a big selection of all the usual players (Pearl, Gretsch, Ludwig, Tama, Sonor, and Yamaha) and some boutique kits from Brady and Crush. He’s deep into cymbals with Zildjian, Sabian, and Paiste, but also Dream, UFiP, and Wuhan, as “not everybody carries some of those lesser-known high quality brands.”
When it’s brought up that drums in general, but cymbals in particular really should be played and heard before one buys, he agrees completely, but “if a store has a great reputation, there’s a confidence of the buyer… also, that’s where videos come in.”
Whether online or in store, he says a key to their success is selection. “Nashville is a big music town, and a lot of pros shop here and I think we do better by them than other stores,” Forkum says. “Whereas another store might have two or three Ludwig or Gretsch kits, we have 10 or 15. You wouldn’t go to a car dealership that has two or three cars. And these days people don’t want to wait for you to order something.”
Forkum himself is a goodwill music-making ambassador to the area as one of the drummers in the popular Midnight Riders, an Allman Brothers tribute bands. “It helps the store that I’m out there playing, but it also helps me in my day job,” he says. “I’ll take out a new stick, try out a drum… we got in a Zildjian medium-ride 24” cymbal, something I never thought I would play, but I took it out and it was great.”
Shuff’s Music and Piano Showroom
Serving the Nashville area, but a little south of town, is Shuff’s Music and Piano Showroom. It’s a full-line store carrying band, percussion, and fretted instruments, print, accessories, amps, and pianos. Founded in 1978 by Ron Shuff, the store is run by Ron with his daughter-in-law, Sasha Shuff, who is COO.
“We’re probably one of the only family-owned businesses that cater to the band and orchestra market,” he says. “The majority of the others have been bought up by Music & Arts.” They carry Selmer, Bach, Yamaha, and “Jupiter instruments are doing especially well now that they have a distribution center in Nashville.” [See KHS sidebar.] He adds that Buffet Group instruments are also doing well, and attributes that to having sponsored more clinics lately. “They are not only helping students to learn about the products, but teachers, too. We do about three clinics a year here and they have been most beneficial to sales, especially step-up and pro instruments.”
Parents in the Nashville market in general have been supportive of school band programs, “and the school boards have been supportive and that’s even better!” he laughs. Business has been steady, and he says its because people like that hometown touch. “We have good service and quality products, and all our employees are musicians.”
They are a Kawai dealer, and Shuff says that people would be surprised at how many Music City professionals choose the 88s. “We’re finding that a lot of the studio musicians, the songwriters, the people behind the scenes who are extremely well-trained musicians and even newer country artist like Lady Antebellum are choosing Kawais,” Shuff says. “I can’t name-drop, but I’ll just say the better musician they are, the more likely they are to buy a Kawai. The new carbon fiber action really appeals to the more sensitive player. It’s a great product and good company, and it’s just a matter of having someone sit down to play it!”
They have a big teaching program that benefits from the multitude of professional musicians in town. “We have 33 highly qualified independent teachers, most of whom are classically trained, though they teach all styles. We just rent the rooms and let them make most of the money, but we have 500 to 600 students a week coming through.”
Steinway Gallery of Nashville
The roots of this music store go back to the unlikely year of 1929, when the Megtcalfe family opened a full-line music store in Evanston, Indiana. Bill Metcalfe ran that operation from 1970 until he opened American Keyboard Gallery in Nashville in 1989. “Our goal was to have the best piano in every price range,” he says.
Yet he hasn’t always had the Steinway lines. They knew him because he had been pursuing them since he was in Indiana. He did get to represent the pianos at other stores he had in Knoxville and Birmingham, and when the Nashville Steinway dealer was faltering, Metcalfe was there to pick it in 2002. “There’s a lot of commitment to become a Steinway dealer, and I jumped through all those hoops because that was my goal.”
In addition to that family of instruments, he has Knobe and Seiler pianos, and Samick digital pianos. They do a little teaching – they have an adult hobby class, but mostly it’s an old fashioned acoustic piano store.
Metcalfe is networking – he supports the Tennessee Music Educators Association with up to six pianos a year. He’s on the board of Friends of the Arts at Belmont and other universities, and sponsors music organizations throughout the state including the Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra, Tennessee State Music Competition, and the Nashville Piano Achievement Competition.
Metcalfe has been successful with institutional sales and been part of several universities becoming “all Steinway” schools. “It’s not what I’m doing, it’s the dean and the students – I have deans telling me they are losing students to all-Steinway schools.”
Not surprisingly he says most of the country stars in Music City like Steinways, and “on almost any given day there is an artist in our store.”
As for making Nashville his home: “I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Everybody in this town knows something about music, and it also has a thriving visual arts community.”
Miller Piano Specialist
Ross and Sylvia Miller’s combined experience in the piano business clocks in at over 80 years, and they are celebrating their 10th anniversary at their current location in nearby Franklin. Sylvia started out with Hammond Organ Company and used to work at what is now Steinway Piano Gallery, and Ross was a band director, co-owner of a keyboard store in Winston-Salem, and a district manager for Kimball International. Both hold music degrees from East Tennessee State University, where they met.
Two years ago, they attained the Yamaha piano dealership.
“It’s been a positive experience for us,” Ross says. “Yamaha offers a lot of great products and their name in the Nashville community is fairly strong. A lot of the music recording industry have Yamaha C-7s – it’s the most recorded piano in Nashville.” They also have Pearl River, Baldwin, and Mason & Hamlin pianos, and Roland keyboard products.
Since making Yamaha their primary line, they’ve been more actively pursuing institutional sales. “We’re having to be patient,” he says. “But we’re constantly working and going to schools and universities and making ourselves known.” It helps that so many Yamaha products are already in the schools, and the digital keyboards are popular, he adds.
“We have also been a Lowrey dealer for at least 10 years, and it’s doing well,” Sylvia says. “We have two gals who work in the program and we’re constantly recruiting new students for their class program. It’s especially great for senior adults and a dream for those who thought they would never learn to play an instrument.” Ross adds that for those who stay with the program it enriches their lives. “And it’s definitely created business,” he says.
“We work with churches and sometimes we get celebrities, but overall our main client is still that family seeking lessons for their kids,” says Sylvia. “We have teachers doing private lessons, and we’re starting a new program in the fall for group lessons for children as young as three. We’re excited about that.”
They leave almost everything else like sheet music for their neighbors. They are right next store to a Music & Arts, which they see as complementary, as they are active in band, guitars, and sheet music.
“Business has been the same rollercoaster it has always been,” laughs Ross. “But it’s coming back for us and we attribute a lot of that to Yamaha.”
They have been in Nashville for 16 years and “love it,” Sylvia says. “It’s a wonderful area to live in.”
Dave Washer does, in fact, get asked what exactly is the difference between a violin and fiddle. “All the time,” he smiles. “And I tell them it’s the note at the end of the bow.”
Washer opened his string shop in 1999 and handles sales of acoustic and electric violins, rentals, repairs, and restoration. He also does “a pretty good school business.” They have on-site lessons catering to around 100 students a week.
On their walls are Yamaha, Knilling, and Eastman violins in addition to instruments made by makers in Romania and Germany. The shop does a decent electric business with Yamaha and Barcus Berry Electric/Acoustics and some Woods. “Realist Violins are getting popular right now, though most of the time players just want a pickup on their acoustic violin, and so we do a lot of custom work on that.” They typically choose Yamaha and Barcus Berry pickups.
Washer says he’s seen over the years a lot of the better fiddle players realizing how important a set up is, how important a bow is, and that’s been a trend.
“School programs here struggle every year and they are never sure they can keep teachers,” he says. Going back 10 years there have been some serious cutbacks, but “things are back on the rise and they are hiring more teachers.”
Key to the operation is a recital they do twice a year, where about half of the students choose to perform. “With the students we teach, it’s important to take that learning process one step forward and get a piece performance-ready. And most of our instructors perform too.” A good sign is they’ve outgrown having these in the store and have them in a church down the road.
KHS Calls Nashville Home
In February of 2010, KHS America, the provider and distributor of Jupiter wind instruments, Mapex drums, Majestic concert percussion, and Altus flutes announced a new corporate headquarters to be built in Nashville. The custom-designed building today houses all corporate functions, warehouse and shipping facilities, new instrument testing, quality assurance, and visitor center areas.
“The two years have gone by quickly and I am happy to say that both the company and the team have settled in nicely,” reports KHS America CEO Tabor Stamper. “We work hard at providing a positive customer experience. By having everyone under one roof we are better able to align our functions, which in turn makes it easier for us to focus on our customers’ needs, both dealers and end consumers.”
That the city is known as Music City was a factor in moving, but the economics and being able to more quickly respond to their dealer needs was more important. “One of the real bonuses to the move is the number of visitors we have here. Every week, dealers or artists visit us from all over. Many of our artists, from guitar singer/songwriters to flute soloists to drum and bugle corps have performed for us here at our facility. It helps to remind us of the business we are in and why we do what we do.”
Moving everyone from the previous HQ in Austin was a challenge, and they worked to not make it a hardship on their employees and their families. The logistical challenge was dealt with while KHS still had to maintain their day-to-day business. “I am proud to say that we did not have a single day when we could not be reached by our customers and had only one day when we could not ship. Pretty remarkable, I think.” All the people in key positions were able to make the move and today KHS has over 50 working at the new facility (and they still maintain their Corona, Calif. facility).
Stamper says the Nashville area maintains a business-friendly atmosphere, and that everyone from local governments to Chambers of Commerce has been helpful. “It also doesn’t hurt that taxes are lower here than in Texas and the overall cost of living is a bit lower.”
They have reached out to the community, and have a recital hall available for band rehearsals, student recitals, and music-related meetings. They’ve formed partnerships with the Nashville Symphony and the local schools in promoting music education throughout the area and often host local band directors, artists and teachers who want to try their instruments.
As for Nashville, “it’s a great place to be,” Stamper says. “No matter what kind of music you like, you can find it somewhere in the city, almost every night. The Nashville Symphony is one of the most recorded symphonies in the USA and the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall is a great venue for everything from classical to new music to jazz and country.
“We are a company that provides musical instruments and are surrounded by music making. How could it be any better?”
Two Years After the Flood: The Recovery, the Perseverance
In May of 2010, Tennessee experienced a 1,000-year flood that was as historic as it was devastating. In two days some areas received 19 inches of rain, and the Cumberland River crested at 52 feet. Musicians everywhere were affected. In cruel irony, Brad Paisley was gearing up for his H2O tour when his SoundCheck facility, where he and others keep their gear and rehearse, was flooded, causing a loss of thousands of dollars of instruments and amps.
“You have no idea how bad it was,” sighs Bill Metcalfe of the Steinway Gallery. But he stresses the community really pulled together. “We didn’t get the [national media] recognition, but 46,000 homes went into the water. In my neighborhood, it stopped at my driveway as I live on the higher end of the hill.” Everyone came out to help each other. “The day after it stopped raining, I helped a guy across the street whose garage had 11 feet of water. The Saturday after, he spent $90,000 of his own money re-landscaping his front yard and had it taken care of in a week. It wasn’t like Hurricane Katrina [in New Orleans] where people waited for the government to help.”
Metcalfe would pick up pianos and try to dry them out, but almost all completely fell apart.
George Gruhn’s building, too escaped the water, though just a half a block away the Nashville Symphony suffered $40 million in damages. “We didn’t make any additional sales with people replacing instrument, though I imagine the Guitar Center did a little. Our repair shop was swamped but frankly a lot of the instruments brought in were beyond repair. A guitar that’s under water for a few days is just dead.”
But even people who escaped the flood didn’t escape the water. Larry Garris of Corner Music said while they didn’t get “flooded” per se, the 18 inches of rain that fell was too much for the ground to soak up. “On Saturday afternoon, there was no sign of water, but at closing time it was coming up from the ground and getting into our basement.” They started at 6 p.m. and with two vacuums and a sump pump got up to 1800 gallons out, and thought they were done. Garris came back Sunday morning to three inches of water in his store. They had moved all the gear out of harms’ way, and quickly vacuumed and bleached the carpet. “Amazingly there was no damage – we were lucky.”
At Dave Washer’s Nashville Violin, there was a creek that runs through the neighborhood that flooded his basement causing the power to go out. Luckily no instruments were lost but a lot of paper and personal items were.
Ron Shuff of Shuff’s Music says he had some storage space and commercial rental property that was up to 55 percent damaged, and two rental houses that are being demolished. But his store was intact, and those who had insurance and had damaged pianos got them replaced. “A lot of people didn’t have flood insurance, and their instruments were lost. But replacing those isn’t a priority – they wanted to get back into their house first.”
Shuff also credits the people of the area. “It was pretty severe, but the resilience of the people was amazing.”