KHS America’s New Headquarters
KHS America, USA parent company of Jupiter Band Instruments, Mapex Drums, Majestic Concert Percussion, Altus Flutes and Walden Guitars, celebrated the grand opening of their new corporate headquarters on October 2. The custom-designed 100,000 square foot facility, located in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., combines all operational functions of the business, including sales, marketing, finance, customer service, quality assurance, and new instrument testing. Additionally the facility includes a climate-controlled warehouse capable of maintaining a constant relative humidity of 45 percent for safely storing inventory. The new complex also boasts a recital hall and an artists’ studio where players can try out new instruments.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Tabor Stamper, president of KHS America and Karl Leong, CEO of KHS Musical Instrument Co., Ltd. welcomed guests into the building for a celebration that included a drum line performance by the Mapex Percussion Ensemble, followed by a sit-down dinner and a concert by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble. A number of guest speakers were featured, including keynote speaker Mitchell Korn, vice president of Education and Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony Schermerhorn Symphony Center, who discussed the importance of music education in our schools and KHS’s partnership with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in promoting music education and advocacy, both here and abroad.
Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, MMR sat down with Tabor Stamper and Karl Leong for their views on the recent move.
MMR: Why did KHS relocate from Austin to Nashville?
Tabor Stamper: Well, it was an interesting process. First, because of our growth, we needed more space. We also really needed to have Jupiter Band Instruments and Mapex Drums, USA, our two primary companies, in one place. We felt we were missing too many opportunities for synergy and for just working more closely together. That was the first decision. The second decision became location. We looked at a number of different sites around the Austin area and we traveled to Nashville to explore a number of sites there. I must say we were very well received by Nashville. They earn their moniker as Music City, USA. We found this particular site in Mt. Juliet early on in our search. We wanted a local government that was looking for companies like ours and we wanted easy access. We found all of that here in Wilson County and in Mt. Juliet, a city which is just a few miles from Nashville. The location itself is important to us. We can reach two thirds of our customers faster and more economically than we could in Austin. We have hotels and shopping nearby and we have the Nashville International Airport, which is only fifteen minutes away. So it’s very accessible for when we have our dealers come in – it’s great for them; when we have artists come in to try new instruments or to work with us – it’s great for them; when we have music educators come in – all of our partners in the music industry can find us pretty easily. The size of the facility was dictated by not only our current needs, but our future needs. We don’t need a big, fancy building. We didn’t need a huge warehouse, but we wanted enough space for now and for the future. We intend to continue to grow. Many companies are downsizing or cutting back and closing facilities, but we’re committed to the future and we’re committed to the music industry, so we’ve built accordingly.
MMR: How many families were relocated and how many new jobs were created by this move?
TS: We have about 52 employees in this building. 22 families relocated from Austin and the Jupiter facility and another 10 families relocated from the Mapex facility in LaVergne, Tenn. The rest of our employees are all new positions here. Many of the new team members have a music background and what we’ve tried to do is to make sure that in each critical functional area, whether it be finance or operations or sales and marketing, that we had people with the very highest qualifications. I am happy to say that we have accomplished our goal in this area, and we’ve built in room to increase the size of our work force in the future. You see a lot of new construction and a lot of new businesses in this area so we felt like we would fit in pretty well.
MMR: Who are the members of the management team?
TS: One of the great things about this move is that our key employees from both Jupiter Band Instruments in Austin and Mapex Drums, USA, in LaVergne were willing to make the move, so we lost no critical functions when we made this move. Some of our key people include our CFO, Tom Lawdenski; Andy Strayer is our vice president of Sales; Richard Breske is our vice president of Marketing; Blaine Crockett is our Business Logistics manager – these are all folks that were with us before and are still with us and they are functioning in their same roles, so we’ve lost no knowledge or history. Some of our employees have been with us fifteen or twenty years, both in Austin and in LaVergne, and thankfully, those employees moved with us.
MMR: In terms of new growth, do you see it coming from new dealers entering the market, from existing dealers opening new stores, from the Internet, or perhaps through some other catalyst?
TS: All of these. Certainly it’s a tough business to get into for dealers. Financing is hard to get today, both for new dealers and for current dealers, as the banks have tightened down dramatically on their willingness to loan, especially to small businesses, but we still see new companies come on occasionally. Much of our growth comes from our current partners – we call our dealers “partners” and we work hard with them to help us grow with them in their marketplace. We support them in what they’re doing in their market; we support the music education efforts in their market and hopefully by working together, we can grow together. As for the Internet, obviously it continues to grow dramatically. It’s not going to go away and we all must learn to deal with it more effectively. One of things we’re doing is providing tools for our dealers through databases, files, and other ways to help them utilize the Internet more efficiently as they grow their business. The Internet is both a channel and a tool and all of our dealers are using it, whether they are a so-called e-commerce dealer or not, they’re using the Internet in some fashion. We need to be ready to work with them in maximizing the positive effects it can have.
MMR: What role does the new Nashville facility play in your recent partnership with Walden Guitars?
TS: Walden is owned by KHS and KHS America is the sole sales and distribution arm in the United States, so we do it all from here. We’ve set up a sales and marketing department specifically for Walden. The climate-controlled area that we have built into our warehouse allows us to warehouse Walden Guitars properly, probably better than anyone in the country. We have a dedicated space for the Walden Acoustic Guitars that allows us to keep the relative humidity right around 45 percent, no matter how humid it is here in Nashville, which can be high. That allows us to ship out every Walden Guitar in the best possible condition. We literally go through every single guitar. We set up and inspect every guitar before we send it out and we know that when it leaves here, it’s ready to go.
MMR: You recently donated 24 instruments, valued at $23,500, to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra Petting Zoo so that children can sample and learn about the various musical instruments. Could you tell us about your relationship with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and their educational programs?
TS: Our relationship is in the very early stages at this point as we’ve only been here literally two or three months, but what we’ve found with the symphony and with Mitchell Korn, who is the Vice President of Education and Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony Schermerhorn Symphony Center, is an organization that is absolutely dedicated to promoting music education and making sure that every child in the Tennessee area has an opportunity to participate in music. When they suffered the flood damage that many of the people in Nashville suffered this year, they lost all of their instruments that had been used in their Petting Zoo. We were able to help with reestablishing that inventory, so when they go out and work with young children, the kids have a chance to have a hands-on experience and actually try different musical instruments. We expect in the future a very strong relationship with the symphony. Their dedication is motivating for us and we think we have something that we offer them as well.
MMR: What are the KHS plans for Winter NAMM?
TS: We value our partnership with NAMM. We’ve participated in both Winter NAMM and Summer NAMM and especially as our company continues to grow, we want to continue to be involved with NAMM. And yes, there will be new instruments introduced in a variety of categories in January. We’ll have new Majestic Percussion, new Mapex Drums, and a number of different Jupiter Wind Instruments will be introduced. Our commitment to NAMM and our commitment to the U.S. market is strong. The NAMM show is our chance to see a good number of our dealers, allowing us the opportunity to share with them what we are doing and how we can better serve them.
MMR: What are the future plans for marketing and growth, both nationally and globally?
TS: We want to expand our exposure within the United States, especially for Walden, Altus and Majestic. This expansion will happen within our current dealers as well as strategically located new dealers. We work with most major music retailers in the country and consider them to be our partners, so we are always looking for ways that we can grow together. For any dealers that we’re not working with, we welcome the opportunity to visit with them to help them grow their business. Our focus is on the end user; the musician, the student, the users of our instruments, but we can only reach them with the help of our loyal dealer base. We work in a great industry, with great partners. We provide instruments that allow people to do something they love doing in making music. Not many industries do that, so it’s rewarding for us every single day when we come to work, to know that, by working with our partners, we’ve provided someone with the opportunity to make music.
Karl Leong: On a global scale, we usually consider a much longer time span for this industry. At this time we are working in more than 400 countries. We have so many different products in each country. We are looking forward to devoting more of our resources and time to helping the individual countries in promoting music education so that we can continue to grow music and the music industry. This is something we definitely like to do and this is also tying into our company’s culture and mission. KHS (Kong Hsu Sheh) stands for Contribution to School and Society. This is our mission and we are going to continue to do that for; well, this is our 80th anniversary and we are going to continue doing that for a long long time.
MMR: What is the relationship between KHS International and KHS America?
TS: Our USA personnel, our Mt. Juliet personnel, are very heavily involved in both product development and logistics planning with our co-workers in Taiwan. We do some of the prototyping here in the United States for new instruments, and as Karl mentioned, KHS is dedicated to music and the music industry throughout the world. We also understand the impact that the U.S. market has on the world market, so we’re very interested in doing all we can here, understanding always that it has an impact on the rest of the world. KHS International is committed to the U.S. market and they all work just as if they are right here in Tennessee. They work to better understand our market and to provide what we need in serving our dealers and our end consumers.