Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: Mark Staff Photography
What Do These Musician’s Have in Common?……….
“Geez, what a nice vibe,” is the kind of thing heard out of the mouths of the innumerable musicians—locals whose names you know and others from far away—who visit John’s Music every day. They’re there to buy a new guitar or some new strings. They’re there to take a lesson, picking up an instrument for the first time or taking their skills to another level. They’re also there just to be there, because it’s a place for musicians, the venerable hub for everybody involved in the Hilton Head Island (and beyond) music scene for decades.
“There’s comfort in consistency,” said John Sturm, the store’s namesake, in revealing the secret formula behind its endurance, which is really no secret at all. Sure, we’ve all heard marketing consultants and others of their ilk waxing on about the complexities of strategically managing customer relationships. We’ve all seen ads and brochures for countless companies in seemingly every segment bragging, “We’re in the people business!”
Well, maybe that’s all necessary in some businesses, but it’s a lot simpler for guys like Sturm and store owner Scott Evans, because in the music business, there’s a natural bond with your customers: music. “I’m kind of carrying on John’s legacy here. He’d run the store for over 10 years before I decided that I wanted to do music full time,” Evans said of his decision to purchase John’s Music.
“Scott bought the store from me two years ago and asked me to stay on,” Sturm continued. “I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with the working musicians, and we just try to keep them and take care of them. You know, go the extra mile.”
Keeping Sturm on board was a move to maintain the consistency that local musicians and had come to expect over the years. With John’s Music, they could always count on people who know their stuff, understand their needs, work as hard on service after the sale as they work on the sale, and who don’t mind if once in a while you just want to come on in, hang out and be a part of the vibe.
It’s a method that works. For years, on any given night that you’re out on the town around Hilton Head Island, if there’s a band or a solo artist playing wherever you happen to be, chances are that the performance has some connection to John’s Music, e.g., the guitar strings came from John’s. “They’re our main customers, main repeating customers I should say,” Evans said. “They’ll call us on off hours and we’ll meet them at the store or we’ll deliver stuff out to them. So the service angle in addition to the sale is important.”
John’s Music is a bit of an anachronism, as the music retail business has followed much the same path as all other retail segments. That is, mass merchandisers have replaced most of the small, local shops. In this case, anachronistic is a good thing, and Evans keeps a letter from an out-of-town customer pinned to his office wall as a constant reminder:
“After walking through the door, I discovered that it was a ‘real’ music store and not just another huge showroom dealership that was all flash and no substance. The store reminded me of all the great stores…where service and customer care were more important than just making a sale. So on a recent visit to the island, one of the top things on my to-do list was to visit your store again just to be reminded what it was like when guitar dealers actually cared about the products they sold…Thank you so very much for conducting business the way it should be.”
“We want to help people get what they need, and give them an alternative to the music superstores,” Evans said. “Here, everything’s been tested and prepped, not just thrown on a wall. And we will service instruments that have been purchased elsewhere.”
That dedication to customer service has earned John’s Music the loyalty of regular customers from all over the Lowcountry, out of state, and even as far away as Canada in addition to local area musicians and aspiring musicians.
“We have four teachers,” Sturm said. “We offer lessons, and that’s how we’re bringing new people into music.” If you’re a fan of local music, you probably know some of these names. Jevon Daly teaches stringed instruments and some saxophone and keyboards. Daly also plays in a handful of local bands. David Kimbell has been teaching stringed instruments on the island for 20 years or so. Rich Vuillemot, a member of a popular local band, teaches guitar. Retired New York schoolteacher Nick Primiano teaches guitar and ukulele.
“We’ve got people who came in here at about eight years old and start learning. Next thing you know, they’re 14-15 years old and they’re playing in bands, and we’ve been a part of their music lives all along,” Sturm said.
“We try to maintain that relationship as long as they’re here,” Evans added.
And they plan to be here for the long haul. Earlier this year John’s Music underwent an expansion that doubled its footprint. The expansion allowed Evans and Sturm to increase from two to four lesson studios and provides a more open, less cluttered environment, while making room for lots more guitars, and basses, and…well…drop in and see for yourself.
John’s Music is located at 23 New Orleans Road, Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 842-5225 or visit JohnsMusicHHI.com.