By Rebecca Apodaca
Anker Paulsen asked his son, “What are your plans?” as he stood at the end of his son’s bed, the morning after Jim Paulsen graduated from high school. Jim didn’t have any plans, so his father told him, “Get dressed and go to work.” And that’s what Jim did. Working at Music Center, Inc., is the only job he has had since 1962. Anker had established Music Center in 1945, mainly as a teaching studio. It sold accordions, sheet music and, eventually, other instruments to its students. Music Center, Inc., started with about 2,000 square feet, moved four times and, eventually, with Jim’s help, grew to a size of 18,000 square feet, doing business across the nation. I think Anker has good advice: We all need to get up and go to work if we want to continue our stores for as long as Music Center, Inc., has been in business.
Jim’s father and uncles were all musicians. Although he took a few lessons, Jim never became a musician himself. I asked him what kept him working in a music store if he wasn’t a musician. He said he was able to go to work with his best friend every day. Anker and Jim kept growing the store. When Jim got married, his wife, Cookie, also joined in working at the store. He recalled one of their kid’s jobs was kicking the boxes down the stairs after they would unpack merchandise. They brought in electronic repairs, pro audio, lighting, guitars, basses, recording equipment, software and B&O rentals. Due to its manufacturers—such as JBL, Yamaha, Bose, Mackie, Marshall, Roland, Ludwig, C.F. Martin, Taylor, Gibson and Fender, to name just a few—Music Center, Inc., received Music & Sound Awards for Best Single-Store Dealer Of 2011 – Instrument Amplifiers and Best Single-Store Dealer Of 2011 – Best Clinics, as well as Best Single-Store Dealer Of 2010 – Best Sales Staff. Paulsen felt honored, thanking the manufacturers who nominated him.
Music Center, Inc.
7700 Green Bay Rd.
Kenosha, WI 53142
M-F: 11:00am to 7:00pm
Sat.: 10:00am to 5:00pm
Jim Paulsen, Owner
Never Go Wrong With Quality
Paulsen has long believed in only buying merchandise that is “top notch.” He only sells equipment and instruments that, when a player wants to make a change, Paulsen would not hesitate to buy back. This is what makes him different from some of his local competitors. He only sells items he can service, and says, “As long as you take care of your customer, you can take care of them for life.” The store does keep a few budget items, but Paulsen discloses to his customers that this will only be a temporary purchase until they can afford the real thing.
To maintain the store’s business strength, it has maintained longevity with its staff. The Manager, Tom Merritt, has been with Music Center for 35 years. Repair techs and sales clerks have been there for more than 20, and office help for just as long. This way, the team can anticipate the needs of the customers. The customers don’t have to come in and explain everything; the salespeople know their customers and their needs.
Music Center, Inc., stays tight with its community by providing pro audio equipment for local events such as the “Battle of the Bands” and the “Taste of Wisconsin.” It offers great clinics, and many of its clients have become pro players. The pros come back to give advice about what Music Center should purchase, deliver clinics for the community and sign autographs. This recently happened with Southern Rock guitarist Brian Nutter, from Keith Urban’s band.
For the final move, Paulsen bought the former elementary school he, his father and his uncles had all attended. It is a two-story building, with ample parking and a huge grass area behind, located right off Highway 31. (You could turn your knobs to 12 and not bother a neighbor by the way it looks on Google Maps.) He said they all have stories of fond memories of being in that same building as children.
Due to the Internet and big-box stores, Paulsen now has realized that his competition is the world, not just the store up the street. He wishes manufacturers would have a one-price policy, no matter which retailer was buying from them, to give equal competition in pricing. The indie dealer groups haven’t worked for him due to timing of his buying needs.
He has been attending the Winter NAMM show for 45 years. He, his wife and, perhaps, the Manager all come yearly to Anaheim. They handle all the meetings, starting with the NAMM Breakfast Sessions and then proceeding to Hall E.
Paulsen looks to the future with, potentially, his son-in-law, Derek Keller; his Manager, Merritt; and Office Manager Tracey Wilkinson taking over someday. Plans are to expand the Web site to keep up with changes in the industry. He can reach his longtime customers that way, including the ones who have made it on the West Coast in Los Angeles.
Crazy Customer Support
Paulsen tries to give his customers the best possible support, but, of course, they still have to pay their bills and return their rental instruments. He loves the honesty of the kids. He was on the phone with a rental customer and the customer was loudly trying to convince him that he had already returned the instrument. At the same time, Paulsen could hear the customer’s son in the background yelling, “No, Dad! I told you, it’s right here in the closet!” If I am ever in Kenosha WI, I’ll be stopping into Music Center, Inc., to say hi.