Why My Store Celebrated its Birthday (Not Anniversary)

The Podcasting Store
3 min readOct 12, 2023

Published as “Combatting Chains” in Music Inc. Magazine, October 2023

by Drew Holmes

My heart sank when I heard the news. A large national music store chain was finally moving into my city to directly compete with my store.

We had enjoyed decades on a virtually uncontested island starting with Cindy Haraway, the founder and original owner of Boomer Music. She had always feared this during the early years as she established her fledgling business. This development had never come to fruition under her watch, but now it was on my doorstep.

Being honest with myself, I had grown complacent in the years leading up to that moment. My store’s offerings were expanding, adding additional road service areas and on-site repairs. The local school service became a lower priority and had suffered as a result. Giving up and letting competition enter the market unchecked was not an option, but how could we reconnect and reestablish our value within the local community? How could we remind them that when times were rough and other stores left the area, we were there for our local musicians and always would be?

Wracking my brain for a solution I had an epiphany — Cindy founded Boomer Music exactly 40 years earlier. Surviving one ownership change is a challenge for any business, but our store was going strong well into its second. This was the perfect opportunity to highlight our longevity while reminding the community of the unique promise of value that is Boomer Music.

We would have a birthday party.

The choice of birthday, not anniversary party, was very specific since institutions have anniversaries, but people have birthdays. I wanted to remind my community that we are a member of their family, not some unfeeling conglomerate, and bring back memories of the relationship we had in the past and would continue to have in the future.

Of course, we needed live music for the event. We set up the stage in the front parking lot and hired local bands to perform. These included a high school jazz group, a polka band from the university, a community big band, and a “supergroup” of gigging pros, with current Boomer staff members performing with all but the high school group.

The whole community was welcome, and invitations were extended to past employees. We gave commemorative t-shirts to everyone who came as well as special ones for current and past Boomerites. Cindy joyfully served a birthday cake, stories were told, and memories were shared. It was a day of music and fun, and the perfect reminder to everyone of who we are and what we do.

The party was a jumping off point for recommitting ourselves to our local community. We doubled down on school road service, making sure to stop at every school once again for in-person visits. Since most of our ed reps are former educators, they made themselves available to substitute teach, run sectionals, or just lend a sympathetic ear to overworked directors. We added school-specific equipment lists to our web site, so we are now on the same page with the teachers and can send the customers who come into the store back out with just the right gear.

Our ability to respond with personalized solutions to unique problems has always been a strength, but we had not been pressing our advantage. Competition moving into our backyard was just the wakeup call we needed to remember who we are and what we add to our community.

A retail music store is a relationship business, not transactional. We need to make money, but our true value goes far beyond dollars and cents. It is in the value we provide to our community, year after year. Our mission at Boomer Music is simple: to help people love music through music making. As long as we stay focused on that mission, the profits will take care of themselves.

https://archive.maherpublications.com/view/86186445/30/

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The Podcasting Store

Music retail can be a fascinating business, with lessons learned not just about performing but also about business, mindset, and sales.