MUSCATINE – Mike Ritchie has left the building. The old Lincoln School building, ie. But he didn’t get very far.
After about two years, Ritchie moved Muscatine’s only musical supply store—Ritchie Sound and Lights—to a larger location on 8th Street.
“It’s definitely huge growth,” Ritchie said.
The commercial building, built in 1920, has housed various shops over the years, most recently a computer repair business. This will give Ritchie four times the space, he said, to sell instruments and supplies, and repair electronic audio equipment, services that Muscatine would not otherwise have.
“I didn’t think it would turn into this,” he said of the company’s expansion.
The sale of the building closed in January, Ritchie said, and he began moving inventory on Friday. He was at the store on Monday for a soft reopening and, watching the cars go by, he said some drivers were even about to stop to check for new stickers on the 30ft window displays. The light provides plenty of light which the store did not have on Park Avenue.
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Starting his business in the old schoolhouse on Park Avenue had its perks, he said. The security of surrounding businesses and teachers offering music lessons provided the space to grow. The place was also well known, as it had been home to Muskie Music for over 40 years.
But the building also had challenges. Ritchie said Park Avenue drivers were passing too quickly to notice the marquee listing the stores inside the building, and people were asking where the building was because they didn’t recognize the address.
“We did a lot of business there,” he said.
Ritchie already knew many local musicians when he started his business. He grew up in Muscatine and has been playing bass guitar for 35 years. He said that after losing his job during the recession, he started operating a full-time live production company and heard the need for a local music store.
Since its first sale on March 1, 2017, the store has had its regulars. It also allowed Ritchie to meet many other local musicians. Not just people in bands, but people who played an instrument in school and want to pick it up again.
Although guitar and amp repairs do generate a lot of business, Ritchie said. “We’re not just a guitar store,” he said.
Customers brought instruments such as violins and trombones that they played or that their parents played to fix them. Ritchie said he was still learning as he went, but was in contact with people who repaired the instruments.
Another growing part of the business is the installation and repair of sound systems and audio equipment. He said the provision of this service has increased because many churches and schools have public address systems.
With online shopping always a challenge for local stores, especially when there aren’t many music stores, Ritchie said he’s had visitors from the Quad-Cities, Burlington, Iowa City and Cedar. Rapids. He attributes the new merchandise posts on the store’s Facebook page to customers stopping in from out of town “when they have nothing else to do.”
With more space, more instruments are on display, including acoustic guitars and full drums. Ritchie said he would also be able to expand the merchandise lines the store offers. He also said being the only music store in town was a “big deal” because residents would have to go elsewhere for music supplies.
“In the first few months,” he said, “I hope people who didn’t know we were here know we’re here.”