A philanthropically-minded local “white knight” has come to the rescue of Cape Ann’s only musical instrument shop.
“It’s a tough business in that my friends who have owned music stores, many have gone out of business since the internet began, with even thinner profit margins,” said Tom Eaton of Diamond Cove Music. – “A Picker’s Delight” – at 57 Washington St. .
The realities of COVID-19 have brought new challenges.
“Fortunately, we did well. When the pandemic hit, I thought I was screwed because the first 10 days after all the businesses in town closed, I didn’t have a single sale. Then online orders started coming in because people now had free time and were looking to buy an instrument.
But last fall its owner decided to sell and Eaton knew he had come to a crossroads. If he had the right of first refusal to buy the building, he did not have the resources to do it alone; and if he had to move, it could have been the end of his music store for many reasons.
Around this time, one of his customers came in and applauded Eaton for the beauty of the store. This customer has seen Eaton’s behavior sink.
Learning why his comment elicited such a reaction, the music-loving customer offered to become a sponsor.
“I grew up in Gloucester and we need a music store in Gloucester, and I would hate to see that go away,” says Eaton as this resident wishes to remain anonymous.
With the help of Cape Ann Savings Bank, the business deal was done and Diamond Cove Music is starting the new year off on a solid footing.
This is good news for local musicians and music teachers.
“I look forward to the future of Diamond Cove Music and the relationship I am fortunate to have established with Tom. We cannot take for granted the importance of a store you can walk into and feel a sense of community, connection and inspiration,” said Carlos Menezes Jr., director of bands and music at O’Maley Innovation Middle School and leader of Cape Ann Big Band.
“It’s one thing to see something online and order it with one-day shipping. It’s a whole different experience to be connected to it,” added Menezes.
Eaton’s has been at the Washington Street store since 2014, and before that he had a showroom on the lower level of his home on Nashua Avenue in Annisquam, at the end of which is Diamond Cove. His business was named after him at the suggestion of his then 9-year-old son. The family then moved to Lanesville and the business continued with its walls sporting guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and ukuleles, among many other items.
By the late 1970s, Eaton was a full-time musician and on the road for about five years. He had attended Colorado State University and stayed out West where he took up playing bluegrass music.
“I have a lot of experience as a professional gamer, taking my music to 24 countries,” Eaton said.
He wrote scores for films on PBS and music for about 24 broadcasts of “Says You!”, a public radio play.
Eaton’s endless passion for music and helping others on their musical journey helped him persevere.
Mike Luster, executive vice president of commercial loans, said Cape Ann Savings Bank was thrilled when Eaton and his silent partner asked for advice.
“We are a community bank and we look forward to helping small businesses like Diamond Cove,” Luster said. “We couldn’t be more excited to play a role in supporting this effort and keeping Diamond Cove on Cape Ann and serving this community. The bank played a role, as did the silent partner, but you have to give Tom credit for making that investment, and he didn’t falter.
A loyal customer, Menezes remembers the opening of the store.
“At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into the store. I thought, ‘Is this really here in Gloucester?!’ Everything made sense when I met Tom,” he said. “The store itself is a reflection of his passion, his character and his investment in everything related to music. He is dedicated to curating a shop that caters to the needs of Cape Ann’s diverse musical palette.
The shop also offers classes for all ages as well as some repairs and restorations. There are weekly workshops and jam sessions.
“There are a lot of people playing at home who can’t play with other people, and may be nervous about it or not feel ready for an open mic. But it’s not pressure and we’re having a lot of fun,” Eaton said. “I feel blessed and grateful for the stability of the business in 2022. and I feel privileged to be able to give back to the community and just help other musicians. It has brought me such joy over the years.
Menezes said he feels a sense of pride and ease knowing there is a local store where he can send students to pick up essential gear.
“Tom is dedicated to growing my program and has established an ongoing conversation about specific types of items to stock for brass and woodwind instruments,” he said.
He added that otherwise a student is at the mercy of shipping delays or a drive to Danvers or Boston to find the nearest music stores.
“A music store like Diamond Cove doesn’t just provide the hardware we need. It fosters community and connects musicians in a way that doesn’t happen through social media and concerts,” Menezes said. “I remember discovering local musicians who inspired me to keep playing when I visited Gloucester Music as a child. Sometimes it was that they were there and helped me choose a good music book or gave me advice. Other times, it was to discover their talent.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706 or [email protected]