We talked to: Mill River Music

We talked to Mill River Music

We recently had a lovely conversation with Jon and Nina of Mill River Music. Check out what they had to say!

How are things going overall for the business after this crazy year?

Early on in the pandemic, in-store sales dropped off, while online sales began to pick up. We weathered a couple of financially challenging months, but ever since then, sales have been increasing and we’ve been growing and evolving. As a relatively new business, we were uniquely positioned to handle the unexpected changes, as pivoting is our MO. Another reason we’ve managed to weather the storm so well is due to the fact that our industry has been booming in the past year. During such a difficult time, so many people gravitated toward music, whether they were returning to it or learning to play instruments for the first time. Music is so powerful for many people, and especially during a time when everyone has been struggling, it’s truly an amazing outlet that brings both comfort and a connection with others.
Recently, we’ve also had a glimpse into the idea that we could compete with bigger stores nationally, while applying our own model and perspective. At the beginning, when we shut down our brick and mortar, we put in a lot of extra hours just prepping and shipping items to folks. Our little Mom & Pop shop gained fans because while the bigger stores were shuttered, we were still able to supply people with what they needed. That really placed us in a very unique position during a difficult time, and has continued to move us forward on so many levels. We are actively hiring now, and we even hired three new people during the pandemic.

Now that things are starting to open up more, are you seeing quite a bit of foot traffic in the store or are many people still calling ahead/requesting curbside services?

Foot traffic is definitely increasing, though we also still have folks calling to make sure we are there and have what they need. We are still monitoring traffic and keeping it down to 2-3 parties at a time, so that people feel comfortable and cared for. Some of the practices we implemented during the pandemic just make sense, even as we move forward, such as having people sanitize their hands, especially when handling instruments. Some of the people who regularly did curbside, are now actually coming into the store and are overjoyed to be back with us and around the guitars. Our store truly provides a retro type of experience that many--including us--experienced as kids. Our store is already providing a retro experience--walk-in experience like what I experienced as a kid. That’s a pretty elusive thing these days, and even in the past, it could be hit or miss at many music stores. We love that folks have really looked forward to coming back in person to interact with us, our staff, and the instruments. And of course, a few people have asked about our new puppy, Django, who will be at the store more frequently as time goes on!

Will masks still be required for a while?

We’re currently a mask optional situation, and are adjusting according to what will make our customers feel most comfortable. Having one on our person at all times just makes sense, so if someone comes in and clearly prefers that we interact with our masks on, we can easily pivot. As with everything in the pandemic, this is an ever-evolving situation right now and we’ll continue to have open conversations with our staff going forward.

What positive things have you learned/seen during the pandemic?

The pandemic really solidified the realization of how important what we do is to people, which reinforces the sense that this work is meaningful. We could find an easier way to make a living, but this is what feels right for us. We are truly passionate about serving our community and connecting with folks on a deeper level through music. From a business perspective, this time has propelled our business into a higher profile and has set us on a path to the next level. It’s been a challenging time for our team, as there has been a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty. But everyone has really stepped up and has been pushing through since coming back to the store. From the start of the pandemic, we committed to doing what was best for our employees, and we so appreciate all that they do for us to keep the business moving forward.

Any other information you’d like to share about your business? Do you have any goals/exciting plans for 2021?

We are excited to hire more new people to help us meet the scaling up we’ve been doing a bit more effectively. It’ll give us a little break to have more people on board, and will give the senior staff the chance to get back to more interesting and creative things. We are excited to have new brands in, such as Taylor guitars, JHS pedals, so many great new pedal brands, guitar brands, amp brands, and so much more to come! We have some really big and exciting ones coming down the pipeline. We continue to be thrilled to be bringing in cool used gear every day and to be writing checks and making trades with our customers. We have also been working with Rhyme Digital to create a new website and backend system that will allow us to deliver work in a more automated way online and in-store, while also honoring our customer service model. Having a fresh and updated digital presence has become even more important these days, and we’re excited to have both a thriving and vibrant digital and in-person community. Releasing the new website has been fantastic, and has given people a more streamlined shopping experience. We also hope to have our new puppy Django visiting more often, as he’s training to be a therapy dog as well as do the “shop dog” thing! If folks come in and need a little snuggle, he’ll be ready to oblige!

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