BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
After 70 years, Vance Music Center is still a local, family owned business—and still going strong.
In 1948, Bernie and Betty Vance opened their store just off the downtown Square in the spot now occupied by The Uptown Cafe, offering records, television sets, stereos, and a few instruments. Today, Vance Music Center is still downtown, at 112 W. 6th St., but digital pianos and keyboards, along with guitars, are the strong sellers.
“Most businesses that last this long have had to evolve,” says Phil Gause, 70, who co-owns the store with his wife, Linda, 68. “We’ve outlasted everyone downtown but the Book Corner.”
Phil started at Vance in 1977 when he brought in a television for repairs and mentioned to Bernie that he would soon be out of a job. Bernie asked if he had any background in music. “If you count four-and-a-half years of playing piano as a kid and some trombone, I did,” says Phil, whose experience was mainly in management and maintenance. Still, Bernie hired him.
Phil and Linda’s son, Eric, 49, began working at Vance Music Center in 1994, just a year before Bernie sold the business to Phil. Linda joined them in 2006. Now, in addition to lessons in guitar, piano, ukulele, and drums, the store also offers instrument repair.
“The internet puts pressure on us, but it doesn’t offer service,” Phil says. “If we sell you a guitar, we want you to bring it back in a month to make sure it’s still set up correctly. Businesses online can’t do that, and YouTube isn’t always correct.”
Although piano sales have slowed in recent years, Phil spent 40 years delivering them to customers. “The physical aspect of the business has kept me going,” he says. “I didn’t need to go to the gym and do cardio.”
Phil and Linda have no plans to retire but predict Eric will keep the business going when they do. “We’re trying to outlast the parking meters,” jokes Phil, who’s seen them come and go twice. “In all seriousness, we enjoy what we’re doing, and that makes it easier.”
The store is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is open on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visit vancemusiccenter.com for more information.