After nearly a decade of making music, Stowe Family Music is going silenzio.
The Downtown Tooele store will be closing its doors for good by Dec. 29 at the latest, said owner Terry Stowe, after struggling to stay open through the economic downturn.
“It’s kind of sad but it’s inevitable,” Stowe said. “The nature of the music business is there’s not a real high profit margin anyway, and it’s just gotten worse and worse. I just can’t afford to keep it open any longer.”
Stowe’s closure will mean more than just another vacant storefront in downtown Tooele. The store was in many ways the musical center of the Tooele Valley, supplying musicians and music teachers, hosting recitals and helping the musical community — or those aspiring to join it — link up with one another.
Valerie Evanson, president of the Tooele County chapter of the Utah Music Teachers Association, said in her experience, it seemed Stowe Family Music was much more than a store.
“It sounds silly, but I think it’s a center for musical culture in the community. It’s where everyone goes for concerts, for musical instruments, to get things repaired, and with it gone we lose that access, that musical center for the whole valley,” she said.
The store, which sold music books, accessories and some instruments, and facilitated renting others through Burt Murdock Music in Murray, opened in 2003. Stowe said at the time his children were in high school and needed to work, but he felt more comfortable giving them a controlled environment in which to earn money so he decided to open a business. Stowe has a background in band, he said, while his wife has a vocal background and his children played string instruments, so a music store seemed like a natural fit.
His children did all work through the store, either as direct employees or by teaching private lessons there, Stowe said, though they have all grown up and graduated since and no longer work at the store.
Besides the actual store and space for private lessons, Stowe also outfitted a room behind the store in the Merc Plaza to serve as a performance hall. That room was used by several groups, including the Tooele Christian Fellowship, he said, and the Tooele County chapter of the UMTA. Stowe said some of those groups have had difficulty finding another regular meeting space.
“People were sad to hear we were closing and some are scrambling to find someplace else. I think it will work out for everybody to find something that will fit what they need,” he said. “They’re still working on that, but they’ve got a couple of weeks to figure that out.”
Evanson said her group has not been able to find any other facilities in the valley that rival Stowe’s performance hall in size or performance capability. The group also used the hall as a meeting area, and had been allowed to keep a filing cabinet in the room as a sort of centralized receptacle of music and information for the organization.
“For things like a concerto recital, where we need two pianos, or for ensembles where we needed two pianos or for larger events, I don’t know what we’ll do. We don’t have options right now,” she said. “The fact that it was accessible by all was nice, because it was just there in a central location. Now I guess I’ll just have to keep it in my house until we figure out a better solution.”
Evanson said she feels the saddest part of the store closing is the loss of a resource for people in the area involved in any part of the music community. Purchases of music, accessories and instruments will have to be done online or in Salt Lake, she said.
“It was something bigger than a store and I think it’s going to hurt a lot of people,” she said. “It was something we really appreciated.”
“I think it’s like, it sounds silly, but a center for musical culture in the community. It’s where everyone goes for concerts, for musical instruments, to get things repaired, and with it gone we lose that access, that musical center for the whole valley.”
Stowe said much of the store’s inventory has been discounted, including some of the furnishings, except for stock that can be returned directly to Burt Murdock Music. When the decision was made to close the store, he ceased selling gift certificates, but urges anyone with any older gift certificate to redeem it before the store closes, which may be earlier than Dec. 29 if its stock is liquidated by then.
The stagnant economy has claimed other music stores in the state as victims as well, he said. Although some debts will linger after the doors close, Stowe said, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’re not the first music store the economy’s taken out. We’re the third I know of. It’s just a tough business and the economy took us down,” Stowe said. “I’ve had a lot of fun. I haven’t made any money out of it, but I’ve had a lot of fun being part of the music community.”