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In an age when many specialty stores are going the way of the rotary telephone, downtown Chillicothe continues to support a number of specialty stores. One of the more unique of these is BBB Music Center, a locally owned store that specializes in all things related to musical instruments and sound equipment.
Owner Bob Green said the Water Street store really is a center for the community. “We’re not here to serve ourselves, we’re here to serve our community,” Green said. “We think it’s still important to have a local music store in town, one that’s friendly to customers and that gives them the services they need.”
Bob is an Air Force veteran and family man who has made a point to include family, friends and the entire community in the store. “A lot of my family helps out and I like to get the grandkids in here to teach them some work ethic. They all know how to run the cash register and some of them can tune a drum or a guitar. Some can set up sound systems.” Bob explained as he named each of his children, sons-in-law and grandchildren who help out. One of Bob’s daughters, Sarah Lambert, has been helping customers since he opened shop.
The story of BBB Music Center dates back to 2005 when Bob was trying to purchase a guitar from another area music store. Their look-but-don’t-touch policy meant that he couldn’t try out the instrument he liked before buying it. “I just didn’t understand how you could buy something like that without trying it first. You buy a car, you drive it first. You buy a guitar, you need to know how it feels and what it sounds like,” he explained.
Shortly after, he began selling bluegrass instruments at area festivals and events but it soon became evident that he needed a storefront. The store began life as Bob’s Banjo Barn and has been in a few places around town. Today they are on Water Street and the name shortened to BBB Music Center to reflect the wide variety of merchandise they carry.
In addition to stringed instruments, they sell band instruments and supplies, drum sets, keyboards, amplifiers, sounds systems and all the connectors, cables, power supplies, reeds, strings, neck straps, music books, tuners, cases and cleaning supplies you might need. They offer a wide selection of new and used guitars, banjos, mandolins, violins and strumsticks.
“We look for well-made instruments because we want to sell quality stuff for less money. It’s that simple,” Bob explained. He also is insistent that it’s important to sell customers the right instrument. “We fit people with instruments. They may not realize that a guitar may be too big or too small. We don’t want to see you waste your money. We’d rather help you find the right instrument that could last you a lifetime.”
On top of all that, they do cleaning, repair and restoration for all instruments as well as for sound systems and other musical electronics. In addition, they do warranty repair for certain brands of instruments. “We have experienced people who know what they’re doing and who I trust to do good work for our customers,” Bob continued. “Sometimes an instrument just needs cleaned, adjusted, tuned, or maybe a new set of strings. We can do all that and more.”
They also offer space for instruction. They have classroom space where independent teachers provide lessons for instruments including stringed instruments, keyboard and drums. Each instrument purchased here comes with a free lesson. Also, it is possible to take lessons through an instructor here without actually owning the instrument but by using one at the store.
Bob is cognizant of the need to be competitive in an increasingly online world, working hard to keep prices competitive and to offer those personalized services that online sellers cannot. In fact, many customers come in for help setting up a new instrument they purchased online or to repair one damaged in shipping. “A lot of people buy online without knowing if it’s right for them and without realizing there is work to be done to make a new instrument playable,” he said.
Plus, if they do not carry what you need, they are pleased to order it for you.
They also provide set up and service for sounds systems. “Sometimes a church will call with a problem with their sound system or a microphone or keyboard and we’ll go right over. We know how important it is to have someone to rely on when you’re having a problem.”
Bob also keeps the store active in the community and is complimentary of many other downtown merchants. For example, the store accepts donated instruments which they clean and repair before donating to veterans through the VA Hospital. Churches, veterans and Kenworth employees all receive a ten percent discount.
Every Saturday morning, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of locals stop by to jam, playing gospel, folk and bluegrass music in a room at the back of the store. Everyone is welcome and there is no limitation on age or experience – one regular participant is ninety. “Whoever can come just shows up. We’ve seen friendships develop and bands form just from playing in the back room,” he said. Bob hopes to soon offer the jam room to younger artists on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The beautiful thing about this line of work is that music appeals to everyone. “It’s a love, really. There’s nothing like picking up a guitar, closing your eyes and playing. It’s not a man’s world. It’s anybody’s world here. From six to ninety, we serve everyone,” he said.
The store’s customers come from all walks of life and from all over. Bob said that a number of their customers come from West Virginia, Kentucky and from all over Ohio. “We have customers come down from Columbus because the stores up there don’t carry what they need and they don’t offer the service we do” he said.
This store clearly is a passion and a labor of love for Bob. “Come in as a customer and leave as a friend. That’s what we want here,” he said. “Come in and ask questions, try the instruments, be sure about what you’re buying. That’s what we want and we’ll do our best for you.”
BBB Music Center is located at 20 East Water Street. With street parking available in front and in a public lot across the street, it is easy to park and visit them during business hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call them at 740.772.2262, visit them online or follow them on Facebook.
See more images of the store in the slideshow below.