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Bongos, congas and djembes line the walls of the recently reopened Rhythm Connect LLC. On Friday nights, visitors can find classes that combine wine tasting and hand drumming.
Owner Ed Keegan’s goal is to create a unique environment in his Fairport music store.
“I knew the one thing that I wanted—I didn’t see a lot of music stores have this—was a place where there could be a lot of hands-on,” he says.
Keegan, 47, started playing percussion in his fourth-grade school band on the north side of Syracuse. He began getting into drum sets in seventh grade, hitting schoolbooks with sticks before he could get his hands on a real set.
“I’ve wanted to do this ever since I was 16,” he says of having a drum store. The original Rhythm Connect opened in 2010 on High Street in Fairport and sold only drums and other percussion instruments.
Keegan says the move to the current location on North Main Street and the expansion cost roughly $25,000. It has opened up greater visibility on the heavily trafficked road. And it has given the store more space to sell other instruments and offer lessons in drums, guitar, piano, bass and voice.
With many musicians buying instruments online, Rhythm Connect competes by offering a free lesson with instrument purchases, delivery, setup and lifelong help with tuning.
Rhythm Connect’s seven employees, including Keegan, help with both sales and lessons. Lessons and classes are now the primary focus of the business and the largest source of income. Instrument sales help support that, and being the only dealer of Crush drums and percussion instruments in the area gives the business a leg up on some competitors.
“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” Keegan says. “If you try to do all things, you don’t do anything well. So finding out what your niche is, what you can do, that really sets you apart. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Part of the new direction includes classes such as the no-experience-necessary drumming and wine sampling class, group classes for kids and the business-oriented Working in Rhythm class. Classes cost $10 to $20 per participant.
“I’ve done it with a group of 150 managers before, where they just wanted to delve into getting out of left-brain thinking and move more into right-brain, creative thinking,” Keegan says of the Working in Rhythm class.
He uses drums and rhythm as a tool to expand creativity and tap into collaborative thinking.
“Instead of a coffee break, let’s do a rhythm break,” Keegan says.
He is not looking to open another store soon but is considering creating instruments. East Pattern & Model Corp. owns the space that is leased by Rhythm Connect and does injection molding of plastics.
“We’ve been talking to them about creating our own instruments,” Keegan says. “Then we’d be offering something that other music stores would potentially be interested in.”
So far, customers have responded positively to Keegan’s efforts.
“Everybody that comes in here tells us—and we love hearing it—that there’s a totally different feel to the store here, and they really like it,” he says.
Kellen Beck is a Rochester Business Journal intern.
Small Business is a biweekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7/25/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.