The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Beacock Music Co-owner, Gayle Beacock
Gayle Beacock is the co-owner of Beacock Music, one of the nation’s largest independent musical instrument retail stores, located in Vancouver, WA. The business was founded by her parents, Dale and Susan Beacock, in 1976. Since then, Beacock Music has become a staple in the community and a model for music stores all over the country.
Now as second-generation owners, Gayle, along with her brother Russ, strive to make the experience of shopping at Beacock Music different than your average store. The 20,000 square foot facility includes a coffee shop, in addition to a full education department that caters to players of every age and ability.
In June of 2013, the Beacock Music was recognized for its outstanding achievements in the industry and honored with the 2013 Dealer of the Year award from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
Below, Gayle Beacock discusses her family business; what sets them apart, how they’ve found success, what’s in store for the future and much more. Learn more by visiting Beacock Music’s website here.
WiMN: Beacock Music was founded by your parents in 1976. What is it like to carry on the torch of the family business?
GB: There is something very special about being in a family business. Today my brother and I look around our community, and most of them are gone, either purchased by a chain or closed down. When we moved to our current location nine years ago in July, we took a big chance and just “went for it.” Most business professionals that we knew were skeptical that we could survive this “second act” of our business. “Really? That many people want to play music?” Thankfully, yes, they do!
I think that having this business be our family legacy, and in honor of our parents, we had a little extra drive to make it successful. Because, of course, we remember it when it was tiny and unprofitable. We saw our parents run it alone, year after year. We saw them struggle and build it slowly. Russ and I both worked at the music store starting in Jr. high school. Our history is here. We have certainly made our own mark on the family business, but fundamentally, everything that our parents taught us about customer service, giving back to the community, ethical business practices, is all the same.
We operate our business as if it is still a ‘mom and pop’ shop, but with all of the conveniences, prices, products, and website that consumers have grown to expect. We feel that we offer our customers the best of both!
WiMN: Since your business opened its doors, our industry has seen tremendous change. How has Beacock Music managed to keep up? What are some of the tactics used that have worked?
GB: We remain true to ourselves. We are very active in our industry, and constantly learn from others. However, we have never just ‘jumped on the bandwagon.” I give my brother the credit for that! We have our unique style, shall we say!! I just love our retail showroom, for example! It is unlike any other music store that I have ever been in! It is cozy and charming, with special touches throughout. We decorate for the seasons in a natural, Northwesty-type of style.
We have a fantastic coffee and sandwich shop on the sales floor, where customers can sit and wait and enjoy being surrounded by music. We run our business according to us. Keeping the focus on what WE think is important, even though the newest trend may say otherwise. We have embraced doing business online, and have successfully blended the technology age without losing our special brand and identity. It is important to be different in the retail world. To stand out by being unique. Sometimes that is tricky!
There have been many times when the industry is going in a certain direction. All of a sudden EVERYONE is, for example, getting out of lessons. That didn’t feel right to us. Instead, we invested in a new wing of our store and built a BIGGER Education Center. People thought we were crazy! But today, everyone is getting back INTO lessons. So we learned to listen to our own instincts and to trust that. And, when something doesn’t work, we pivot and move on. Russ and I are very present owners.
WiMN: What sets Beacock Music apart from other musical instrument retailers? How have you continued to thrive in an industry containing very successful chain stores?
GB: We have the same great products as any chain store and the same prices. What sets us apart? Everything else! Our staff is among the best that you will find anywhere. And I mean that. We take a great deal of time training and coaching and teaching and re-teaching and re-coaching…. you get the idea! It is constant! We practice. We role-play. We talk about the relationships they have the opportunity to create.
We are so lucky to be in this industry where music is the product. If we can’t have fun at work selling music, then we aren’t in the right business! Our store culture is the most important thing to us. Our customers notice it. They WANT to be here. I heard something a long time ago that I never forgot: people do business with people that they know and like. And THAT is where we shine!
We believe that our #1 role is to help to create more music makers in this world. If we keep our eye on that, the rest will fall into place. Doing the right things, day after day, leads to being special. That is how we operate.
WiMN: Tell us about the experience of winning the Dealer of the Year award from NAMM.
GB: Winning Dealer of the Year was a thrill that I will never forget! I just could hardly believe it when I was walking up to the stage to receive that award. I felt so satisfied that we ARE making a difference in the world. There are so many un-glamourous days to running a business! The days when you are at the store at 6:30 setting up the white board for a staff meeting, or (like today) in the repair shop cleaning and organizing for better efficiency.
The sleepless nights wondering if you made the right decision about certain products or employees. All of the days that make up a business. Then one day, you are getting that award. Wow! It brings me to tears now just thinking about it.
And, of course, it was wonderful for my mother! She couldn’t be more proud that her kids have embraced the business, and have brought it to this level. Our dad, who died 2 years ago, was still very active in our business teaching our New Horizons Bands, and just loved the store. He would have been so darn proud and happy! Nobody loved the industry more than he did. It was a thrill to receive it in their honor.
WiMN: Tell us about Beacock Music’s expansive Education Center.
GB: Our Education Center is awesome! 🙂 We have a full slate of teachers who teach privately, we offer homeschool classes, group classes, Kindermusik and our concert and jazz bands for senior citizens. We also offer our performance hall to the community for recitals. It is a constant center of activity from 8:00-8:00. We love it!
We look at our Education Center as a builder to the market. The more folks that we can get playing music, the better for us all. Our latest focus is on the adult beginner. We know that people age 50 plus want to play! We are promoting music lessons to them, offering a low-stress environment to “give it a try.” We know that if we can get them in, we’ve got them! Our approach is to take down all of the fear or intimidation that they may feel, and just “have fun.” Currently over 25 % of our students are beginning adults.
WiMN: What is the most gratifying aspect of your job?
GB: Making a difference to a community, an industry and a business. I love the “game” of business–trying to figure it out and make it work. I worked for a very large company after college before coming back to the family business, and I appreciate the fact that I can mold this business how I see fit!
My brother and I are great business partners, and enjoy doing different aspects of this job! I know that we are in an industry that is exciting and vibrant! Some of my very best friends are people from the music industry. What is better than that? 🙂
WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges?
GB: Being a woman in the music industry has been great. I think that the industry is grateful for the input of smart, talented women, and there are loads of them now! I have always felt respected, both in my own business as well as in the industry. We have a close-knit group of women music store owners that socialize together and share ideas and experiences.
NAMM, in particular, has celebrated the women segment of the industry. We are a part of all of the decisions, educational sessions and form a large part of most of the industry board of directors. I am the current past president of Retail Print Music Dealers Association (RPMDA) and am currently serving on the Board of Directors at NAMM.
WiMN: What’s in store for Beacock Music for the rest of 2013?
GB: Beacock Music is always moving forward. 2013 was the year of our new website with online shopping. We completely started over to reflect who we are. We love it! Our next move will be some form of expansion, and a newly-designed Education Center. We operate that way. A big project at a time, while tweaking everything else, every day. I think that is the fun part.
Russ and I are still very much “in” our business. Our energy level is high. We talk about things every day, and are planning every day. We can’t wait to see what we can do!