Drome Sound Music Store
1875 State St.
Schenectady NY 12304
Richard and Nancy Parks, Owners
Schenectady NY’s Drome Sound is gearing up for its 50th year of serving the needs of local community music makers, as well as national and international touring bands that come through upstate New York.
Over the years, Drome Sound has grown to encompass a variety of business arms: retail sales, music lessons, audio system rentals, band and orchestra rentals, an on-site luthier and guitar repairs, electronics repairs, band instrument repairs and a robust used business. That diversity is one of the reasons for the store’s continued success, according to the Owner, Richard Parks. He noted, “Drome Sound’s success partially relies on its diversity, and our recognition of the multiple opportunities within the business.”
In fact, recognizing business opportunities was how the original Owners, Frank Popolizio and Pat Ragozzino, came to open Drome Sound in the first place. The store got its start in 1968, when Popolizio and Ragozzino, who had been booking acts at a local nightclub, The Aerodrome, realized that the acts coming to play the club—Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge and Janis Joplin among them—needed somewhere to go for musical equipment and accessories when they came to town. The pair rented a space adjacent to the club, which also served as a namesake, and Drome Sound was born.
“At that time, there were a few small, local competitors, but Drome Sound quickly grew to carry the top brands, becoming the dominant musical instrument retailer in the area,” explained Parks, a touring guitarist who got his start selling gear and cleaning guitars at the store in 1978, and then moved to the General Manager position.
Over the years, Drome Sound continued to grow, moving to newer and larger locations, all of them within a two-mile radius of one another. It even got new ownership in the form of Frank’s brother, Tony Popolizio, who purchased the business in 2004. Parks stayed with the store until 1998, when he accepted a job at Guitar Center. However, by 2015, he was not only back, but also buying the business from Popolizio.
“My wife and I are super excited to have such a great opportunity and to be a part of history,” Parks said of the sale, adding that the transition in ownership has been “fairly transparent.”
Since taking the reins at Drome Sound, Parks has made some key changes, which have left his mark on the store, even as the core business has remained intact. One such change was the reinforcement of a customer-friendly return policy.
“If a customer isn’t happy with their purchase, we’re happy to take it back for a full refund, or we’ll exchange it for another item that might work better for them,” Parks affirmed. “Years ago, Drome Sound didn’t offer a return policy. So, it gives customers additional confidence to make their purchase. We want our customers to love the merchandise they’ve purchased, and we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure they’re happy well beyond the sale.”
Customer service is a major focal point for Parks, who strives to make Drome Sound “the destination for a lot of customers in our market.” He said, “We realize our customers have many shopping options. When customers come into our store, though, they are impressed with the large and varied inventory. And, I believe we’re second to none in providing a great customer experience.”
According to Parks, “My customer-service philosophy is simple: Be attentive, honest and sincere with people.” He continued, “By doing so, customers typically respond well and trust you with their purchase. Every person who walks through our front door has a goal that involves music. Whether they’re just starting out or they’re a professional, it’s our job to help them achieve their goal.”
That desire to help customers goes beyond just their in-store experience. Parks also relishes the opportunity to check in with repeat customers to make sure they’re happy with their purchases. And for customers who want to peruse the inventory on their own? “We strive to make sure every item has a price on it, so customers can self-serve, if they prefer,” he said.
Parks’ tenure has also been marked by a modernization of the store’s use of social media. That allows Drome Sound to keep customers in the loop, as well as spotlight key achievements.
“Recently, we started producing short videos of our students and customers, which we post on Facebook in an effort to help share their talent,” Parks explained. “We’ve had a great response, with thousands of views.” He got the idea after an impromptu NAMM Show meeting with Marcus Lavake, one of the Owners of Haggerty’s Musicworks in Rapid City SD. “Marcus was kind enough to share the details with me about how they produced their videos…even the equipment they used,” he continued. “We don’t charge anything to produce the videos. We just think it’s a great way to support local musicians and help them get their music out there.”
Fostering the music community in Schenectady is important to Parks, just as it is to all of Drome Sound’s 10 employees and 10 music instructors. The store offers at least one clinic, if not two, every year with nationally renowned drummer Jason Bittner. And, it always tries to participate in local music events, including working with local promoters to supply backline equipment, when necessary.
In fact, one of Parks’ long-term goals is to be a pillar of the community and always have it feel good when people walk into the store. He elaborated, saying, “It’s amazing how far a ‘hello’ goes these days. We strive to talk to every customer, and get to know him or her a little. We have fun. We treat people fairly. And there’s a family atmosphere in the store.”
That family atmosphere applies to both Parks’ long-time staff and his customer base, which has included the same families for generations. “I continue to be amazed that so many of the regular customers still shop at Drome Sound 20 or 30 years later,” he marveled. “We are on second and third generations from many of our longstanding customers. It’s a regular occurrence for me to reunite with customers whom I helped all those years ago. They still shop with us today, and we’re grateful for that.”