By Rebecca Apodaca
It could be said that Gordy Wilcher dropped “da bomb” of a music store on Owensboro KY when Owensboro Music Center (OMC) was founded in 1973. He accomplished this with the help of his mentor, Dallas Hughes. He convinced Hughes to back him in opening OMC, some 40 miles away from Hughes’ store. Hughes provided the start-up money and most of the inventory. Wilcher felt that Owensboro needed a combo dealer. He was able to make this new store grow each year for the first four years. Hughes gave him the opportunity to buy the store, making payments along the way. It sounds like “sweat equity” was a good way to go. Hughes needed to take back his consigned inventory, which left Wilcher with about three or four guitars and two or three amps; OMC just grew from there. In 1980, Hank Starks, a former District Sales Manager for Bose who was a sound system specialist, came in as a partner. He brought with him the opportunity to offer sound systems to houses of worship.
The store’s guitar, bass, drum and sound system business grew into carrying lines such as JBL, Yamaha, Zildjian, Guild, Recording King and Ludwig, to name just a few. The partners have formed a perfect business pairing: Wilcher, the friendly customer-service senior partner, and Starks, who handles retail customers and houses of worship, as well as most of the financial duties. They divide the work in accordance with the individual talents they possess.
Compared to their competitors, OMC has a big inventory for a small town. The store strives to be friendly and build relationships with its customers. The grandchildren of the original customers come in and tell Wilcher, “My grandpa got his gear here.” It makes Wilcher feel great to hear that. One of the store’s slogans is, “It’s the service after the sale that counts.” OMC services what it sells, with Wilcher as the technician, plus the added expertise of Bobby Robinson, who picks up the more serious repairs, such as neck resets.
The store recently brought in a young man, 19-year-old Ryan Clark. Before him, the last time they hired someone was 16 years ago. Clearly, the store’s staff—key members include Bob Blackford, Small Goods Manager and Louis Smith, Service Manager—stays onboard. OMC has accepted the change of social media, and will be offering in-store clinics like those that it did years ago. Clark, whom Wilcher described as a self-starter, brings in a new perspective and the possibility for evolution. “It is challenging to recognize that we need to accept change,” noted Wilcher.
Owensboro Music Center
1303 Breckenridge St.
Owensboro, KY 42303
Monday-Friday: 9am to 6pm
Saturdays: 9am to 5pm
Gordy Wilcher, Senior Partner
Owensboro Music Center has strong ties to its local community, extending beyond the multiple generations of customers that it has served. Wilcher is on the board of the local chamber of commerce. Stark is part of the Ambassador program in the chamber, doing the ribbon cuttings and welcoming new members. Wilcher even had a team in a local church softball league. His mantra is, “What are we going to do different today?” He is the celebrity judge for talent shows, dog shows and other non-musical events. Of course, they introduce him as the Owner of OMC. And right there, of course, is his advertisement for an entirely new group of potential customers.
One of his favorite sayings is, “Musical children are never bored.” People remember him for that. He’s cooked his recipe for Nuclear Chicken on the news. Wilcher and Starks are pictured above with the haul from their annual “Strings for Food” event, which is a wonderful charitable effort to help put a dent in the problem of hunger in this country. The overarching program is overseen by the Independent Music Store Owners group (www.musicstoreowners.com), of which Wilcher is President. (As if that were not enough, he has a position on NAMM’s Board, underscoring his deep personal commitment to our industry and its well-being.)
Big-box stores opened nearby five years ago, but the Internet is Wilcher’s biggest competitor. “It’s a challenge to sell yourself all over again to existing customers,” he said. OMC reminds clients of its services and promotes the benefits of dealing with a local store. OMC will loan out gear if a customer has a gig, and his or hers is in the shop. It has even found a niche in supplying video screens for houses of worship.
Wilcher has been a presenter for NAMM U. classes with “Getting Involved With Your Community.” He speaks to dealers across the nation. “By networking together, we all become stronger,” he emphasized. This year at the NAMM show, he added four to five new lines, and they all are doing well. (This writer just Google-mapped him and saw the prices of gas are $2.79 out there. Here in California, we’re paying $4.79. No wonder he’s doing well!)
Eat A Bug?
There is a car salesman in California named Cal Worthington who rides around on elephants and says he’ll eat a bug if you buy a car from him. This writer has personally been feeling that way during these tough economic times…but Wilcher does it for real. He gets involved in the community like no store this column has yet featured. He does “Celebrity Chef” fundraisers, such as an event to raise money for the local botanical gardens called “Picnicking with the Bugs.” The botanical gardens brought in huge sculptures of bugs, while the local businessmen chose recipes and grilled up some bugs. Wilcher made Spanish rollups with grilled mealworms and brownies with grasshoppers mixed in. One man made an ice-cream sundae with crispy grasshoppers on top. I asked him what he liked the flavor of the best. In his long Kentucky drawl, he said, “Actually, those brownies were pretty gooooood.”
Well, you’re just not good, Gordy…I’d say you’re grrrrreat!