By Rebecca Apodaca
One of the dreams of almost every store owner is to grow a store and, eventually, pass it on to a family member or an outstanding employee, or sell it to a worthy successor. Many times, that is what it remains…a dream. In this case, however, the dream came true.
Senseney Music, Inc.
2300 E. Lincoln
Wichita, KS 67211
Lori Supinie, President
Hours: Monday to Thursday: 9:30am to 6:30pm
Friday and Saturday: 9:30am to 5:30pm
The business started in 1978 as Hume Music with six partners. By 1984, Denny Senseney, a former band director, bought out the partnership and the name changed to Senseney Music. Because of his sharp business mind in retail, his business thrived. As a bassoonist in The Senseney Community Band, Lori Supinie came to work for Senseney in 1995 as his Controller/Accountant. Eventually, she became Business Office Manager and CFO. With a financial business background and her experience in band, singing in a choir, and performing church and classical piano, she purchased the business after 13 years, when Senseney retired in 2008. The store moved in 1996 from 10,000 square feet into a two-story, 26,000-square-foot former bank building, including a vault, which now holds choral music. A second vault is utilized as a true cash vault.
Although Supinie stated that she is primarily a school music dealer, I have never interviewed a music store owner who has a more complete and full line of products and services than Senseney Music has. There are music books and programs available for newborns, toddlers, schoolchildren, all-age-group piano classes, a community band, rock band camp for teens and ukulele lessons. The merchandise the store carries includes band and orchestral instruments, Fender and Taylor guitars, amplifiers, drums and percussion, Yamaha acoustic and digital pianos, accessories, and printed music for choral, instrumental, vocal, piano and guitar students and teachers, as well as downloadable print music from Hal Leonard and Alfred. There is a fully staffed repair shop; sales of software; gift cards; a sidewalk sale; an Extreme Restringing Day, where customers buy the strings and a staff member puts them on for free; and online rentals of Conn-Selmer, Jupiter and Gemeinhardt instruments. All Supinie needs is an international section and she could take over the world!
The store’s strong point is in developing customer relationships, outshining the competition and acting like several different stores under one roof. “I feel the relationships [departments] have crossover into other departments,” said Supinie. Music education and advocacy is a passion for Senseney Music. There is plenty of competition in the area, with mom-and-pop stores, combo dealers and a Guitar Center. She said that, when Guitar Center moved in, it increased interest in guitars, and Senseney Music outshined in service, quality and a competitive price. Its diversity is another strong point. Sometimes, piano sales are up and then down. By having so much to offer, the store can just shift its emphasis in another direction as trends change.
It has increased its road reps that go out to the schools. Senseney Music has school band rental nights of 75 to 80 scheduled nights, taking the instruments to public and private schools with a rent-to-own program and selling the parents an accessory pack. Retired band directors are hired to help with recruiting prior to the band rental nights over a territory that encompasses the bottom third of the state. The rental fleet comprises about 2,200 instruments. Senseney also supports groups such as the Wichita Symphony and smaller ones, putting staff on their boards. It uses the Tri-Tech AIMsi software to track its piano teacher loyalty program, offering five percent in points for every dollar spent on print music.
Staff members like DeAnn Diller, who has worked there for more than 30 years managing keyboard sheet music, are offered a 401(k) retirement plan and split the premium for medical insurance. Sixty staff members work on either a full- or part-time basis. As a “life-long learner,” Supinie has benefited from show seminars and NAMM University. She has presented classes at the show’s Idea Center, covering topics such as budgeting and social media.
Being a female business owner, Supinie thinks women do business a bit differently as compared to men. “I think we are more perceptive of people and try to understand others’ side of things, and are more collaborative,” she explained, adding, “I don’t mean we are more emotional.” As a great mentor, Senseney made a point that Supinie was active in his business meetings with vendors and other merchants to make a smooth transition of power when he retired. She also had a group of women friends who were equally successful in college and life, never thinking about restrictive gender roles. With respect to her staff, the Operations Manager is also female, as are members of the repair shop. Looking at the Web site, it looks like the managing staff is equally split, men and women.
Within the industry, Supinie connects with other female owners who are supportive of each other. She is very active in the industry and was President in 2009 of the Retail Print Music Dealers Association (RPMDA). She is a member of the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD) and became a member of NAMM’s Board of Directors in 2011. Plus, Senseney Music has been voted one of the top 100 dealers in the nation. Supinie believes in NAMM’s Circle of Benefits.
Lori Supinie believes we are a sharing industry and that, in sharing information, we all win. And she was great about sharing information. “We do root each other on,” she affirmed. Supinie encourages all of us to participate in the shows, join our professional groups, be active music makers and continue learning. This makes sense for Senseney Music, and all of us.