Strait Music Co.
Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Clint Strait, Vice President
Clint Strait is the first third-generation member of his family to join the ranks at Strait Music Co., a mainstay of the Austin music scene for 50 years.
Serving as vice president since 2006, Strait has served as vice president. He works alongside his father, Robert Strait, president of Strait Music, who, according to Clint, “is still here every day, but he’s not as focused on the day-to-day operations as he once was.” Robert Strait himself took over from his father, store founder Dan Strait, in 1982. Though Strait Music may run in the family blood, it was never assumed that Clint would follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I was actually never nudged in that direction; my father always let me navigate those waters myself,” said Clint Strait. “I don’t have a background of playing music, but music has always been a huge part of my life, and growing up in the live-music capital of the world, I have been exposed and seen some amazing shows in my days.”
Clint Strait came to the business on his own through a love of music and of the contribution his store has made to the community over the years — a contribution that first began in 1963, when Dan Strait moved his family from Houston to Austin, where he had the opportunity to open a Baldwin piano franchise. “I believe the original incarnation of Strait Music had one grand piano, one upright piano, one organ, a repair tech, my grandfather and a bookkeeper,” Clint Strait said.
Called Strait Piano and Organ, it was the only piano store in town at the time, but it wasn’t long before the product offerings expanded massively, as Strait Piano and Organ was incorporated and became Strait Music in 1967. To this day, the store continues to offer a full line of products, including pro audio, recording gear, keyboards, drums, pianos, guitars, amps, and a band and orchestra department that Strait said has grown to become “a very significant part of our model now.”
Growing from one product line to many has hardly made Strait Music a jack of all trades, master of none. In fact, Strait proudly noted that the store services every item they sell. There are currently 14 repair technicians on staff to handle that daunting task, along with a seven-member office staff, a cadre of salespeople and others currently employed at what has become a 50-person operation spread across two retail locations.
“The original location we leased was a small space in a shopping center. It was our only one, and the parking was terrible,” recalled Clint Strait. The company still does lease a 10,000-square-foot space that acts as their second store, but they took the plunge and purchased what is now their flagship location — a 24,000-square-foot former movie theater inside the Lakehills Plaza shopping center — in 2001.
Though they may have grown exponentially in terms of staff size and ground covered, Strait aims to keep the business feeling as small-town local and family-friendly as possible. “My grandfather had a motto, calling this ‘a place where customers become friends,’ and we still live by that today,” said Clint Strait, who maintains an active presence for the store in the local community.
Strait Music sponsors local events such as Unplugged at the Grove, “which showcases some of our biggest and best local Austin musicians,” Clint Strait explained. “We are also involved with many local music charities like the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which provides affordable health care to Austin musicians in need and Kids in a New Groove, which provides lessons and instruments to kids in the foster-care system.” It also has a branch of the Austin School of Music operating at each store location in order to offer lessons and support for customers of all ages who frequent the store.
Clint Strait knows how lucky he is to be able to continue the family business — where his uncle also works, running the piano department — because the business had almost been wiped out in two devastating floods in 1981 and 1991. The former, in particular, was quite memorable as the catastrophic Memorial Day flood of 1981 submerged the piano department in seven feet of water. “Pianos floated off down the street,” the store recalls on its website, “but through help from our vendors and a lot of good, loyal customers, the business stayed afloat.”
Recognizing the perseverance that went into not only growing the store from a single location selling a single product to a multi-store operation, but also overcoming the enormously trying times that almost destroyed the whole operation, it’s no wonder that Clint Strait considers patience to be the No. 1 virtue he has developed in his years working at Strait Music.
“Early on, I realized everything can’t be fixed and sometimes knee-jerk reactions are the wrong ones,” he said. “Being a successful business owner, you need to be thoughtful when making decisions, consider all options and surround yourself with people that are not ‘yes’ people, but the kinds of people that you can have constructive conflict with in which to come to the best decisions possible. So, I’d say the biggest lesson learned is patience.
“And make no mistake,” Clint Strait concluded, “I am still actively learning that one.”