Webster’s Dictionary defines paradise as “a very beautiful, pleasant or peaceful place that seems to be perfect,” and that is exactly what Bryan Loy hopes you’ll find when you visit Paradise Music.

“I named my store Paradise Music because if a musician can shop at a store that has competitive pricing and that can take care of any needs he or she may have without creating a major hassle, then that, for them, is a little slice of paradise,” said Loy. “And that’s what we always try to do.” He continued, “We believe in music, and we share that love with others.”

Loy’s love of music is what carried him into the music products business in the first place. He began playing piano at seven and guitar at 11, clocking years of experience playing in bands, churches, ensembles and more. Although he had no business experience to speak of, Loy decided to try his hand at selling instruments when, as a music teacher working out of his home, he reached out to some instrument manufacturers to see if he could carry supplies for his students. He opened his first “store” in 1986 in a room built onto his house in Jacksboro TN, where he sold Gibson Bluegrass, Acoustics and Epiphones, as well as other name brands.

“Although I started from home, I soon realized that this location was not going to let me grow the way I wanted to,” Loy explained. “So, I found an empty storefront on the main drag in town and set up a storefront shop.” Loy ran the shop along with his wife in the early days, but, since then, he’s increased his employee roster to include three part-time staff members. Now, 30 years and one move to North Carolina later, Loy operates two locations in adjoining counties, and he’s currently eyeing a third. In all three counties, Loy is, or would be, the only game in town.

“This seems to be a trend with us: find a town that doesn’t have a music store, find a decent building that has affordable rent and then just make folks aware that we’re here,” Loy remarked. “I have had competition in previous locations, and my edge was to try to service the customer better than anyone else. Nearly 30 years of constant learning has made us the go-to guys in the area.”

One such lesson, which Loy learned early in his MI career, is that you can’t be all things to all people. “When I first started, full of big hopes and dreams, that’s what I had in mind,” he said. “It didn’t take me long to learn that a combo store doesn’t do well selling pianos, even though we teach that here. We focus on what we do best, and try to get better at it.”

Over the years, Loy has learned another lesson: if he wants to keep up with the changing times, he has to put less emphasis on his sales floor. He explained, “One of my iMSO [Independent Music Store Owners] brothers, Allen McBroom from Backstage Music in Mississippi, made the statement that music stores in small towns are like musical hardware stores, providing all the little bits and pieces that keep the instruments working and the people playing.” Loy strongly agreed with McBroom’s sentiment.

“I think that sales are actually less important now that there are so many buying choices. We have the hometown stores, like ours; the box stores, which don’t seem to be doing so well these days either; and the Internet, where I’m not so sure that a lot of these guys are making any money with the bottom-feeder prices they offer,” Loy continued. “We have to charge more, but we fix it if it breaks and take it back in on trade if you want to get a better instrument. Find an online dealer that can do all we do. I don’t think you can.”

Indeed, the store has given greater focus to its lessons and services—including repairs, as well as buying and selling used instruments—and that, Loy said, has helped to sustain the sales side of his business. He has been working steadily to grow his lessons program, although it has been “a bit of a struggle” to break through the community’s old habits.

“Dad or grandpa or uncle will teach a child some chords on piano or guitar, and that has always been how that has been done,” Loy explained. “There has only been one music store besides me here in about the last 50 years. So, there haven’t been the opportunities available that a music store can bring. Folks are a little slow to change.” They are changing, however, and the lessons program’s numbers are growing each year to prove it.

Even after 30 years, Loy is focused on continuing to grow his business, and he has no intentions of calling it a day. “I have survived a couple of recessions, a divorce and God only knows what else, but I have such a love for this business that I couldn’t dream of doing anything else,” he said.

“I guess they’ll carry me out of the shop with my toes turned up,” he quipped, “because I can’t ever see myself retiring!”

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