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Like most good stories, the origins of Hauer Music started with some sort of a timely coincidence.

Flash back to the 1930s when Gerald Hauer, the unlikely founder of Hauer Music, was a mere teacher at a musical instrument store. After slowly accruing his own accessory sales in the store from his students, the store owner finally caught on and bit the bullet.

“Do you want to buy my business?” And of course, Gerald said yes. The exchange took place in 1937 in Dayton, Ohio, and while much has changed in the 80 years since then, their roots remain in the Ohio city, not all that far from where it all began.

In 2017, Hauer Music has grown into a two-floor operation, where the company not only sells a stunning variety of musical instruments, but also provides endless repairs and music lessons every week. At their new location, the company finds themselves in a lofty space with room to grow in each of their many MI directions.

Truly, after 80 years, Hauer Music is really just beginning.

MMR talked to co-owner and president Jim Hauer to catch up on the company’s major milestone, and how Hauer Music’s past defines its present.

Could you talk about the origins of the company?

Jim Hauer: The actual Hauer Music was started by my grandfather, Michael Hauer back in 1937. And prior to that he was a big band leader, “Michael Hauer and His Band of the Hour.” He was a national act but mainly played in Ohio area, many times as a dance band. He was broadcast by CBS throughout the country using The Nation’s Station radio station WLW out of Cincinnati. So he was playing in a big band and then started giving a few lessons at a music store, teaching saxophone, clarinet, all the woodwind instruments, and sooner or later the music store saw that he was expanding out [of ] his music lesson program and expanding out a little accessory - a little, how would you say, kind of a counter he had for accessories. Then he expanded it more and almost took over the music store and finally the owner says, “Hey, you want to buy my business?” And he finally decided that’s what he wanted to do – get into the retail music business. So it started in 1937. And from there we’re now four generations. I’m the third generation and I have a son, Eric Hauer and a daughter, Ashley Hauer that will be the fourth generation of Hauer music. So that was kind of the starting of it. My father, Gerald Hauer, expanded the store to a much greater degree because we got into all kinds of things besides just a band and orchestral instruments. Obviously we got into drums and guitars, pianos, organs, hi-fi, so it was truly a full-line music store. And we are still a full line music store but we don’t sell hi-fi anymore.

Could you summarize the evolution of the store all the way to present day?  Would you say anything else about that as far as how many people were on staff at the beginning and then how does that compare to today?

Right. Well we’ve of course expanded into, with my father, we were downtown Dayton, and this was just up to just a few years ago. So we were always in Dayton since 1937, downtown Dayton. And then in 1989 we went into a four-story, 40,0000 square foot brewery that was built in 1896. It was built in 1896. It was a brewery called Saks-Prudent Brewery and it was actually a famous brewery even though it was out of Dayton, Ohio. So we were in a little place on First Street, downtown Dayton, that again started from ‘37 and went all the way to 1989 and then we basically went from 1989 all the way up to 2013. So almost 25 years in this big building downtown.

In the big brewery?

In the big brewery, yep. Unfortunately, we weren’t serving beer but it would have fit very well with the music industry. And then back in 2013 we did a buildout of this place that we have here in Centerville, Ohio. So we moved in the suburbs. We went to where the people were. Downtown Dayton is like a lot of downtowns in cities and doesn’t have to be... Even some major cities are having struggles with their downtowns, but Dayton, it was struggling a little bit with the economy of downtown Dayton. So we moved about 15 miles south of the downtown city of Dayton into Centerville, which is a suburb of Dayton, obviously. And it’s a very, very nice area. More traffic, a lot of restaurants, a lot of retail, things that just weren’t happening downtown.

What is the square fooage of your new space?

Surprisingly, it is 30,000 square feet. So we moved into a pretty large facility. Now, to be honest with you, 15,000 of this is retail. 3,000 of the space is for repair, that’s our second floor. So we have two floors of 15,000 square feet. But most of it’s basically an empty warehouse that we have not grown into. So we majorly downsized – it’s hard to explain because we had four stories in the other facilities that we weren’t adequately using, and this we only have two stories and, you know, about 12,000 feet that we’re not really actively using.

With room to grow.

With room to grow.

And are you doing lessons there?

We absolutely are doing lessons. Yes, we have 16 teaching studios on our main floor. All of our retail, all of our activities, everything is on a main, one floor operation. Before we had it on two floors, it was complicated to manage with two floors doing retail. So this is all very nice open space but with individual department rooms and then obviously isolated teaching studios that are semi-soundproofed but all on the first floor. We teach right now. We instruct, it’s growing to about 500 students a week.

And which year did you move there?

Well we didn’t get in here till 2014 so we’ve only been here just a little over two years. Yeah, we started in 2013 to do the buildout but it was towards the end of the year to 2014, we finally got in here in May of 2014. So we’ve just been in here a little over two years.

What is your philosophy around lessons, rentals, and repairs? How does that work for your business?

The lesson program is absolutely vital. If you do not grow the musical community from the infancy stage of, you know, learning an instrument, the market’s gonna die. So you have to promote the fact of music lessons and that you are a facility that wants to encourage a teaching and hands on. One on one instructions with a teacher that can help you get motivated, like a personal trainer, you know, it’s independently focused on you. And so we think that’s very important. We’re teaching all ages. Probably the youngest one is probably six, and I definitely have people that are close to 80 years old that are taking lessons.

So it’s a wide range of ages that are taking lessons, and they’re starting earlier and earlier. We’re finding young ones that are really nicely focused and have the attention span. Most lessons are just a half hour. So it’s good for the young students. There are some adults that are taking an hour lesson so the teachers kind of dictate it. We call them, they’re hired contractors. We don’t have them physically on our payroll but these are professional instructors, many of them have degrees at universities for Music Education. And so we try to staff good quality teachers.

How many teachers do you have?

We have 17 instructors.

How many people on staff total?

We have on staff, the total is 21, if we include part time and full time. That’s including our repair department and that’s including our sales staff, our road representatives, and that’s including all of our accounting department is 21. That’s not including the teachers.

Do you have relationships with the local schools?

We call on about 70 local schools. We cover about a 50 mile radius from our location. So there are multiple school districts. So when we say schools, we’re usually talking going to the high schools. And with 50 it’s a lot of schools because when we go to the high schools, they may have four, five, or possibly even six feeder schools that feed that high school. So we are talking about a lot of schools. When we talk about a 50 mile radius and we’re going out to about 50 to 60 plus schools, those are just the high schools and then the teachers then communicate or we take repairs in or accessories. We don’t deal with the individual elementary school, the actual feeder schools to the high schools. We typically go to the high schools and then each one of the high schools then will take the repairs and they’ll take whatever the accessories to the feeder schools which is pretty good. So in a sense it’s way over 150 plus schools that we’re calling on.

Okay, so when the elementary feeder schools need repairs they’re sending them to the high school to get in touch with your company?

Absolutely.

Now I know why you have a whole floor of repairs.

We have a huge repair staff, yes.

And you said the repair staff was how large in particular?

Well, we just have five full time repair people but they put out... Oh my gosh, I mean, hundreds of repairs a week, a week. So yeah, they’re a very busy staff for just five.

Do you have any upcoming events that you want to make mention of?

You know, right now we’re just talking to some of the vendors, we deal with companies such as Yamaha, of course. Some of the big ones like Fender and Martin guitars and we’ve got Pearl. So we’ve got a variety of brands that we’re asking right now, what would they like to participate in and then that helps us to kinda see, “Do we want to do clinics? Do we want to do some type of milestone?” So right now, no. I have been so busy trying to figure out our year end here which comes up in March to kinda close that year end that once we get past that then... But I am already bugs in the ears of the manufacturers to see how they would like to support and then that kind of dictates a little bit. Some people will give us clinicians to come in and do something. That’d be nice. We may do some type of concert. So right at the present time I haven’t nailed down exactly how we’re going to celebrate the 80th.

So you have any milestone events or awards that you’d like to make mention of?

We’ve won a number of awards It’s the Better Business Bureau Eclipse Integrity, it’s called the Eclipse Award and it’s an Integrity Award that’s given to local businesses that exceed, you know, exceptional services that are beyond reproach there and Guitar Player Magazine, they named us the top... Well in fact we were the only store in Ohio they named. It was the 50 independent stores in the United States and we were the only one in Ohio. So we were not only the top but we were the only one of Ohio.

Do you have any association with prominent artists or organizations?

We have repairmen that have done repairs for people like Wynton Marsalis has come to us. We’re well-known, not only in this area, but again, some of the top performers have been by and have used our service center for repairs. Marsalis and Doc Severinsen, are definitely two noted ones that I have pictures with the repairmen.. One of our repairmen that has been with us the longest and he is the head department manager of the service department. His name is Gary Dafler. He’s our head tech. We’ve been a NAMM member since the ‘60s so I guess we’re an old time member. I remember going to the Chicago show. Chicago goes way, way back. That was the big show. You went to Chicago for the big shows, yeah. But it was typically summertime. It was definitely not a wintertime show. To my knowledge, it was... Anaheim, I don’t know when Anaheim started. That’s a great question. But even if Anaheim started it was not the big show. The regional show was Chicago. And then obviously, more of the California companies wanted to put more interest into that Anaheim show and that’s why all of a sudden most manufacturers, or the distribution centers for the manufacturers overseas was in California.

So then Anaheim became the big thing and then of course, because CES, which is a huge, huge show has used Chicago and then of course, Las Vegas.

What do you think makes the store unique?

Well, I think we have a staff that understands the product line. Most of the people that we have in the store on our sales staff have been here ten years or longer. Some of them have been here with us 20, some have been with us 30 years or more. I’ve been doing it myself for over 40 years. My brother, Bill Hauer, he’s the general manager of the store. I’m the president of the store. So I have a brother that is a percussion specialist. He’s plays percussion professionally. So I’ve also been in the string area both, you know, orchestral instruments and also guitars for that 40 years. So I have a real good knowledge of current instruments and vintage instruments and my brother in the percussion has that same kind of knowledge, current.

But then the staff that we surround around us, I’m on the floor. My brother’s on the sales floor. So any customers can come and see the owners but they can see people that really play the instrument and understand the instrument and it’s not just selling a box. We encourage hands on. So we think the advice that they’re getting from one of our sales member is truly, how would you say, an educational experience on the instrument. And we’re here to sell them a lifetime of music, not just sell them a box.

If I had to take it off the top of my head, I’m thinking we have at least, and this is not including the repair department, just on the sales staff, at least 200 years of experience on the sales floor.

You have a brother, is he a co-owner?

Yes, we’re co-owners. Absolutely, we’re co-owners but he is vice president and general manager of the store.

And how do you refer to yourself?

A co-owner and president.

What are your thoughts on how your company’s past defines its present day identity now?

Well, we’re an old school, full line music retailer. I mean we like the customer to come into the store and have hands on experiences with the instruments. So in that sense we’re a little behind times. I think it’s so valuable that we still have this brick and mortar store but we are looking intently and we are walking, we are not running, towards the whole, you know, cyber side of things and exploring. Even though we do have an eBay store, it’s still on small scale even though we’ve sold a number of things on eBay, it’s still in the infancy stage. We are looking at other sources such as reverb.com. We’re looking at a lot of ways to expand. We have a minimal Facebook page and presenting ourselves. So we’re seeing the whole digital explosion in the musical industry as something that’s kind of a frontier for us. We are not... How would you say, we’re adopting very slowly. And so that’s one area of tremendous growth potential that we think is there. It’s just that we’ve been very slow to the game, you know, on that one.

Right. And to be a store that has such quality experienced sales staff, how do you get that out to your online audience?

We have to just tell them. I mean it’s there. It’s a story that has to be told and we’re looking at ways to present that story. I mean we have, again, on our website, has a little bit of history, but we’re really not selling it to the full extent it can.

And what spin would you put on the story that you would tell about your store?

Our musical heritage. I mean it started with the grandfather that had a love of music. My father had a complete love of music, and I mean, truly my brother, myself are here each and every day. I mean we love to sell musical instruments. We love to talk the story. And we feel like we are a reputable business. And I think one of the failings of many music stores is it becomes kind of like a box store mentality. Keep hiring managers and then you’ve got this whole layer of people that it finally comes down to sales people that are really just nothing more than just a paid staff that almost can read a script. They really don’t have depth and they don’t have love. That’s our lives. You know, it’s not a job, we eat, sleep, and think music.

 



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