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‘We Create Musicians’: Maxwell’s House of Music is Having a Banner Year in 2024

Christian Wissmuller • April 2024ArchivesRetail • April 5, 2024

Two major awards from the 2024 NAMM Show – including “Dealer of the Year – are just some of the most recent accolades being bestowed upon Jeffersonville, Indiana’s beloved Maxwell’s House of Music. The 12,500 square foot music superstore has been supplying instruments and gear, as well as providing lessons, repairs, and installations to the area’s musicians and venues for over four decades – and only seems to be gaining momentum!

Co-owner Mark Maxwell recently sat down with MMR to talk about the business’ history, how he’s implemented some effective changes since purchasing the store in 2011, and how Maxwell’s House of Music plans to continue improving and expanding their service offerings for their loyal customer-base.


Let’s quickly go over some history and get MMR readers who may be unfamiliar up to speed: Maxwell’s House of Music has been in operation for over four decades under a few names. Can you talk about what inspired Marvin and Beverly Maxwell to found the business? What was their shared background that made them want to work in the MI retail industry?

My dad was a drummer, and was traveling all over the country with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. With a wife and three kids, he wanted to be closer to home. He started working for a local music store for a while, but then he and mom decided to start their own business. Raising kids was the inspiration for that decision! My parents didn’t have a shared music background, but they really balanced each other out well in the business. Their different skill sets and personalities really complemented each other which made it all work.

And how did the store evolve to the present-day operation?

Well, my siblings and I grew up in a music store. Music education and retail is what my family knew. My parents had four stores in the Southern Indiana/Louisville, KY metro area. When the housing market crashed in 2008 it was a turning point for them. We all tried to do what we could, but they finally had to make the decision to scale back. They kept the Louisville, KY and Jeffersonville, IN stores.

By the end of 2010, they were ready to close the Jeffersonville store. In January 2011, my wife, Angie, and I bought it. I literally had 500 square feet of retail space with some strings and about $1,000 in inventory! About 12 teachers stuck around with me in the other 2,500 square feet of the education department. Thank goodness for that, because education is what kept this business on the map!

In 2013, I added a “Dream Weaver” (literally her title) to our small staff, who helped us build a new foundation as we were doing inexpensive, yet productive things that made it possible to bring in more staff, more inventory, and more customers. Our progress was noticeable.

We made the decision to expand in 2016 when the space adjacent to us became available. All of a sudden, we were working with 12,500 square feet of space. Stocking that much space with inventory was our next financial challenge. We got very creative to make Maxwell’s HOUSE of Music. We built out small rooms that reflected places where people play music. From the den, to the kid’s bedroom, to a church, a garage, et cetera. It was interesting, different, and fun. We had successfully designed a showroom that felt magical on a very low budget. People were showing up, signing up, and shopping! In addition to that, the community was talking about us and our quirky music store.

We rode that wave for three years, and then when I had an opportunity to add some financial backing by bringing in a business partner, I jumped on it in 2019. This allowed for more inventory from more lines. Whitney McNicol is the financial mind that helps keep our bottom line on track. She helps make it possible to dream a little bigger now, too! For example, in 2022, we bought and relocated the iconic Guitar Emporium of Louisville, which was established in 1975.

What we have evolved into has been built by decades of history in this region.

Currently, how many employees are there at Maxwell’s?

Today, we have 11 staff members, and 27 teachers. I am so proud of this extremely talented team. Their skills, unique perspectives, ideas, and personalities are what push us to our success. Having a strong team in place is vital.

Trust me when I say that I fully understand how staffing issues can tear us away from what we do best. In fact, over the past year, we have had a couple serious challenges on this front. I have learned a lot from these scenarios, that I hope I don’t have to relearn! (Fool me once…)

In addition to being a full line combo store, you also offer extensive music lesson programs, repairs, and installation services. Can you talk about how meaningful it’s been to the overall business to have the capacity to serve so many needs?

Being a one-stop-shop wasn’t necessarily the spoken goal, but it has evolved into this over time. Our offerings and services are very much entangled with each other. The fact that it is all so tightly tied together does help create a synergy that we are able to serve to our community. Don’t get me wrong, it sure would be easier to just sell guitars, but the reality is, the profit margins wouldn’t allow that for long! Maxwell’s has embraced being a diversified resource on many levels.

Uniquely, you also have a fairly sizable performance/event venue. When it’s not being rented out, how do you make use of that space?

Our venue space has recently been memorialized in honor of a friend, Don Ernst. His widow, Nancy, knew he would want his state-of-the-art equipment to make a positive impact on our students’ music education and performance experiences, therefore she donated most of the sound and recording gear for the Don Ernst Theater.

While we do rent out the space to bands who want to rehearse, we use that room almost every day for education purposes. We teach our Rock School, Weekend Warriors, Rock Orchestra, and the performance phase of our Music Lab groups on the stage. We also have “up close and personal” concerts in our venue. It holds 100-150 depending on the seating arrangement, so we really have a lot of options with this well-appointed room. This is a relatively new use of this room for after hours, but it has already drawn seven nationally touring artists/bands just over the last year. While it is another draw into the store, it’s not a directly profitable use of this space.

Maxwell’s House of Music has long been recognized for service to the community and a tradition of excellence, collecting a good number of accolades along the way. The big recent news (or some of the recent big news), of course, is Maxwell’s winning both the NAMM Dealer of the Year and Innovation awards: Can you talk about the experience leading up to the big win and how it felt to walk on that stage – twice – to pick up two of the industry’s biggest awards?

The experience leading up to our big night at NAMM has been decades in the making. Without my parents, Marvin and Beverly Maxwell, starting this fire many years ago, none of this would be possible. Hard work, interesting ideas, and community engagement involving many talented people have created a very special music retail and education experience… right here in an old strip mall in Jeffersonville, IN.

As far as the Top Dealer ceremony goes, Whitney and I were thrilled about winning the Innovation Award that night and were really just enjoying that moment. For the final category when they listed all of the nominees, we couldn’t believe we were in the mix. I remember looking at her and saying, “No way.” When Zach Phillips announced, “Dealer of the Year is Maxwell’s House of Music,” we were in shock. The walk to the stage from the back of the room where we were seated is a blur. I don’t remember much of what I said up there, but I know I thanked our team, and that’s the most important thing.

Another recent honor bestowed upon you was being appointed as Indiana Arts Commissioner for Region 12. Can you talk about the events that led to such a thing and explain to our readers what your duties will be in that position?

The Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) is a state agency that works with creatives and organizations to help elevate artists and musicians of Indiana. This ranges from communicating about grant application opportunities, to networking, to informing artists about other various resources.

When I learned that the Arts Commissioner of my area was about to step down, I contacted the executive director of the IAC. It was a process of applying and interviewing, before I was later appointed by Governor Holcomb. My region consists of seven counties in Southern Indiana. My role is to act as a liaison between artists and musicians and the IAC. It truly is an honor to be a part of something that connects artists and musicians with each other and to potential resources.

Maxwell’s has quite a lot to celebrate in 2024 – and we’ve barely begun the year! Do you have any special events, promotions, or sales planned to mark all these wonderful developments and acknowledgements of both the business and yourself?

Yes, 2024 has certainly had an epic start! Our primary focus today is to continue to build the Maxwell’s Music Lab. In fact, there are two separate groups of 48 people who are 60+ years-old starting in March. We will also be adding more Lab sessions for school-aged students. In addition, we have a new electric rock orchestra being taught by a Grammy-nominated teacher that is growing every month. We’re working with The Kentucky Derby Festival to place students, teachers, and customers on their performance stage during Derby week. We are planning several performances at our outdoor stage for Make Music Day. Of course, we have a few surprises up our sleeve for the summer and fall that I believe the community will love!

If you could boil it down to one maxim or saying or philosophical principle: what is it that you think Maxwell’s House of Music is doing – and has done – right that has led to such a long history of success as an MI retailer?

Yes! The motto that drives our retail and education efforts is “We Create Musicians.”

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