Willmar’s Whitney Music enters new era with store closure – West Central Tribune

WILLMAR – For 27 years, Whitney Music in Willmar has been helping musicians in west-central Minnesota make great music. A full-service music store, it offered instruments, accessories, repair services, and music lessons.

But, like so many other things in life, the melody of Whitney Music has to change. Fortunately, however, the music store will not be bowing out just yet.

Store Closure, Upcoming Online Auction

“Effective July 1, the Whitney Music retail store has been closed,” said Robert Whitney, who, along with his wife Jeanne, has owned the store for nearly three decades.

Earlier this year, the Whitneys had hoped to find a buyer for the store to keep it open. However, no serious parties have come forward. It was a difficult decision to make, to close, but the couple are at peace with it.

Whitney Music, located at 913 Highway 71 Northeast in Willmar, closed its retail store effective July 1, 2022. An online auction begins July 11 to sell store inventory, including many musical instruments .

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

“We’ve really enjoyed our 27 years at Whitney Music. And it’s been a wonderful business and we’ve met a lot of great people and we wanted to continue in some ways,” Robert said. “But, because of our age, we know it’s time now.”

“It’s time to retire,” added Jeanne. “It’s the right thing to do.”

With the store closed, the couple had to find a way to sell all the remaining stock, which is around 1,900 items, including musical instruments, books, accessories and even home decor. They decided to hold an online auction with Ziemer/Hilbrands Auction. People will be able to bid on items from July 11 through July 25 at 7 p.m.
“We said we would have no minimum bids, no buy-it-now prices,” Robert said. “We want to move inventory. People will do great business.”

There’s a whole orchestra, or group, of instruments in the auction – from woodwinds and brass to strings. There are also guitars, pianos and three organs available.

“We want to see the instruments in people’s hands, to be played,” Jeanne said.
With the closure of the retail store, Whitney Music will no longer be available for instrument rentals, a program used by many musicians over the years, especially school-aged students. All current leases will continue and customers will be able to keep their instruments and continue to have them serviced.

“We will honor those,” Robert said.

The store had also offered studio space for music lessons. Robert said these will continue at the store throughout the summer. However, once fall comes, these classes may need to be moved to other locations. Students should discuss their plans with their teachers.

Matt Reich and Sara Kalthoff, Whitney Music Service Center technicians, July 7, 2022.JPG
Whitney Music Service Center foreman Matt Reich and technician Sara Kalthoff, foreground, repair an oboe and flute in the repair shop July 7, 2022. The duo look forward to continuing the service center.

Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Whitney Music lives in a service center

While the retail store may take its final callback, the Whitney name will continue to Willmar under the guise of the Whitney Music Service Center. The instrument repair shop will remain open, primarily run by its well-trained staff of repair technicians. Robert said that while there are many options available for buying a musical instrument, including online, finding a repair shop is quite another thing.

“The service part of our business, there’s a great need for that,” Robert said.
Whitney Music Service Center will continue to repair all kinds of instruments. The center will also begin sourcing instruments in need of repair from other regional stores and school districts which, in turn, will help student musicians from Willmar and other area schools find their instruments for music lessons.

“I was a little nervous at first, but now I can’t wait to get there,” said Matt Reich, director of the Whitney Music Service Center. “Things are looking up. We’re accepting a new client, the workload is increasing.”

The service center, accessible through the back door of the Whitney Music building, will sell instrument accessories, such as reeds, oil and straps.

The past few weeks have been a bit bittersweet, as the couple prepared store inventory for the auction and ended popular Thursday night music concerts.

“The hardest part was stopping the music,” Jeanne said. “There was a certain sadness with that.”

But all is not sad. Saturday morning and Monday evening jam sessions will continue, using the space provided in the El Viejon Mariscos Y Tacos restaurant, located next to the music store. Robert plans to continue participating in the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra. The couple will also be seen from time to time at the service center, Robert in particular, who plans to be in many mornings.

“As long as I’m needed,” Robert said.

As the Whitneys enter their first phase of retirement, they look forward to their granddaughter’s wedding in Duluth. And Robert has a COVID-19 project he can’t wait to play with.

“Bob has a boat that he – during COVID – really worked hard to restore,” Jeanne said. It’s a turquoise and white imp from 1967. “He can’t wait to get it in the water.”

Robert and Jeanne have enjoyed their time running the store very much, but they are also looking forward to the future.

“The Willmar community has been very supportive otherwise we wouldn’t have been here for 27 years,” Robert said. “I’m really proud to be part of the business community here.”

“It was fun,” Jeanne said.

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