Monday profile: Rodgers makes Western Colorado his business
Glenwood Music owner says that information and customer service are what drives his retail business
Joe Rodgers knew that he wanted to live in Western Colorado, he just didn’t know how he was going to make a living here.
From the 1980s to the mid 2000s Rodgers, now the owner of Glenwood Music, had developed a thriving career repairing pro-audio equipment in his home state of Maryland. But when his service business began drying up as more and more music stores went corporate, he started looking to the West.
“Being born and raised there, I was done with the traffic and some of the intensity level. Everyone’s much more opinionated because they tend to move there for that reason,” Rodgers said. “Like a typical East Coaster I would fly out to ski or hike and loved it out here, but I could never figure out how to make a living in Western Colorado, which I knew was where I wanted to live.”
Rodgers first took a job with a Denver tech firm. But as fate would have it, he ran into previous Glenwood Music owner Larry Gruber in 2010 at a time when Gruber was looking to sell the business.
“Larry barely survived the crash of ’08 and ’09, and he needed to move back to Denver at a time when I wanted to move out here,” Rodgers said. “So it was good timing, and I was able to purchase the business at a reasonable price.”
With his expertise mainly on the electronics side of the business, Rodgers knew he would need a partner to handle the string instruments. Enter Kevin Ware, who had lost his own well-paying job during the recession, and was “miserable pumping gas at the Eagle County Airport,” Rodgers said.
“We hit it off, he came on board, and I bought Larry’s business.”
Rodgers grew up in a musical family. His mother was an accomplished pianist, and Rodgers began piano lessons at age 7. His father was a semi-professional tenor who was a replacement singer for Bobby Fisher at the end of World War II, and was a soloist for “one of the better church choirs on the East Coast,” Rodgers said. “They sang for Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul in Rome.”
He got a degree in electronics after high school in the 1970s and immediately got into the electronics repair business. By the 1980s he had transitioned almost all of repair skill into the world of pro audio music — the entertainment industry.
“Really from about the early ’80s on, everything I did on the repair side was in the professional audio music/entertainment industry,” Rodgers said. “In [Washington] DC I did all the repairs for the U.S. Air Force Band. I had the government contract there for years. I did all the repairs for some of the mega-churches, recording studios, night clubs, musicians, Guitar Centers, the Mom & Pop music stores. There you’re busy 24/7 just fixing stuff.”
Rodgers’ pro-audio repair skill was largely responsible for Glenwood Music quickly outgrowing its downtown location after he purchased it in 2010, which precipitated its move to the former Blockbuster space in the Roaring Fork Marketplace in 2011.
“People were bringing in giant mixers and they had closets full of gear that were just sitting around, because nobody was fixing anything — we were tripping over stuff,” Rodgers said.
Glenwood Music now has the only authorized electronic service center in all of Western Colorado.
“Even the stores in Grand Junction send me their repairs, so my service territory is even larger than my retail territory,” Rodgers said. “It’s literally from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Moab, Utah, and from the Wyoming border to Telluride.
“People would rather travel here than go to Denver. It’s been a really big part of what we do because there are so few music stores that are able to have in-house service anymore.”
Evolving the business
Rodgers has grown Glenwood Music in many ways over the past 10 years.
In 2012 he secured the Roaring Fork Valley’s band instrument rental business by purchasing Roaring Fork Music from Ed Wilson, who he then brought onboard, along with Travis Lucero, to run that side of the business.
Rodgers has also made service and information a central part of the business’s focus, with Rodgers handling the electronic repair, Ware handling the string instrument repair, and Wilson and Lucero handling the band instrument repair.
“We’re finding more and more in this internet-driven environment, that information and customer service is huge and that’s where we have the leg up over the Sweetwaters and the Amazons and the Musician Friends, which only do online sales,” Rodgers said. “Staffing with knowledgable employees is huge. Everyone who works here is a musician of some sort or another. We know the business. Most of us have been at it most of our lives, and customers appreciate that side of it.”
Rodgers expanded the store into the adjacent space vacated by Audio Gear last year, adding a “real loading dock” a warehouse, and a piano showroom.
But like most retail businesses, Glenwood Music was hit hard by Covid shutdowns, and even though he was able to keep the doors open a crack due to his designation as an essential seller of audio streaming equipment, Rodgers was forced to furlough all his employees except Ware.
“A big shout-out to the local music community for supporting us during Covid,” Rodgers said. “People say ‘we want to make sure you guys are still here.’”
“We more than survived, and we’re looking forward to bringing back some of our furloughed employees in August.”
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