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Musician's Friend expands to East

Medford-based Musician's Friend will build a 43,500-square-foot warehousein Knoxville, Tenn., to serve the eastern half of the United States.

It's the latest step for the direct-mail guitar and music accessory company,which has grown in three years to more than $50 million in sales and 250employees.

The company will continue to serve the West from the 36,600-square-footheadquarters and mail-order processing center it opened in Medford in 1992.

The Knoxville facility is set to open in September. Knoxville was selectedbecause of its access to trucking routes and Tennessee's tremendousmusic awareness, said Al Bessin, vice president of operations.

Knoxville will take some pressure off our Medford warehouse,said Al DiNardi, vice president. About 70 to 75 percent of our shipmentsgo east of the Rockies.

Rob and DeAnna Eastman started Musician's Friend in 1980 in an EaglePoint milking barn. Rob Eastman's father, Bud Eastman, founded Guitar Playermagazine in 1968 in San Jose, Calif., before retiring in Jackson County.

Musician's Friend in 1988 opened a Medford retail store, which grew to13,000 square feet by 1995. The company has added showrooms in Eugene andKirkland, in suburban Seattle.

The great part of our business is that we have customers in everystate, DiNardi said. When we opened a store in Seattle, so manypeople said they were glad we finally opened there.

A second Seattle-area store has been leased and should open by November,said Bessin.

He predicted sales should significantly exceed $50 million this year,with growth from both the retail stores and catalog sales. The company mailed5 million catalogs last year.

The 148-page main catalog has been divided into editions for guitar players,bass players and keyboard players, each paired with a stage and studio section.

DiNardi said the company has expanded its home recording offerings andis starting to dabble in consumer electronics such as CD players.

We're going to take it a step at a time, Bessin said. Whereretail stores complement our business, we'll do it. That's still a relativelysmall part of our business.

The company also has introduced a Web site which is getting 500,000 hitsa week. The address:

Bessin said the Internet connection permits the company to provide samplesof its audio products.

The site generated $300,000 in sales in 1996 and is expected to exceed$1 million this year.