Talent House Music and Books
Address:1311 S. Pacific Highway, Talent
Number of employees:2
This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I retail used music and books, including records and CDs along with song books for people who play guitar and piano. I also sell entry-level guitars for new players.
I had the business in Ashland for six years on North Main Street inside the Plaza Mall until two months ago.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?
I've been here for 15 years. I'm originally from Long Island, N.Y. I went to graduate school at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where I met my wife. The first job she got after finishing her doctoral dissertation was in Arkansas. As soon as we got there, we decided we had to get out of there. She got a tenure-track job teaching English at Southern Oregon University. I also got employment teaching English, but I wasn't on a tenure track.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
We loved it here, but my job was going nowhere at SOU so I needed to find something else to do. I stuck with what I loved to do, being with books and music. When I opened up the store, I was still teaching part-time.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?
That probably goes back to the name of the business. When I opened in Ashland, the dictionary use of the word Talent didn't resonate with people. It was associated with the town of Talent, instead of the things I had in the store. It takes talent to create this stuff and people appreciate talent.
I confused people for six years. People would call up and say 'I've driven all over Talent and can't find you.
I was on the verge of changing the name over and over and finally moved. If the business weren't in Talent, I would call it something else. It taught me how important a business name is.
What's the toughest business decision you've made?
Probably to move to Talent. There are a lot of positives to the move, I want to serve my hometown community. I was a little disenchanted, waiting for the tourists every year. I wanted to be more of a community store.
There's a lot of enthusiasm about my move, but I'm uncertain how it will go. It was a profitable business in Ashland, but now I pretty much have to start all over again. I've had some people who sought me out, who went to the old store.
The big question is: Will the tourists who came to Ashland year after year seek me out four miles up the road? I'm already seeing repeat customers in Talent and I have dozens of people already coming back to my store.
Who are your competitors?
As far as including everything under one roof, none. There is a used book store in Talent. One thing I'm banking on is that there's not that much competition. People would come into the Ashland store and go Another bookstore, ho-hum. People in Talent say Wow, this is great.
How do you define success for your business?
Getting people to stop here and developing repeat customers. I've seen that happen where in a matter of hours, someone stops, gets enthused and comes back with a friend. Each store has a character of its own.
One of the exciting things for me is that I pick every single thing in the store. Whatever you have on the shelf defines you. I'm looking for the best of what's new as well as older works of lasting value. With music, that would be everything from Beethoven to the Beatles to Norah Jones. With books, everything from Shakespeare to Mark Twain to Barbara Kingsolver. When people approve of the store, they're approving of your judgment and what you like.
What are your goals?
I would say my economic future is tied to Talent's economic future. I wanted to get into Talent, while Talent is growing. I know I'm not going to get rich, but I would like this to be a nice secondary income to what my wife makes at SOU.
What training or education did you need?
I had never even touched a cash register before I started. I had part-time jobs through high school and college, but no retail experience. What I had a was a love of music and books. The business end, I learned on the fly.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Sometimes I have to remind myself after hard days that this is supposed to be fun. Relax, have fun and enjoy customers. There is going to be a pesky one every so often. Have a cat, it's amazing how people go straight to the animal. It's relaxing and makes them talkative and sets them at ease.