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'Musichead' owner thrives on love of tunes

EDITOR'S NOTE: 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?

The main thing we do is buy and sell used CDs, records and DVDs and all sorts of entertainment media. We also have guitars and accessories. I teach guitar and have a recording service. We've been doing this 14 years.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

We moved here from Alameda, Calif., in the Bay Area 15 years ago.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

I had a guitar shop here originally and I shared a space with a record store in Alameda. When I opened my store I kind of thought of it as a guitar store and incorporated some CDs and they did pretty well for a long time and that took over the focus of the business.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

I left a lot of income in the business trying to grow it super-quickly in hopes that I would have the volume to sustain new competition. I think that was a mistake and I could have taken more of that income and survived just as well.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

Sometimes just staying in the music business. The industry has been down 30 to 35 percent from its peak, the last few years consistently now. There are other ways for people to get their music now. Looking at the whole industry shrink and staying in might be unwise, but it's what I like to do.

Who are your competitors?

Circuit City is currently the main competitor and we still talk to people who are downloading music without paying for it. iTunes was growing until last year when it was down (percentage wise) in the teens. So there is competition both from legal and illegal sides. We're human, we know people's names and what they like and try to be personable.

How do you define success for your business?

Being able to stay open. I consider it being a success because we fill a niche. People who like the store really appreciate it. We still buy music everyday — records often — and movies, too. The core of our business is buying what one person doesn't want and selling it to someone who does, cheaper than online. Jym Harris has been with me most of the time, too, and that's been an important part too.

What are your goals?

I hope to be able to maintain our services and giving people money for what they don't want and hope to grow the guitar business and teaching. We used to do concerts here two or three times a week. There were building safety requirements that kept us from going on. We had to move all the storage area out, but building safety and fire guys said we couldn't do it. Usually we had 60 and sometimes more than 100. We are trying to bring it back by getting special permits. We had Ichemia, Idol Threats and Hollowbodys on St. Patrick's Day. We have a show planned for April 23, too.

What training or education did you need?

I worked at Thin Man Strings in Alameda for about four years and then I learned guitar repair and how to set up guitars so that they play the best. I taught there for two years. It was next door to a record store called Fred and Tom's, where I went when I was growing up. I was in school to become a teacher at San Francisco State, less than 10 units away from graduation, and all the sudden I had 25 guitar students and I decided I didn't need to stay around taking tests.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Unless you really, really love the field you are in, you should work for someone else.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com

The outside walls of Eric von Radics Musichead store in Medford are covered with murals. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell