Yukon’s music scene is on the brink of losing two of its champions.
Both Steve’s Music Shop and Rose Music plan to shut down this spring.
Over seven years in operation, the stores gained a loyal group of customers who browse the shelves for new instruments and new tunes on a regular basis.
“I’ve had kids in here crying,” said Steve’s Music Shop owner Steve Hare last week, sitting in his shop at the corner of Third Avenue and Jarvis Street in downtown Whitehorse.
“I’ve talked to half a dozen adults with tears in their eyes,” he said.
While Steve’s Music will close because of too much business, its neighbour Rose Music will shut down because there’s not enough.
Steve Gedrose opened Rose Music a decade ago to add a new dimension to the Whitehorse music market.
“The idea was to present stuff that’s not readily available in town from big stores,” said Gedrose, perched on a stool behind the counter of the shop on Thursday morning.
“For a long time, that was great,” he added.
Over the past few years, sales have slipped by more than 30 per cent, so Gedrose decided to close for good when his lease ends in June.
“I’m not sure where all the business is going, I just know it’s not coming to me anymore,” he said.
“Certainly being able to buy digital music online has hurt me a lot — iTunes, satellite radio, cable radio, people burning and trading CDs and swapping files.”
Gedrose would rather buy a CD than cherry pick songs to download from the internet.
He likes to read the liner notes and find background to a composer’s inspiration.
He likes to ensure musicians are paid for their creations — something that’s not guaranteed with downloaded music.
And, most importantly, Gedrose likes to experience the disc as a whole.
“The cover and the conception of the work is all very carefully considered — for me it has to be appreciated as a whole or its value is diminished,” he said.
Gedrose starts each weekday listening to classical music.
Last Thursday it was one of Handel’s Concerti Grosso — an enchanting classical tune that played over the shop’s speakers.
A grosso is an arrangement in which different instruments take turns playing solos, explained Gedrose.
Along with a personal touch that the small shop allows, it’s Gedrose’s vast musical knowledge that will be lost when the shop shuts down.
“The business model now is for no service and cheap prices and I think it’s highly flawed,” said Gedrose.
“I don’t think that’s a way to build a community or impart information.”
A musician and businessman, Hare came to the Yukon from Nova Scotia 18 years ago.
What brought Hare to the North?
“Everybody has a story,” he said.
“I had a serious illness and my chances of survival were quite low, so I decided I wanted to see the West and the North before I departed from this planet.
“But that was a long time ago,” he said.
Health concerns are another reason Hare is closing the shop.
“The stress isn’t good for my health,” he said.
Like Gedrose, Hare opened his shop — which sells instruments and music books, and hosts small concerts — to cater to the growing population of musicians in the territory.
“There was a huge hole in the scene here,” said Hare.
“And since year three, this music store has had the lion’s share of retail business in town according to the suppliers.”
Hare has never advertised the shop — he attributes its success to superior service.
“I find that people, almost regardless of price or product, will pay for service.
“They want to be taken care of,” he said.
It’s that personal touch that means Hare works seven days a week and hasn’t had a vacation in five years.
“I have thousands of items in the store and most were found at the special request of customers,” he said.
“If it wasn’t quite so demanding I’d probably stay with it,” Hare said.
“We’ve become a real source for information and I’m concerned about the community losing access to that.”
Unlike Rose Music, Steve’s has been “crazy busy” over the past two years.
“Just from a financial perspective, I made more money last year than I made in my life,” he said.
“The business is really successful — it’s a real strong music community,” said Hare.
With locally produced CDs as his biggest sellers, Gedrose is also a strong supporter of the Yukon’s music scene.
And he’s watched it blossom from behind the counter of his shop over the past 10 years.
“There are a lot of talented people here that have come a long way in the sophistication of their recording and their writing and I’m really proud to be a part of that,” said Gedrose.
Both Gedrose and Hare are on the lookout for their next opportunity.
Meanwhile, both shops will be gradually discounting their merchandise until the day they shut out the lights in June.