Carrie Rengers

Jim Starkey Music Center to close after six decades in business

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

Dee Starkey, owner of Jim Starkey Music Center, is closing the business his father started in 1954.
Dee Starkey, owner of Jim Starkey Music Center, is closing the business his father started in 1954. The Wichita Eagle

Dee Starkey wants to make one thing clear: This isn’t a sad story.

The 65-year-old is retiring, which is a good thing.

That means, though, that the 60-year-old Jim Starkey Music Center – the business his father, Jim, founded in 1954 – is closing.

That also means there’s more to the story.

“Mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortars’ return, as we’ve seen sometimes, the formula doesn’t work like it used to,” Starkey says.

“It’s cultural changes as much as anything,” he says. “All of these societal issues come into play.”

“The numbers are way down.”

He says there’s been a “showrooming” trend when people come into his store to look at merchandise and snap pictures of bar codes.

“And that’s the last we see of them.”

Through hundreds of instructors over the years, Starkey Music has taught countless children to play instruments, but Starkey says that business is fragmented now.

He says he’s tried music clinics to bring in new customers and has gone to some business workshops himself for new ideas to try at the business.

“I’ve been seminared to death about business things and management things.”

Starkey says he should have probably closed five years ago.

“But I’m stubborn, and I’m Pollyannaish, and I’m optimistic.”

Finally, though, he says a business person has to decide to close “rather than banging your head against the wall saying, ‘It’s going to get better tomorrow.’”

Starkey, who is planning to close at the end of the year, is still open to selling the business.

“It takes somebody young with social media smarts … and a fire in the belly,” he says.

“They have to have it here,” he says, pointing to his head.

“But especially here,” he says, pointing to his heart.

The store’s approximately 6,500-square-foot building at 1318 W. 18th St. also is for sale.

After buying another instrument repair shop, Jim Starkey moved his business several times before settling in North Riverside.

He gradually expanded at Riverside Village until he took the entire center. Dee Starkey likes to point out the 1937 center is the oldest in the city despite claims from other shopping centers.

Starkey first joined his father at the shop when he was 11 or 12 when his dad “taught me a few repair tricks.”

Though Starkey thinks someone could make a go of the business, “I’m too old and tired.”

He says there’s also a lot he has left to do in life.

“There’s more fun stuff to do than coming in the music store and hope that somebody buys a clarinet reed today.”

Starkey says he knows his father would approve of his decision.

“He would support it. He would say, ‘Go for it. You’ve done what you can.’”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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