Michael Simon and John Ripley had the courage and determination to open Simon Ripley’s Music & Art in October of 2009, in the middle of a crippling economic downturn, and that bold move is paying off big-time now.
Over the summer, Simon Ripley’s received an award for Best Website and another as a Top 100 Retailer in the entire country from the most prestigious music retailing trade association, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
And more good news is coming in a few weeks, when Simon Ripley’s opens its brand-new Web Store online.
“Those awards at Summer NAMM are an affirmation of our goals, and of the concept of the whole store,” Ripley, who has taught at the W.O. Smith School of Music since 1998, said in a phone conversation in early September.
Simon, a fourth-generation Nashvillian, agreed: “Winning the Top 100 Retailer prize is pretty amazing for a company that has only been around for 20 months. The award for Best Website also makes us very proud. That was the vote of confidence that we needed to go on with the launch of the Web Store in two weeks.”
The owners told NAMM: “One of the many unique features at Simon Ripley’s Music & Art is the fact that we are a serious musical instrument store who is equally serious about offering fine artwork as part of what we do. This concept, which is brand new to stores in the US, is one whose time has come.”
Simon Ripley’s is located adjacent to Music Row at 1305 8th Ave. S. The store is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and the award-winning Website is simonripleys.com. The phone is (615) 457-1063.
Everything about the shopping experience there is unique, and totally different from the cold, impersonal feeling shoppers get at the national chain music stores and big-box retailers.
“John and I.” Michael says, “asked ourselves, `Why open up a music store if you’ll be just like the store down the street?’ Nashville is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan town, but it still has a small-town feel with big-town offerings. Let’s offer the best of both worlds.”
A big part of that comes from the ambiance of this warm, wonderful place.
“When you walk into our store, it feels very welcoming,” Simon continues. “We have comfortable surroundings. It’s like walking into your uncle’s parlor. That brings about a kind of comfort level, whether you’re beginning in music or a pro.”
Simon Ripley’s also offers several lines of high-quality instruments that no other store in Nashville has.
“We are Nashville’s largest dealer of Godin (Seagull) and exclusive dealer for Boulder Creek guitars (and ukes), as well as the boutique line of 65 Amps.”
As Michael Simon points out, “Although the store does offer some of the mainstream brand names, its emphasis and strength have been in bringing lines to Nashville that heretofore have not been available, like the 65 Tube Amp that is hand-wired and made in California.”
They also carry vintage guitars, band instruments for schools, many coffee-table books about music and musicians, and Nashville’s finest selection of sheet music.
The Godin line of guitars, made in Canada and the United States, is another highlight of the Simon Ripley’s package.
“The Godin quality is second to none,” Michael says. “They do their own design and crafting of the guitar. They make some of the best electric and acoustic guitars on the planet. They range from beginner to pro player models, and also make the popular Seagull acoustic brand. It’s a family-owned company. Robert Godin and his sons own it.”
Then he says one thing that shows how distinctive Godin is: “Their guitars arrive at our store in tune.”
And how about music lessons? At Simon Ripley’s you’ve come to the right place.
Whether you’re new to music or a pro player, the company says, “We can match you up with the perfect pro instructor for your musical education needs.”
They offer instruction in guitar, piano, violin, bass, woodwinds, brass, drums, Bluegrass instruments, vocals, and songwriting.
Simon Ripley’s is also quickly becoming well known for their outstanding technical staff. They can repair instruments, and one customer was delighted to write online that “they even took the time to set up my new purchase the way I wanted – a nice touch.”
Resident guitar tech John Simpson, who came off the road after 8 years with Lou Reed, has joined Simon Ripley’s and is already garnering a following.
Customers are also amazed at the store’s range of musical accessories. “The modern musician,” the NAMM Award-winning Website notes, “has a choice of thousands of products to help create a variety of sounds and styles. Need a banjo capo or a set of Nashville High-Tuning strings? No problem!”
Then there is the art, all of which is music-themed.
“If we could offer something in addition to the musical products that makes it a great draw to the store, and offer something that not only adorns your wall beautifully and makes your home or studio look nicer, how cool is that?” Michael says.
John Ripley originally had the concept in 2003.
“I had been through a corporate startup and debacle and needed time to decompress back then,” he recalls. “I love Nashville, and I had thought about the art and how it represented all things music. Nashville is Music City. All of the art is music-related, plus we have a large selection of books about music, and we’re the only place in Nashville where you can buy piano music and instrumental music. Some of our popular books have been a history of the Les Paul Guitar, and biographies of icons of the industry.”
In less than two years, Simon Ripley’s has already made a major mark on Nashville’s musical landscape, which is a huge testament to the courage, work ethic, and vision of its two founders and their powerhouse staff.
As Michael Simon notes: “January 2011 ended up being our best month yet, and we’ve had a couple of months that I would say are encouraging because it’s a tough economy out there. Some would say that opening up a retail business in the midst of this recession might not have been the wisest move, but we’re a couple of persistent guys who think we have something special that could weather the storm.”
With a pair of NAMM Awards this summer and their Online Store opening up soon, Simon Ripley’s is more than weathering the economic storm. They’re bringing musical sunshine to an ever-expanding army of happy customers all over Middle Tennessee.
By Phil Sweetland