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Feeling the pinch, a music store diversifies

Karen Eliasen’s shop has a growing selection of instruments for sale on consignment. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Karen Eliasen’s shop has a growing selection of instruments for sale on consignment.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Vashon Island Music, which will celebrate its four-year anniversary on Thanksgiving, is “definitely feeling the economic downturn,” said owner Karen Eliasen.

Since the stock market took a nosedive in September, Eliasen said she’s seeing fewer customers walk through the door, and those who do are spending less. Whereas her customers often swiped credit or debit cards, now most of the store’s transactions are in cash, Eliasen said, indicating her customers are “being a little more careful” when it comes to using credit.

To combat the slump in sales, Eliasen has diversified her store’s inventory and services — trying to draw more business to the small store that sometimes can’t compete with online retailers. Instead, she’s finding ways she doesn’t have to compete.

Rather than focusing on new CD sales, the store is “glutted” with used CDs brought in by Islanders for store credit. And vinyl is “selling like crazy,” she said.

For the first time this fall, Eliasen is offering instrument rentals from her store for music students. Only six have signed up, perhaps because she started the rental program after school started, but she’s hoping this sector of her business will grow.

And the music store’s selection of instruments on consignment has swelled tremendously in the past few months; everything from saxophones to trumpets to unusual and high-end guitars line the walls of the shop.

Eliasen is also expanding the use of the music studio above her store. Usually the site of music lessons, the intimate setting has recently hosted a few private and public concerts. And Eliasen’s hoping the studio can be used for its original purpose — recording a demo CD.

She said she’s banking on the Christmas season and hoping customers keep it local when shopping, as some have promised to do.

Still, she said she feels lucky Vashon Island Music hasn’t been hit harder by what many are calling a recession.

“I don’t think any of us have a very big margin around here,” she said of the music store and its fellow Island businesses. “So when things slip, we feel it.”

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