New Mexico Retailer Scores Win at NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards

Elizabeth Dale

NAMM’s Top 100 Dealer Awards spotlights the industry’s very best music product retailers and shares their strategies for success. A top honor for retailers, winners of seven “Best of” categories are selected by a panel of independent judges and celebrated each year at Summer NAMM. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of Summer NAMM in July 2020, this year’s “Retail Oscars” were held as part of NAMM’s Believe in Music week. Believe in Music week was a new and engaging digital event that featured a robust marketplace, cutting-edge education, entertainment, and live music, all while supporting the industry and those in need.

One of the most coveted awards featured in the program is the “Music Makes a Difference” award. This award recognizes retailers who have aided in the musical journey of a customer, music student, or camp participant while experiencing the power of music.

The Candyman Strings & Things got its start in 1969 as a small acoustic guitar shop and, over its fifty-year tenure, has become “the most decorated music store in the world,” earning 19 global industry awards and several state and local recognitions. The store derives its unique name from the finger-picking song, “The Candyman” by Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt when The Candyman’s Stings & Things founder, Matthew Schwartzman, was struck by a bolt of inspiration after hearing Davis perform the tune in New York City. Since the beginning, The Candyman Strings & Things has been serving the community of Northern New Mexico by helping grow musical careers, providing music education, and supply the finest of equipment and instruments to their customers.

  • The Candyman Strings & Things

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The mission of the New Mexico retailer perfectly captures the reason they have earned this year’s honor, the store is committed “to make lives better through music.” The shop actively employs people of all abilities and makes it a priority to make events accessible and inclusive to people with a wide range of disabilities. Arnold is just one participant who has been actively involved in the happenings at The Candyman Strings & Things for quite some time.

Arnold was born with microcephaly, a condition that causes a small-head size and incomplete brain development. First meeting the team at The Candyman when he participated in a 2011 Drum Battle, Arnold left quite the impression, winning over the crowd with his infectious smile and eventually leaped into a drum lessons program at the store in 2016. Andy, Arnold’s teacher, says, “Arnold always stays focused and always gives his drumming his best. His positive attitude is an example for everyone. He has a very natural musical sensibility, works hard at counting, loves to perform, and is a big fan of Josie and the Pussycats! I feel like he reminds us all about the reasons we play music. I feel like he always has an entertaining story to tell.” Arnold’s mother has mentioned that since beginning lessons at The Candyman, both she and his doctors have noticed remarkable improvements not only in terms of his happiness and his social aptitude but in physical areas such as balance and coordination.

The Candyman Strings & Things - Arnold

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A few years ago, Arnold’s uncle, Gilbert, passed away. Arnold felt the loss very deeply and turned to his friends, the staff at his beloved music store, to help him through the grieving process. As someone who lives to perform, the staff encouraged Arnold to say a few words about Gilbert at a showcase and Arnold dedicated his performances to his uncle, an act which helped provide a slight bit of closure for a son who had lost a friend, mentor, and relative.

While Arnold and his mother, Mary, are grateful for The Candyman Strings & Things for their commitment to foster Arnold’s love for music, Arnold has managed to impact the staff at The Candyman more than he could imagine. Owner Cindy Cook says, “Arnold has taught us many lessons. No matter what he is dealing with, his smile and enthusiasm will deter any negativity that might exist. His innocent kindness is unfailing, and he shows us what it means to always be treated with compassion and love. He sets this example, and it inspires us to do the same. He's also taught us that in everyone we meet, there is an amazing heart inside, and if we don't take the time to get to know them a little deeper, we may miss out on the joy they provide.”

The Candyman Strings & Things - 2011 Drum Battle

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For more information about The Candyman Strings & Things, visit them at To learn more about NAMM’s Top 100 Dealer Awards, including a full list of awardees, visit