Paige’s Music Celebrates 150 Years
This year marks a historic 150 years in operation for the Indiana- based Paige’s Music. Originally founded in 1871, its flagship location relocated from Terre Haute to Indianapolis in 1976 to focus on an expanding school music market in Indiana.
Before opening the store in 1871, William H. Paige was the Director of Music for public schools in Terre Haute. Relying on his experience Paige initially sold sheet music, music books, pianos, organs, guitars, violins, and “all kinds of musical merchandise.” After Paige died in 1901, his sons, Frederick and Warner, took over the business and operated the store successfully until Frederick died in 1932. The third generation of Paige’s Music entered the family business when Warner H. Paige Jr. joined his father in the store. After completing his Naval service during World War II, Paige Jr. returned to find that the shop had no new merchandise because of the wartime restructuring of manufacturing goods. To keep the business going, Paige Jr. began selling “cut-off” Meyer pianos made by Frank Wilking in Indianapolis and purchasing the last shipment of band instruments from St. Louis Music.
The fourth and final generation of the family to operate Paige’s Music joined the ranks when Warner H. Paige III began pushing a broom and selling hit records for his father as a teenager. After graduating from college, Paige returned to the store and began expanding the business to include Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne locations. These two locations became service stores for school band and orchestra programs, making Paige’s Music the largest school service dealer in the state of Indiana and one of the largest in the United States. Warner Paige then decided to sell the Terre Haute and Ft. Wayne locations to focus on the school music market in 1989 and consolidated operations to the Indianapolis location. Paige later served on the NAMM Board of Directors for over a decade, ending his tenure as president from 1995 to 1997.
Mark Goff purchased Paige’s Music in 1999 after working within the company for the previous 14 years, having started as a sales associate after graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University. Goff worked his way up from Sales Associate to Educational Representative, Instrument Sales Manager, General Manager, and eventually President. Since purchasing the store, Goff has become an integral part of various music trade associations, having served as president of the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD), president of the National Association of Young Music Merchants (NAYMM), and as chairman of NAMM. Goff helped lead the team at Paige’s Music in acquiring Progressive Music in Kokomo, IN in 1997, Kersey Music in Greencastle, IN in 2000, and Weast Music in Lafayette, IN in 2003. In 2006, Paige’s Music opened Chops Percussion, Encore Orchestral Strings in Indianapolis and in 2008, opened the Indy Flute Shop, also in Indianapolis.
We spoke with Goff, who provided us with insight into successfully operating a business that has been around for one and a half centuries.
What are the keys to Paige’s success that have allowed it to thrive over the last 150 years?
Our company was founded in 1871, several years before the invention of the phonograph. At that time, there was no recorded music or broadcast music. The only way to experience it was to make it yourself or hear it performed live. So much has changed in society, music, and retail over the past 150 years. However, some things have remained constant; our inherent desire to make and enjoy music, and our desire to be treated with respect. Paige’s Music has thrived for 150 years by paying close attention to those two timeless truths. We exist to help people make and enjoy music, but we also treat every customer and every associate with dignity and respect.
How has the store weathered the storm that was 2020?
2020 has been the most challenging year of my career. However, we were well-prepared to weather the storm because of our consistent focus on strong profitability and a strong balance sheet for many years. That financial strength coupled with the US Government PPP loan enabled us to retain and pay our entire staff throughout this challenging year - a fact that I am proud of. Because of that, we not only weathered the 2020 storm, but we are well-prepared to hit the ground running when business shifts to “the new normal” in 2021 and beyond.
Do you have any advice for other retailers?
Three things come to mind. First, don't try to go it alone. Consistently seek wise counsel from smart people inside and outside our industry who you can lean on and learn from. Second, be disciplined about personal and professional growth. I once heard a speaker remark that if the rate of change outside your business is faster than the rate of change inside your business, your days are numbered. We are living in a time of rapid change, which means that we, as business leaders, must be disciplined about learning and growing. Third, my long-time business mentor and friend Denny Sensenney had a saying that I return to often, ‘“Be patient with growth and impatient with profitability.’” Profit is the lifeblood of business. Make all the grandiose plans you want about tomorrow but first, make sure you are making a profit today.
How is the team planning on commemorating 150 years?
We will be celebrating our 150th anniversary throughout the year in several ways. Over the next few weeks, we are releasing ten short video episodes called “History Spotlights.” Each episode will cover a 10-to-15-year period from 1871 to today and highlight the significant events that shaped our country, industry, state, and company. We also commissioned Richard Saucedo to compose a special piece of music commemorating our 150th anniversary called “Legacy.” Mr. Saucedo wrote four different versions of this piece so it can be performed by a middle school band, a middle school orchestra, a high school band, a high school orchestra, or all together in a combined mass band/orchestra. The video series and “Legacy” can be viewed at https://www.paigesmusic.com/paiges/run?useUX=true&useUX=true&id=6&_tid=705&lvid=485.