What if a couple of musicians opened an audio store? Louis Galluzzi and Krista Little of Cottonwood, AZ, are an interesting couple. They are both musicians, they both went to Arizona State University and they both like vinyl. Krista has owned a business in Cottonwood selling and servicing computers for several years. Louis’ background includes selling stereo systems for the home and for automobiles while pursuing his passion of composing music.
Last Christmas, Louis gave Krista a very special LP, and as they listened to it together, Krista told him that she had a dream to open an audio store. So, when we met them, they were in the early stages of putting together their new business, Sound Leap Music. Becky and I spent most of an afternoon with them as they shared their plans, and we gave them some feedback based on our experience with audio dealers and brands that might be possible products for their store.
An Audio Store Where?
Now, at first glance, Cottonwood, AZ, doesn’t seem like your ideal location in which to start an audio business. It’s a town of a little over 11,000 located about 50 miles south of Flagstaff and about 20 miles south of Sedona. So when we first heard there was an audio store opening in Cottonwood, we thought, you’ve got to be kidding. But then, we vacation in Sedona every year, and we have noticed that there is a wine industry growing up around Cottonwood, which has also been a surprise to us as we live in the San Francisco Bay area and can’t imagine wine from Arizona. So, we thought, well maybe an audio store there isn’t such a crazy idea.
After talking with Krista and Louis, we began to understand how their audio store could be successful. Krista has owned and run a business, All Service Computers, selling and servicing computer systems for many years. She has many faithful customers who have continued to buy from her and upgrade their computer systems over the years. Guess what, these customers are interested in her new endeavor. And, not only do they already have potential customers, they also have available space in the front room of the computer store that can be used for the audio business. This is a smart decision for two reasons; they can avoid the expense of an additional lease, and all of the computer customers who come into the shop will see their audio business.
Planning Their Business
When we walked into their store, there were two things that were obvious. The first was that, just as they had told us, they weren’t ready for their grand opening. The second thing we noticed was that they really love vinyl. It was also obvious that they were in the process of getting their store set up as they had taken all of the window coverings down, so I apologize for the graininess of the photos in this article.
When asked what lines they intend to carry, Krista was quick to say, “We’ve been thinking about it, and no matter which lines we carry, the quality is paramount.” She also thinks that they have to carry products that are at a lower price point for the entry-level buyer who may want to eventually upgrade. This decision is based on her experience with her computer customers who often buy entry level systems and then come back for an upgraded system. “I always want to have some brands that customers recognize as well as brans that they may not recognize but that may offer more,” Krista said, adding that, “Music is inspirational no matter what the price point.”
Building What They Needed
As I said earlier, this couple really likes vinyl, and they plan to sell used LPs, but Krista is going to be very picky about grading LPs, cleaning them and packing them for resell. Knowing this, I was concerned when I saw naked LPs hanging from the wall.
All was well though; Louis has made his own ultrasonic record cleaning machine. So the whole area in the picture below (except for my hat) is their record cleaning area. On the left and right on the walls are the albums that are to be cleaned. The album covers for the LPs that are drying are under Jack’s hat. Then, on the wall and still on the spindle are the LPs that are drying and waiting to be put back into their covers.
But, it’s the light maple wooden cabinet in the center of this picture that was the real shocker. This is a multi-LP ultrasonic record cleaning machine, but not like the ones I’ve seen at shows.
How is it different? Well, let’s start with the solid wood, totally soundproof cabinet. Then there is the cleaning system for the water in the ultrasonic cleaner, the professional grade ultrasonic cleaner and best of all, the fact that when it is through washing the LPs, the top opens and the cleaned LPs raise up so that you can pick up the spindle and move them to the drying rack.
Krista said it was her commitment that every LP they sell will be cleaned on this ultrasonic cleaner and put in a premium record sleeve and cover sleeve. They were in the process of building lots of LP racks, to allow a customer to flip through the LPs easily. They also plan to sell LPs online.
So What Does It Take to Open an Audio Store?
Becky and I walked away from this meeting with Krista and Louis feeling like we had made a couple of new friends that we will keep in touch with. They have a few lines of electronics lined up to sell, and we are happy to share our opinions and introduce them to brands that might fit their market and their price points.
We also had some thoughts about what it will take for them, or anyone else to be successful in the retail audio business:
- You have to know your market. Having a built-in customer base from their computer business will help.
- You have to have an affordable space that has traffic. Again, using the space already leased for their computer business is a great start.
- You have to have a vision of what you want your business to be. They are committed to quality at an affordable price and adding more expensive lines as they grow.
- You have to be willing to work. It really helps that Louis can build just about anything.
- You have to be willing to ask for and accept advice/feedback to make sound decisions.
We hope to see Krista and Louis at Axpona in Chicago and are looking forward to visiting their store the next time we are in Sedona. Yes, there could just be a really good audio store in Cottonwood, AZ!