Small Business Q&A: Jennings Music & Education Center
This 25-year-old full service music store now offers group lessons for children and adults.
Sheet music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas, beginner Lanikai ukuleles in bright primary colors, a range of percussion instruments, and acoustic and electric guitars wait for the hands of musicians to bring them to life.
Jennings Music and Education Center on Canton Road is open until 3 p.m. today for last minute Christmas shoppers.
When discussing the role of music in Christmas celebrations, store co-owner Phil Niverson replies, “Music has been there from the beginning. Hark the herald angels sing.”
Two large rooms, in the 8,700 sq. ft. freestanding store, are home to group music lessons. Individuals can join a piano, guitar or glee class that meets as a collective.
Niverson says, “You never hear of anyone saying ‘I wish that my mother never made me take piano lessons.’ It’s always, ‘Why did I quit?’”
Jennings also offers private music lessons taught by 20 teachers. The store is co-owned by Niverson and his wife, Liz. Both work the retail end and employ one other staffer. The instructors are subcontractors.
A business consultant by day, Niverson pulls the evening shift at the store. He also handles the back end of the business; accounting, purchasing. He is a guitarist who has played since grade school.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. Recitals. Seeing the kids come in with absolutely no idea of even how to hold an instrument and a few months later, seeing them perform. It’s about the students.
Q. What is the best thing about Northeast Cobb?
A. We live two miles from here, we moved from the Chicago area in 1999 for work. There’s a lot going on here. The weather and people are great.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I’m a musician. I always wanted a business of my own. This opportunity came up when it looked like there was a light on the economic horizon and this business looked like we could make it grow with applied elbow grease.
We have two daughters who attend St. Catherine’s school and, one day, my wife and I were having one of those discussions that married people have about finances. Liz was saying we need to keep the girls in St. Catherine’s and I was saying that we don’t have the money.
So, it came down to me deciding to get a second job. I picked up a copy of The Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, turned to the want ads, there was an ad looking for a guitarist for contemporary mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Atlanta.
I got the gig. That was six years ago, and is part of why this place was our music store. My daughters rented instruments here when they started band and I came in for strings.
One day when I was in here, I asked Mr. Jennings if he was selling out. I had noticed that he wasn’t reordering supplies and the prices were not competitive and instruments were staying in the store. Mr. Jennings said he was selling and we decided to buy it.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. Repairs. We have a luthier who works on stringed instruments plus a band instrument technician. Our lessons make up over 50 percent of our business. Rentals and retail bring in the rest.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. We bought the name and the business in October 2010. Mr. Jennings started and built the store in 1987. Buying the property is a future option for us.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Do your homework. Make sure that you understand the financial side of the business, economic things like cash flow and leverage.
Make sure you have enough money. (Smile.)
Think about the impact to your family. Make sure that everyone is on board. Owning your own business takes many hours.
If you’re looking to make a minimum wage of $10 or $20 an hour, your first year of business is not going to give you that.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. I ask people not to forget about the small businesses.
The internet and big box stores are convenient, but, if you don’t support small businesses they won’t be there when you need them.
Internet commerce is putting a lot of pressure on small businesses, but we’re price-competitive with online products.
My best friends are the ones who come in and tell me what other places are selling instruments and supplies for. We’ll match prices.
Phil Niverson, co-owner
2511 Canton Rd