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Ontario Music to
Shutter Doors

After 50 years in business, Ontario Music will close its doors on July 31. The Ontario, Calif.-based full-line dealership was founded by James and Wilma Jones and is currently owned by longtime employee Todd Trent. Along with musical instruments, Ontario Music offers music lessons, repairs and rentals.

Trent cited the recession, school budget cuts, financial debt and Ontario’s economic decline as the reasons for the closure.

“It just became impossible for me to continue to operate,” he said.

New Ownership, Business Strong
Trent, who began working for Ontario Music at 16, purchased the company from the Jones family six years ago. He said business was strong at the time, and his attorneys and CPA encouraged him to go forward with the purchase.

“And for the first three years, we did really well under the new ownership.”

As the economy began to soften three years ago, he refocused his business strategy, refinanced his long-term debt and “that next year went pretty well.”

School Budget Cuts the ‘Last Straw’
But Ontario Music took a major hit in 2008 with the recession’s onslaught, which further weakened the local economy. According to Trent, 2009 was the worst year in the company’s history. Revenue from musical instrument sales continued to decline as prices dropped industry-wide. This was especially damaging to the company’s school music business.

“Consumers, instead of doing the rent-to-owns, which were a staple for our business, decided to buy $199 instruments at Costco and Best Buy,” Trent said. “And some of the schools were starting to spend their money on buying their own instruments and leasing them back to the students, which cuts us out. That was a big contributing factor.”

He called the more recent school budget cuts “the last straw.”

“We were told our mother district, Ontario-Montclair School District, was more than likely going to cut most of its band [programs] for next year,” Trent said. “Everything just started decreasing to the point where it was impossible to do business.

“I tried. I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know. I hired consultants. I hired advisors. Some of them had great things for me to do. But sometimes, there’s nothing to be done.”