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Tornado Ravages Joplin Music Community

Music retailers in Joplin, Mo., were devastated by a deadly tornado that blew through on May 22.

Palen Music Center was one of the few fortunate enough to not sustain any structural damage. Its Joplin location reopened a week later — and garnered far more business than expected.

"I thought it would be much slower coming back," said Eric Matzat, president of Palen Music, which is headquartered in Springfield, Mo. "It certainly takes its toll whenever you miss a week of business. We've been surprised at the resilience of the Joplin community."

Due to main road closures by the National Guard, customers had limited access to the store. Palen's staff used the closure period to assist with cleanup and reconstruction. The store also partnered with Convoy of Hope, which provides food to disaster-ravaged areas, to help customers in need and will be matching in-store donations toward the relief effort.

"We felt it was in the best interest of the company and the community to be helping those that really needed the help," said Greg Rosander, manager of Palen's Joplin location. "Me and my crew, we were out with chain saws helping people remove trees and debris from their properties and just helping out wherever we could."

Other members of the music community were quick to assist in what Matzat called an "ongoing effort" to aid needy citizens. Area band directors have helped repair and replace damaged equipment, and local music students participated in cleanup and clothing drives.

"Our staff and all of our students and teachers were saints," Matzat said. "It's going to take a long time for that community to get back to normal, but for them as a community to still see not only everybody rally together to rebuild better than before, there's a lot of examples of music helping the community."

While Palen Music and nearby Ernie Williamson Music avoided severe damage, other dealers weren't as lucky. Cool Guitars and Glory Days Music, two dealers located in Joplin's older downtown area, were completely destroyed by the storm. Neither establishment could be reached for comment. Big Don's Music City incurred partial damage, including a week of power loss.

"Hundreds of people lost their lives and jobs," Matzat said. "That's certainly going to take a toll on the community." MI