PHOTO CREDIT TO: Joe Gonzalez-Dufresne

E.L. Music Opens its Doors
Matt Robbins had a long-running dream of opening his own store after working in music retail for the past 20 years. Last September, Robbins and his father, Dwain, made the long-held dream a reality in less than eight short weeks when they decided to open the doors to E.L. Music in Worcester, Massachusetts.

"It was a lot of working 16 hour days, seven days a week and sometimes just sleeping on a blow-up mattress, waking up and working again," Robbins said of the rush. Despite the fast pace, Robbins said he stuck to a specific vision of a store that was an inviting community space. He said E.L. Music feels more like a coffee shop than a typical retail store with custom-made furniture, a fireplace, free Wi-Fi and couches.

"We sacrificed some retail space for comfort and vibe," Robbins said. "A lot of people would tell you not to do that because you're paying for square footage, but I looked at it differently. I didn't want just walls and walls of slatwall and hooks."

A music teacher himself, Robbins also said he developed the store around teaching first — retail second. And as a way to attract full-time teaching talent, he decided to run his lesson studios "more like a barbershop than a music store," without taking a commission from every student.

"All my rooms are full, six days a week, and we have 150 students," Robbins said, adding he hopes the strategy will work long term and attract professional teachers. "I got a lot of established teachers. I wanted people I could trust."