November 03, 2020 I MI Publisher I by Frank Alkyer

Toast to A Class Act

Because we are all-consumed by this pandemic, some news has been placed on the back burner. It’s time to return this item to the front.

In June 2019, The Omega Group invited me to speak at a meeting in Chicago. This is a group of very influential retailers who work together to help each other prosper. They meet a few times a year, look at each other’s businesses in great depth and serve as a de facto board of directors, offering counsel on everything from business issues, succession and troubleshooting to bolstering the bottom line.

If you remember back before the coronavirus, no day of meetings was complete without a group meal. You know, sitting much closer than six feet apart and enjoying the company of others? Pardon the digression.

At dinner that night, along with great food, drink and company, came a toast. The Omegas are a close-knit group. If something good happens to one member, they take pride. On this night, the toast was to Nick Rail, because he had announced the pending sale of his company Nick Rail Music in Southern California to Laura and Tom Penrose, our cover subjects this month.

As we know, succession in this industry is a tricky business. And when a retailer successfully sells his or her shop, especially if it’s not to family, it’s truly a reason to cheer. Not surprisingly, Rail, who has been a class act throughout his career, was able to step back from ownership with grace, too.

At Music Inc., we had visions of doing a cover article about the succession, but finalizing the sale took time, which pushed the idea into 2020. And then the pandemic hit. Plans changed.

So, the article you’ll see, starting on page 28, is much different than what we originally envisioned. Instead of a breakdown on how to successfully sell a retail business, it became a crash course in crisis management.

As for Rail himself, he’s served as a steady hand advising the couple and continues to be an advocate for school music.

“Just checking to let you know about my, more or less, first official action as an employee, not an owner of Nick Rail Music — placing a PO for 100 new band instruments to give to the school district where I got to join the band in 1959,” he said in an email last October, after the sale finalized. Turns out that Rail and his wife Lisa created a music fund for the “talent rich, but impoverished” area of Cresent City, California, where he grew up.

When that town’s local music store closed, there was no major repair facility within 100 miles. So, the Rails used the fund to buy the store’s entire repair shop and set it up at the high school. There was even talk of the band director setting up a class in instrument repair.

Another classy move from one of our industry’s true class acts. MI

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