ADDRESS: 521 SW 2nd Street, Corvallis, OR 97333
PHONE NUMBER: 541-752-7720
OWNER: Kent Buys
YEAR ESTABLISHED: 1970
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1.5 (two part-time)
WHAT THEY SELL: Fine instruments and accessories (guitars, mandolins, banjos, dulcimers, violins), quality restoration and repair, books, lessons
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: The quantity and variety of stringed instruments is amazing, and the owner is a highly skilled craftsman who has a strong love of his art and the community he serves.
Walk into the Troubadour, and you will be immediately struck by the impressive display of violins, guitars, and other stringed instruments that adorn the walls of this long-time Corvallis business. After being warmly welcomed by owner Kent Buys, his son Ryan, or Carson Wille, you’ll want to take some time simply to wander around the store, which includes exotic stringed instruments from around the world. Whether you’re an accomplished violinist in need of an instrument repair, a banjo player who wants a new set of strings, or someone who has always dreamed of playing the guitar, the Troubadour Music Center is a jewel that’s sure to meet your needs.
Kent, when and why did you start your business? In 1967, I began to work part-time with Ellen Chase Harper (Ben Harper’s mother), and her father and mother, Charles and Dorothy Chase, who owned the Folk Music Center in Claremont, California. I learned to repair, restore, and build instruments at the same time that I was working on a three-year Master’s degree at the Southern California School of Theology in Claremont. I became addicted to repairing and restoring instruments. In 1970, I moved to Corvallis and opened the Troubadour with my good friend and high school buddy, Larry Edgar, who later became the Allann Brothers quality roast master for 35 years. Our original store was in the alley off Adams, between 2nd and 3rd Street. There’s still an inscription written in the cement there.
What are your specialties? We specialize in anything with strings. We sell some of the finest new and used instruments in the world, as well as inexpensive, well-constructed beginners’ instruments. We also provide instrument repair and restoration, using structural and finish skills that have taken 45 years to learn.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? I think federal and state taxes are too high for independent business owners and family luthier/craftsman/retail shops like ours.
What is the impact of local independent businesses in Corvallis? Among the multiple impacts are the personal responsibilities we have to our customers, who are our neighbors and friends. These are people with whom we grow throughout our lives, building a strong, caring community together. Many business owners like me work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week because we’re passionate about the quality of instruments we sell and the quality of our setups, repairs, and restoration. The integrity of our work is important to us because we know our customers personally. That’s the difference between shopping locally and dealing with someone you don’t know and won’t see on-line.
What do you enjoy most about owning your business? The people and the music that’s already part of them. We just help bring it out by setting the instruments up, or repairing or restoring them, so they’re easy to play.
What is your relationship to the community? We have supported many of the different music teaching and learning organizations at OSU, in the Corvallis schools and private schools, as well as helping struggling musicians. My PhD work was in Education, and as an educator and anthropologist, I have enjoyed helping our friends of all ages – from 3 to 93 – to learn joyful skills. This has always been part of the mission of the Troubadour. We currently work with about 20 instrumental music teachers outside and inside the shop who offer classical, Flamenco, folk and rock guitar; classical violin and cello; traditional/Celtic fiddle; old-time and bluegrass banjo; mandolin, ukulele, piano, and harp.
How important is sustainability to you and your business? Sustainability is very important to us. We recycle, and we show people how to work on their instruments. However, retail sales ensure the longevity of any business. It’s the honesty and integrity of any business that keeps customers coming back, and it is a pleasure and an honor to have been and continue to be a part of so many wonderful people’s lives throughout our years in Corvallis.
(Interview and article by Annette Mills – January 6, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).