Owner: Tim Durst
Address: 200 North Court St., Platteville, Wis.
Services: Repair, sale and rental of instruments
One of the few music repair shops in the tri-state area started as a way to help Tim Durst pay for his college education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and went through a “slow expansion” over the last two decades.
Durst, who opened Blue Note Music in 2003, started fixing instruments in his basement. He took a break from his musical performance studies to earn a certificate in Musical Instrument Repair and Construction from Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing, Minn.
His personal instrument, a French horn, needed work and a Google search for instrument repair led him to the nine-month program.
“It’s in the blood,” said Durst, whose family has “always been musical.”
The store, according to Durst, adds “a lot” to the Platteville community as the only one of its kind in the immediate area.
“There’s no other music store in Platteville or even around here. It’s really needed,” he said, citing UW-P and the region’s “robust folk music scene.”
Wisconsin has just 180 musical instrument repairers and tuners — one of seven states in the nation in the employment range of 180 to 340, according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Blue Note had been located in a downtown Platteville storefront for several years, but Durst said about five years ago he purchased and renovated an old church to serve as the storefront.
“The basement is completely dedicated to repair,” he said. “Before, it was a community hall.”
The ground floor is all retail, with mostly used instruments, although there are a few lines of new instruments they’ve picked up in recent years. Retail items range from musical and orchestral instruments to guitars, amplifiers and sheet music.
Since opening nearly two decades ago, Durst said, Blue Note has seen more walk-in customers and was able to expand its advertising to the Dubuque area.
“Our business has grown every year since we opened,” he said. “Even during COVID, we haven’t really had a downturn.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted businesses to close, Blue Note continued to operate by appointment and cleared a backlog of repairs. Since restrictions eased, the business has been open to normal operating capacity.
Retail purchases increase
While repair services were originally “the biggest moneymaker,” Durst said he’s “increasingly” seeing an increase in retail purchases.
“As far as the biggest money-makers go, it’s probably guitars and ukuleles,” he said. “We also do a lot of band instrument rental. It’s good because it’s a constant income. We can count on that every month.
Rentals are for individual students rather than the schools themselves, especially beginner students who have not yet decided what instrument they want to play. The services also include a rent-to-own program in which the monthly fee is applied towards the purchase of the instrument.
When Durst opened the storefront, he taught piano lessons and added instructors as needed and available.
While running the company, Durst said the biggest lesson he learned was that doing what’s right for the customer is good for the business.
“Treat people the way you would like to be treated and business will go up,” Durst said. “Although you might take a hit once in a while in the bottom line. If you approach a music business purely from a profit perspective, I don’t think you’ll be successful.
For more information, visit bluenoterepair.com/.