Staff hopes to keep music alive, following store closure

12 years ago

Staff hopes to keep music alive,

following store closure

By Kathy McCarty

Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Aroostook Music, located on Main Street, officially closed its doors April 7, following a decision by officials with Northern Kingdom Music, headquartered in Rockport, to close the company’s northern-most branch.

    According to Chris Morton, whose been employed at the Presque Isle facility for over a decade, the news came as a bit of a surprise.

    “We weren’t given much in the way of advance notice,” said Morton.

    In a Facebook post to customers, Morton indicated anyone “renting a school band instrument from our company will continue to have their instruments serviced by Larry Hall.”

    “On behalf of myself, Randy King and Larry Hall, I’d like to genuinely thank everyone for your friendship and patronage over the years,” said Morton.

    Morton’s love of music as a child led to a career once he graduated college. He’s performed in a number of bands over the years, including most recently serving as drummer for the Houlton-based Doubletap, northern Maine’s premier blues band.

    “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a ninja or a fighter pilot. Neither of those jobs could hold a candle to working at Aroostook Music,” said Morton.

    “All three of us here agree that the greatest part of this job has been getting to know other musicians. We hope that those friendships will continue, even after our doors are closed,” said Morton.

    The Presque Isle facility isn’t the only division to be affected. A report in The Herald Gazette earlier this year indicated Northern Kingdom Music was reducing inventory in its Rockport and Bangor stores, “as a result of losses to Internet sales and a general slowing of the economy.”

    Several attempts to reach Dennis Walsh, Northern Kingdom’s general manager, were unsuccessful at presstime. Walsh was in the Star City prior to the store’s last day of operation but was busy with meetings and unavailable for comment.

    Morton said although Aroostook Music is closed, that’s not necessarily the end of the retail music business in the County.

    “We were the northernmost place to supply the musical needs of the region. While some items can be purchased online, musicians like to hold an instrument, see how it feels and sounds before purchasing,” said Morton, noting that’s not something you can do with an online purchase.

    Because of that and the cost and time involved in traveling downstate for musical purchases, Morton said he, King and Hall are looking at the possibility of opening a new music store.

    “We’d like to stay on Main Street/U.S. Route 1, because of the visibility, but we’d like to find a place with better parking and more visability,” he said. “We get customers from beyond Houlton to Fort Kent and into Canada. We want a place that’s easily accessible, no matter which direction you’re coming from.”

    To do that, however, takes money.

    “We’ve already been in touch with Rod Thompson at NMDC about what financing is available. We’re also looking into what’s available through the Presque Isle Development Fund – see what’s out there to assist new businesses,” said Morton.

    “It would be a new business in name only. Combined, we have decades of experience in the music industry,” said Morton.

    To raise awareness of their plans and to drum up support, a petition has been established online for those interested in expressing why a music store is important to have in Aroostook. Anyone interested in signing the petition can go to: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/northern-maine-needs-a-music-store/signatures.

    “Right now it’s more a matter of lining up the financing. If anyone’s interested in helping make our dream a reality, we’d love to hear from them,” said Morton. “That’s the hurdle we’re trying to get over. Once we’ve figured that out, we’ll determine what our next step will be.”

    If a new store opens, the name has tentatively been set as “Mort’s Music.”

    Anyone wanting more information can contact Morton by e-mailing harleymort@hotmail.com.