Blue Mountain Guitar, a fixture in West Lebanon’s Colonial Plaza shopping center for more than three decades, closed its doors last summer and switched to selling instruments online only. The reason for the shift was a familiar one among retailers: decreasing store sales and a rise in sales via the internet.
But the unique thing about musical instruments is that buyers frequently prefer to pick the instrument up and hold it in their hands and play it before making a purchase, according to Blue Mountain Guitar co-owner Barb McKelvy.
And that’s only possible with a brick-and-mortar location.
Responding to calls from customers, McKelvy and her business partner, Tyler Geno, reopened Blue Mountain Guitar in an alcove of shops on Main Street in New London directly across from Colby-Sawyer College.
“We went online-only but our old customers really wanted us to have a store again,” McKelvy said. “They are hands-on people.”
The new shop, which opened July 13, is only 350 square feet but the inventory includes Ibanez electric, bass and acoustic guitars, Luna acoustic guitars and ukuleles, Gold Tone banjos, Roland amps, Boss effects pedals, and Zildjian cymbals.
McKelvy said they also have a collection of about 20 “high-end vintage” guitars ranging in price from $2,000 to $6,000, but she declined to identify the models because she said she wanted interested buyers to make the trip to the store to see them.
“The only thing we don’t have displayed is a drum kit, but we keep them in stock at our warehouse,” McKelvy said. “But we generally have just as much product as in the old store.”
McKelvy said online sales are “doing well” and the e-commerce business has sold musical instruments and equipment to customers in all 50 states. A boost in sales occurred when Blue Mountain affiliated with online retailer Amazon, which allowed customers to compare Blue Mountain’s prices with those of other retailers and whose platform makes products available to more people.
In addition, Blue Mountain Guitar is expanding its musical instrument and equipment rental business and is looking at offering music lessons, which McKelvy said people in the New London community have been requesting.
Although the bucolic college town would appear to offer less customer traffic than the busy West Lebanon shopping corridor, McKelvy said, “the location here is better. We’re right across from the college, we’re getting more foot traffic and this is also an artist community and a year-round tourism spot.”
She and Geno are also weighing adding a digital recording studio to the mix.
“That’s something in the future,” she said.
McKelvy’s husband, Doug McKelvy, who ran Blue Mountain Guitar when it was in West Lebanon and oversaw the transition to online, is no longer affiliated with the business, Barbara McKelvy said.