For 20 years, customers have been walking through the doors of Music Go Round and never knowing exactly what sort of musical treasures they will find.
It’s part of the luster of the music resale shop at 833 Bethel Rd. first opened by Kevin Johnson in 1996.
Johnson earned a degree in marketing from OSU and spent time in the grocery industry before changing lanes to music and entrepreneurship.
“At about 30 I found myself without a job and I was looking around at things I can do and I’d always wanted to have my own business,” he says.
He’d been a lifelong musician as well, playing piano and trumpet growing up and adding guitar in college.
Johnson first discovered the opportunity to open a Music Go Round in the paper. The brand is attached to a larger group of consignment franchise retail concepts including Once Upon a Child and Play it Again Sports. Both were already established names in the Columbus market.
The Bethel Road Music Go Round was the first franchise location in Central Ohio (and just the 12th in the nation). Johnson was originally gunning for Gahanna, but a more populous area was chosen. However, after four years, he would get his spot in Gahanna, opening his second location at 139 Stoneridge Drive. (Johnson is also part-owner of a store in Michigan.)
Both locations serve the same purpose.
“We buy, sell and trade used musical instruments,” Johnson says. “If you can put it in your car and bring it to us, we’ll probably buy it.”
That means no pianos or organs, but trumpets, to clarinets, to electric guitars, to recording equipment are fair game for a cleaning, servicing, reconditioning and resale. Used guitars and amplifiers are Music Go Round’s bread and butter. Johnson says about 80 percent of what goes out the front door is reconditioned instruments and 20 percent new goods that fit more in the accessories bucket – strings, reeds, etc.
The customer that takes those items out the front door could be an elementary school kid to a member of a touring band – each with a unique reason to go.
“I think that we do a really good job with beginners,” Johnson says.
First-timers can test out the instruments in-store and staff will get a new player the right instrument to take them where they want to go.
“Music is a fantastic thing to give your children an opportunity at,” Johnson adds.
He rolls off a list of the benefits – self discipline, teaching a child to practice and work hard at something to see the fruits of their labor, the opportunity to build a group of friends around a common interest. Even after 20 years, he’s always excited to see the look on a child’s face the first time they pick up a bow or pluck a string and realize they are making that sound.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “We have a lot of regulars that will maybe come in our stores three times a week,” Johnson says.
There’s also a rotating selection of local musicians and touring bands who have had a good experience at another location and stop in to see what’s new.
Technology has played a big role in how Music Go Round has evolved over two decades. When the shop first opened, used instruments were found in trade publications and printed newspaper advertisements or at the pawn shop.
“The internet has turned the industry itself on its ear,” Johnson says.
Today, Music Go Round doesn’t buy on the internet, but they do sell online. It’s only a small percentage of their sales, but has the opportunity to grow. In fact, it’s what Johnson thinks is in store for the next 20 years.
The storefront serves the purpose of acquiring equipment that Music Go Round can clean up and sell. Eventually, it could be accomplished through a smaller footprint, but Johnson says they would really have to increase their online presence and ability to handle web transactions seamlessly.
Music Go Round is raffling off a guitar to support the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Bethel Road location.