State Street landmark shuts its doors to locals and music makers
After 25 years in business, Instrumental Music in Santa Barbara is taking its final bow and moving forward with plans to shut its doors in April.
With guitars and ukuleles lining the walls, the store stood as a State Street landmark through the years and struck a chord with locals both literally and figuratively.
Despite the company’s loyal customer base, the rise in operational costs, a consumer surge in online shopping and the COVID-19 pandemic are all factors in the location’s closure, Bryan McCann, the company’s owner and founder, told the News-Press Tuesday.
“It’s a regret to leave, but since our founding in 1979, we have made a lot of adjustments to changes in the marketplace … The best way forward for us to maintain Instrumental Music is to consolidate the locations and focus on providing a more significant experience for the guitar buyer at our Thousand Oaks location,” Mr. McCann said.
The closure on State Street comes just a year after the company shut down its Ventura location in January 2020. With just one store remaining, Instrumental Music will now showcase all of its inventory at the Thousand Oaks location with plans to expand the company’s online presence in the coming months.
For Dominic Pino, a member of the music shop’s senior sales staff, closing the doors feels like a heavy loss.
Even before joining the Instrumental Music staff nearly a decade ago, Mr. Pino can remember hanging out at the shop as a teenager and meeting the members of his first band.
“For me, I just kind of feel bad for the musicians in Santa Barbara County just because this is like one of the last real, visceral, physical music shops where you can come in and sit down and play some guitars and potentially meet other musicians,” Mr. Pino told the News-Press at the State Street store. “I mean, how I found my first band (was) by coming into a music shop and sitting and just meeting some kids.”
As a full-time staff member at the Thousand Oaks location, Mr. Pino won’t lose his job, but instead, he is saddened over the loss of opportunity for aspiring musicians in Santa Barbara.
“You can be a nobody on the street, but when you come into a music store, you’re a musician, and all of a sudden, you’re somebody,” Mr. Pino said. “That type of thing is really hard to get in an online experience. So for me, I feel kind of a sense of loss for the people and the musicians in Santa Barbara because there’s a certain experience that comes with being able to come into a music shop and play and talk and really be around like-minded people.”
Since announcing the decision to close the State Street store, both Mr. McCann and Mr. Pino received many messages and farewells from loyal customers.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of feedback from our long standing customers in the community,” Mr. McCann said. “Buying a musical instrument is a very unique experience because it’s one of the few objects you might potentially have for the rest of your life … In the 25 years we’ve been (in Santa Barbara), we’ve had people reach out who bought their first guitar from us, and they still know what the case smelled like and they still play that guitar.”
Many loyal customers are mourning the loss of one of the last music stores in the city, Mr. Pino said. He is hopeful, though, they will make the trek to Thousand Oaks to still visit Instrumental Music in person.
“It’s not like Instrumental Music is going away by any means,” Mr. Pino said. “I mean, the idea is to consolidate in Thousand Oaks and come back stronger than ever before. But taking that physical presence away from the Santa Barbara community does have its implications, especially for younger musicians.”
Instrumental Music plans to close to the public April 3, but will reopen for a blowout final sale at its 3328 State St. location on April 10.
For more details, call the store at 805-569-5055.