Greenville’s Hansen’s Music House is closing its doors

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:21 am on Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hansen’s Music House, located at 116 S. Lafayette St. in downtown Greenville, will close its doors for good in June 2012. — Daily News/Cory Smith

GREENVILLE — A fixture of the Greenville community for more than 60 years, Hansen’s Music House will be closing its doors for the final time in June.

Owner Bob Hansen said the store will begin hosting a “going out of business” sale in January to help sell off the store’s inventory.

“We are going to close the store in six months,” Hansen said. “We’ll start a closing sale the first of next year and be finished in June.”

Hansen said the primary reason for the store’s closing is directly related to recent economic struggles, citing the general state of the economy in Michigan as a major factor.

“From 1948 to 2001, we had an increase in sales every year,” he said. “But since then we’ve had a significant decrease in sales every year. The money is just going the wrong way.”

Hansen said it’s been very difficult for anyone working in the retail business the past few years. Selling products people want — as opposed to things people need — makes the situation worse for Hansen.

“One out of 10 people are interested in music,” he said. “If I sold something everyone needed, something like shoes, I might not have been in this situation.”

Hansen said he has had a struggle keeping up with competing prices online where items are often much cheaper and available with free shipping and handling.

“People don’t see the difference in instruments, but they see the difference in price,” he said. “The quality isn’t anywhere near the same, but in today’s economy that doesn’t seem to matter as much as it used to.”

Hansen tried to see if the store could continue under new ownership, but no one was interested.

Guitars at Hansen's Music House. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Store Manager Jenny Bennett, who has worked at Hansen’s store for 26 years, said the convenience of online shopping has had a direct impact on the store’s lack of success in recent years.

“People can shop right from home,” Bennett said. “Many places offer free shipping and handling. We just can’t compete with that.”

Bennett said Hansen did everything he could to save the store, including pouring his own savings and retirement funds to keep the store afloat for the past five years.

“I’m still in shock, in disbelief,” she said. “This was not something that was done quickly or suddenly. Bob has been struggling with this for the better part of the year. We’ve tried to remain optimistic and hopeful, but things just continued to get worse. We fought the good fight.”

Hansen opened the store with his father, Eldon R. Hansen, in 1948.

“Since I can remember, this store has been my life,” Bob Hansen said. “My home has always been this music store.”

Hansen’s Music House has offered customer service to 15 area schools including Carson City, Central Montcalm, Vestaburg, Montebella, Tri County, Greenville, Lakeview and Belding.

According to Bennett, once the store closes in June the nearest location of another music store will be either in Grand Rapids or Lansing.

“That is sad,” she said.

Greenville High School Band and Orchestra Director Susan Gould has been doing business with Hansen’s Music House for 21 years. She isn’t sure yet how she’ll adjust to the closing of the store.

“This is a profound loss,” Gould said. “He has been a great businessman and dedicated Greenville resident all his life. He has given back more to this community than anyone can understand. He’s our champion.”

Gould said no decisions have been made as far as how instrument repairs and other services will be handled for her band and orchestra programs.

“We really have to consider what other dealers in the Grand Rapids area are interested,” she said. “I am committed to find someone who will stay committed to us, but I don’t think I will ever be able to find another Bob Hansen.”

She most appreciated the personal service Hansen provided by visiting the high school every week to check on the instruments.

“For 21 years, since I’ve been the instructor here at Greenville High School, I can’t recall a week where he hasn’t called and showed up on schedule every Wednesday,” Gould said.

She said losing the store feels more like losing a friend. She first found out about the store’s closing via a letter from Bob not more than a week ago and couldn’t help but cry when reading the news.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” she said. “He always goes above and beyond. When I first came to Greenville he was so patient with me. He has always provided me with anything I can use for my students.”

Hansen’s store also offered services such as guitar lessons and in-store rentals, but numbers have steadily dwindled over the years.

“At our peak, we were renting as many as 500 instruments out at a time,” Hansen said. “But today we are down to maybe 200 instruments being rented.”

A trumpet at Hansen's Music House. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Hansen said the drop in numbers is a result of cheaper products offered at major retail outlets that don’t necessarily specialize in instrument sales.

“Parents can walk into a Walmart, Kmart or Meijer and find a much cheaper instrument for their child to play. And in today’s economy, cost is deciding factor No. 1,” Hansen said. “In Montcalm County you have very high unemployment. You can’t blame people for how they are spending their money today when you sell something that people can live without.”

Hansen said in the store’s heyday, as many as 300 students took guitar lessons under seven different instructors, but Hansen estimated there are currently only 60 students taught by just three instructors today.

Including Hansen and Bennett, the store currently employs seven people.

“I feel bad for my employees. I feel bad for my customers and I feel bad for the community,” he said. “We kept hoping things would change, that the economy would turn around, but it just keeps getting worse.”
Hansen took the store over from his father’s control in 1959, but said he wouldn’t want to burden any of his own children with the store.

“With this store, I was able to put all three of my kids through college,” he said. “But you could not own a store like this in today’s economy and do that anymore. Most retailers are feeling the pain. I couldn’t put any of my own children through that even if they wanted to take over the store.”
Hansen said the numbers just don’t add up anymore.

“It’s dollars and cents,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of my savings into this store, but I just can’t do it anymore.”

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