OSKALOOSA — From an uninspiring, unused and empty storefront just off the square, Ashley Schultz has created a welcoming, creative and lively music store with the perfect name: Muse.
Schultz ran G Strings with her grandfather, Pat Flaherty, until he retired.
“When he said he was retiring, I was like well, we have to have a music store, it’s like my life,” she said. “I went home and honestly just said to my husband ‘I am going to open a music store.’”
There was a lot of work to do, Schultz said, to get the store, located at 214 S. Market St., ready.
“It was really scary. It had nothing done that was original there was no flooring, it just bad,” she said. “I was like ok, we can do this. We can totally do it. Grandpa’s last day is in August. We have six weeks. It took us six weeks.”
It’s been a blessing, Schultz said, to make Muse into what she wanted it to be.
“I wanted a music store, but I wanted a destination, I wanted to inspire people. That’s how I came up with the name Muse,” she said. “I wanted a name that was a little different but simple but had the meaning I’m looking for. So it was fun coming up with the name. Because you think of all these crazy, fun names or whatever and once I came across it, I’m like that’s it!”
Muse has become a destination place, Schultz said.
“It’s a retail store, but people just gather and that’s what I wanted. I wanted people to feel comfortable, all walks of life,” she said. “People are strange and different and weird and everybody feels the same because we’re all different. And I love that because that’s the only thing that we have in common: is that we’re all different.”
Events like open mic night on Tuesdays and ‘Lyrical Therapy’ have helped build a community at the store, Schultz said.
“Lyrical Therapy is where you can come in and listen to poets or read a poem or write a song and sing it or talk it, it’s just a free, open space. It kind of turns into an adult youth group. People just start talking and talk about subjects or topics that are uncomfortable and they feel good talking about it,” she said. “So we have some things always going on and I think that’s exciting. Because there’s not a lot to do in the evenings. So we’re open late two nights a week for that.”
Make yourself at home
Part of Schultz’s way of making visitors feel at home is having coffee. There now are shelves filled with coffee cups that have been donated by community members.
“I had no idea how many I would get, to be honest. I know I have regulars that would help. I’m like I can’t go buy like 100 coffee cops, So this is evolving into a coffee station. All of these are donated,” she said. “And it makes them feel good, they’ll come in and they’re like ‘oh, my cup’s here’ so it makes them feel like they’re a part of what I have going on. I like to feel a part of something, so it’s not awkward.”
Schultz said a lot of students visit Muse.
“[It] has been really cool, because I offer free wifi,” she said. “So I’ve had students come in do studies or work, or my kids will come if I am working late, they’ll come here and just chill with their friends.”
Lessons, accessories, repairs
Guitar, piano and ukelele lessons are also given at Muse, and band and orchestra accessories are available as well.
“The coolest thing is that we’ve always had band and orchestra accessories and instruments but we’ve never been like a hub spot for schools,” Schultz said. “So I was able to get my flyer approved through the school board, so it’s in the band and orchestra rooms so we’re getting some students in here.”
If it’s not in the shop, Schultz can order it, she said.
Schultz said Muse also repairs instruments.
“I have a luthier that comes about once a week. I can replace strings and to set-ups on guitars and where I’m comfortable in my expertise but if it’s something beyond me or an instrument I’m not used to, I have a guy I work with in Ottumwa, he has his own shop and he’ll come here,” she said. “He was here yesterday for three hours. So we have a little workshop.”
Schultz has been excited about meeting local people and introducing people – especially children – to music.
“It’s super kid-friendly,” she said. “I have some parents that are like ‘don’t touch anything.’ I’m like ‘no, touch everything! How’s your child gonna know if they’re a drummer if you won’t let them sit on my drums?”
Supporting local businesses
Supporting local businesses have an effect on businesses, Schultz said.
“It’s how I provide for my family,” she said. “I can help you and you’re helping me and that’s how I”m staying here and you’re staying local because I have a service for you.”
Small businesses, Schultz said, don’t have to jack up their prices.
“If you do it right, you do not need to jack up your prices. You just sell more,” she said. “So we try to stay economical and our location and where we’re at, you have to be affordable.”
Vinyl records are a big hit, Schultz said.
“Vinyl is an experience. It’s not like getting on your iPhone and hitting play this. You have to come, you have to pick it up and look at the artwork,” she said. “Sometimes the artwork is better than the vinyl. It’s just like the whole entire thing. Put it on, push play, it’s just a cool experience and it sounds way different.”
Muse also supports local art by featuring an artist each month.
“They come in and do my front displays with their own pieces. This month is Judy Groenendyk. She has her own company here in town. It’s really unlimited with artists,” she said. “I give them the space and they can do whatever they want with it. I sell their pieces at no commission and I do not charge them a fee to have their stuff in here.”
Muse, as a sign placed prominently on the store’s exposed brick wall, is a spirit or source of inspiration.
“Any age, any walk of life,” Schultz said. “Just come and be here.”