Small in­stru­ment shop is big on ser­vice

Bul­lock’s has served ‘gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies’ in area

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By CAROL SMITH csmith@somd­news.com Twit­ter: #@somd_bized­i­tor

Bul­lock’s Piano Salon in White Plains may look like a small busi­ness to some, but owner J.R. “Byx” Bul­lock is big on ser­vice.

Since 1969, Bul­lock’s has served the in­stru­ment rental and purchase needs of fam­i­lies, schools, churches and or­ga­ni­za­tions in South­ern Mary­land and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

The store car­ries new and used pi­anos for de­liv­ery na­tion­wide, Bul­lock said, along with drums and per­cus­sion in­stru­ments, stringed in­stru­ments for or­ches­tras, wood­wind and brass in­stru­ments, acous­tic and elec­tric guitars, ban­jos, ukule­les, man­dolins and more.

The store also stocks in­stru­ment sup­plies, ac­ces­sories and mu­sic books, of­fers tun­ing and in-home piano ser­vices, and uses a pro­fes­sional re­pair facility to re­pair bro­ken in­stru­ments.

Bul­lock said his in­ter­est in rent­ing band in­stru­ments be­gan when he was in col­lege.

“I got very in­ter­ested in band in­stru­ments. I was go­ing to col­lege in the march­ing band, was play­ing cello in the or­ches­tra,” Bul­lock said. “And I started stock­ing band in­stru­ments and rent­ing them while I was in col­lege, in my dad’s piano store.”

He said he got his start in mu­sic by dint of be­ing close to it.

“I had been in the piano busi­ness with my fa­ther in Mis­souri,” Bul­lock said. “He bought a piano store in 1952. There were three new pi­anos in the store and an old up­right, the sig­nage, pa­per goods, and the rent was $85 a month.”

He said af­ter six months, the two moved the busi­ness into their home be­cause his fa­ther could not afford the rent.

He said the busi­ness took off when they moved it back out of the home.

“I think that was the turn­ing point be­cause the econ­omy changed, it was around ’57 or ’58, right in there,” Bul­lock said. “We opened a store in a com­mer­cial lo­ca­tion and the busi­ness just be­gan to boom. So, in the late ’50s, we were rolling. And then the first shop­ping cen­ter in South­east Mis­souri [opened], and we had a piano store in that shop­ping cen­ter.”

Bul­lock said he opened his first store in Lex­ing­ton Park with his sis­ter in 1969, then opened his sec­ond store in La Plata the fol­low­ing year. He said he even­tu­ally moved the en­tire busi­ness to La Plata, then made two more moves be­fore set­tling in at the cur­rent lo­ca­tion.

Bul­lock said his first store ini­tially of­fered pi­anos and or­gans. He said it quickly ex­panded to band in­stru­ments and rentals to lo­cal schools, a pro­gram that grew to be the big­gest part of his busi­ness.

“When I opened here in Mary­land af­ter 5½ years of ac­tive duty in the Navy” at Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion, “I opened as a piano and or­gan store,” Bul­lock said. “Within six months, the band di­rec­tors in St. Mary’s County were beg­ging me to carry band in­stru­ments and have a rental pro­gram. To­day, the big­gest part of my busi­ness is our school band rental and or­ches­tra rent- al in­stru­ments.”

Bul­lock said his store also of­fers pri­vate, one-on-one in­stru­ment lessons for the “novice to the hob­by­ist.”

He said the lessons are taught in the store by in­struc­tors for the piano, vi­olin, gui­tar, sax­o­phone and clar­inet, wind in­stru­ments and all of the school band in­stru­ments.

He said if the store’s in­struc­tors do not of­fer lessons for a par­tic­u­lar in­stru­ment, he can give a re­fer­ral to an instructor who does.

Francesca Ar­ti­giano of Wal­dorf said she is “more than sat­is­fied” with the ser­vice she has re­ceived at Bul­lock’s over the past four years as a customer. She said her two daugh­ters play in­stru­ments at school.

“I can go in there, be treat- ed like I am the best customer ever,” Ar­ti­giano said. “He makes me feel like he ac­tu­ally knows me, [like I’m] part of the fam­ily ... he makes me feel like a spe­cial customer. I’m pretty sure that he treats ev­ery­body the same way.”

Bul­lock said he has been play­ing in­stru­ments for years and calls him­self a “work­ing piano player,” per­form­ing across South­ern Mary­land at spe­cial events, weddings, an­niver­saries and some restau­rants.

“My de­gree is in the cello. I started col­lege in the march­ing band play­ing bari­tone horn,” Bul­lock said. “And then for about 40 or 42 years, I was play­ing or­gan. The last five or eight years, I’ve been play­ing piano. And I sing. So, that’s me. That’s what I am.”

He said the big­gest event where he plays is the an­nual Se­niors Prom at the Wal­dorf Jaycees Hall.

“The band has more fun than the crowd, and the crowd has a blast,” Bul­lock said. “I got a 10-piece band. No, we do not re­hearse … The sax­o­phone player has been with me for 42 years, the drum­mer, 35. Some of the play­ers are re­tired mil­i­tary from the area who are al­ways on top of their game. That party, 450 peo­ple come ev­ery year. We’ve done that for 26 years.”

Bul­lock said he is here to “serve the needs of the pub­lic” and takes pride in work­ing with gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies.

“I’m re­ally home­town mu­sic store USA,” Bul­lock said. “I’m deal­ing with fam­i­lies and gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies. Peo­ple are bring­ing their chil­dren here to get in­stru­ments that got their in­stru­ments when they were chil­dren. That kind of thing. And I love it.”

STAFF PHOTO BY CAROL SMITH

Owner J.R. “Byx” Bul­lock sits at a baby grand piano in­side Bul­lock’s Piano Salon in White Plains. The store has served the in­stru­ment rental and purchase needs of fam­i­lies, schools, churches and or­ga­ni­za­tions in South­ern Mary­land and sur­round­ing ar­eas since 1969.

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