Small instrument shop is big on service
Bullock’s has served ‘generations of families’ in area
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.”
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.