Ri­den­hour Mu­sic store to close af­ter more than 70 years

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY TIF­FANY HOL­LAND

SALEM, VA. | Las Ve­gas en­ter­tainer Wayne New­ton was prob­a­bly the most fa­mous stu­dent ever to pass through the doors of Ri­den­hour Mu­sic. But its own­ers say the count­less num­bers of chil­dren who came into the store over the years were the best part of the store.

Some vis­ited the store to pick up an in­stru­ment for the first time. Some came to per­fect their craft through mu­sic lessons. Oth­ers needed to get a beloved in­stru­ment re­paired, to get their gui­tar strum­ming just right.

Af­ter more than 70 years, Ri­den­hour Mu­sic will cease op­er­a­tion in De­cem­ber. The com­pany, with one re­main­ing store in Salem, has been sell­ing off its deep col­lec­tion of in­stru­ments over the past month. Ev­ery day, Cathy Ri­den­hour said, peo­ple come in to say their good­byes.

“Why are you leav­ing us?” sev­eral long­time cus­tomers have asked her. But she said ev­ery­one has to re­tire at some point.

“We’re sad, too,” she said.

“It was all about ed­u­cat­ing kids on mu­sic and shar­ing the gift of mu­sic.”

The last day of the store’s sale is Dec. 17, and the own­ers will be out by the end of the year.

Cathy Ri­den­hour is the daugh­ter-in-law of Elmer Ri­den­hour, the store’s founder. Even though he was a high school dropout, he started his first mu­sic busi­ness in 1942 in Portsmouth and later opened the first Roanoke Val­ley lo­ca­tion in 1945 on Wise Av­enue.

While in south­east Roanoke he taught hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of res­i­dents to play mu­sic, in­clud­ing a 5-yearold Wayne New­ton. Elmer Ri­den­hour had a pref­er­ence for steel gui­tars and Hawai­ian mu­sic, but af­ter 40 years at the helm, he re­tired and in 1982 he passed the busi­ness along to his son, Jim Ri­den­hour, who was in cor­po­rate sales look­ing for a ca­reer change.

Jim and his wife, Cathy, ran the store at its long­time spot on Salem’s West Main Street and other lo­ca­tions in Roanoke and Chris­tians­burg.

In 2002, Jim Ri­den­hour tran­si­tioned many of the day-to-day op­er­a­tions to his wife and his son, Jerry Ri­den­hour, and he of­fi­cially re­tired in 2010. But it’s not un­com­mon to still see Jim at the store.

Af­ter the Great Re­ces­sion, Ri­den­hour closed its other lo­ca­tions and fo­cused on the Salem store. Like many re­tail busi­nesses, mu­sic shops were hit hard dur­ing the rise of in­ter­net shop­ping as more peo­ple turned on­line to buy in­stru­ments.

Cathy Ri­den­hour said the mar­ket­place is en­tirely dif­fer­ent than when she got started. But Ri­den­hour didn’t just sell in­stru­ments. It re­lied also on a healthy mix of lessons and repairs, and a loyal cus­tomer base.

“It was kind of like the grandma’s house of mu­sic stores,” said Aaron Parker. “And that’s not re­ally [a] bad thing.”

Mr. Parker worked at Ri­den­hour on and off for more than 15 years. He taught al­most any­thing with strings and frets, such as gui­tar and man­dolin. He also did repairs. The store was a great place for bur­geon­ing mu­si­cians like him­self, he said. He started work­ing there shortly af­ter col­lege when he was 23, and even though he of­ten had to travel for long pe­ri­ods of time, he al­ways was able to come back and work in the shop.

He is now open­ing his own mu­sic store, En­joy­able Noises, in The Elec­tra apart­ment build­ing on Camp­bell Av­enue South­west in Roanoke. He will do repairs, teach classes and sell some in­stru­ments — sort of like a much smaller ver­sion of Ri­den­hour.


Frank Hat­field, a sales­man at Ri­den­hour Mu­sic, plays a gui­tar through an am­pli­fier in the store. The Salem, Virginia, mu­sic store will close af­ter more than 70 years.

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