Anyone who walks into Riff City Guitar and Music Co. will never see a sign that reads, “Please ask for assistance.” Owner Joe Leach encouraged those visiting during a recent grand opening event to pick up an instrument and play – even if it was their first time.
“We want to bring the music community a place to hang out and collaborate,” Leach said. “Our mantra is ‘please play the guitars.’”
The music store that carries everything from electric and bass guitars to ukuleles, strings and picks, opened Nov. 5 at 708 Elm St. E in St. Joseph. It’s located in the Northland Plaza behind Movies Etc. It’s the first location in Minnesota and the first music store in St. Joseph. The store is run by a staff of four that includes Leach, his daughter Ellen Leach, Al Stumpf and Bill Lydeen.
Leach, a bass guitarist with 25 years of experience, has always been a lover of music. The 44-year-old was once in a band with Al Stumpf, who also works in the store, but he said he just plays for fun now. He wants others to find fun in playing as well. One of the ways to help introduce music to others is through the offering of ukulele and guitar lessons that will begin in the coming week.
He has two other businesses in St. Joseph. They are Bliss Direct Media and a corporation called Overstock Management Group. Overstock Management Group has three websites on which the company sells items online. Music is one of the three online niches. In the music-instrument market, it’s necessary to have a retail store so people can come in and try things out, Leach said.
The store carries about eight guitar brands that include Fender, Gretsch and Music Man. In addition to the retail store, the music company has an e-commerce site, www.riffcityguitaroutlet.com, for those who wish to purchase items solely online. The advantage of having a retail and online store is some items require testing them out before purchasing while other items do not. A guitar is something many might want to hold in their hands before buying.
Guitars are a lot like some clothing, where it may be the exact same model but there’s slight variations between them.
Riff City Guitar and Music Co. will offer ukulele and guitar lessons on Monday nights. Slots are open between 3 and 7 p.m. The dates are Nov. 19, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3. There are five spots open for people to come in and try the ukulele on these days. During the half-hour sessions that begin at 6 p.m., participants will learn a few chords and a simple song, he said. The instrument is provided. The first lesson is free, but if participants want to continue lessons they can sign up with the instructor for paid lessons.
Why the ukulele? When researching most sought-after musical instruments for the company, the ukulele was the most searched item.
“The ukulele is the most popular musical instrument on the planet right now,” Leach said. “It’s really made a comeback.”
Stumpf and Lydeen said traffic was steady throughout the grand opening. In the few days the store was open, the response was positive and they predict the support will continue. Leach agreed.
“Feedback has been phenomenal, particularly from the musicians who have been in the area for a long time,” Leach said. “Anyone in St. Joseph is astounded we have a music store in St. Joseph. We love hearing that feedback.”
Leach and his wife, Barb, have three children. They live just north of St. Joseph in Avon.
Name: Riff City Guitar and Music Co.
Address: 708 Elm St. E, St. Joseph
Hours: 11 a.m. -7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
Website: www.riffcityguitar.com; e-commerce site: www.riffcityguitaroutlet.com