Late last week, I hinted at an exciting announcement to come. The news was so fresh at the time of that writing that we weren’t quite ready to make it public. We needed time to absorb it, to readjust ourselves to what is, to grieve one fading dream while simultaneously celebrating a new beginning.
Thus, it is with mixed emotion that I share the news that by month’s end, my husband, Troy, will hang up his guitar-store-owner hat and try on another one. The direction in which he is turning holds lots of exciting possibilities. He has accepted a position with a company that is both sound and family-friendly, and the role seems extremely well-suited to him. We are profoundly grateful for the chance to move in this new direction.
They say it takes about five years to get a new business up and running smoothly. It was nearly five years ago that Troy summoned the courage to dive into the American dream of small-business ownership, creating Red Star Guitars at 3005 Main Avenue in Fargo. He wasn’t the forerunner of small-business ownership in his family by any means. His father and his father’s father had done the same before him. He had a fairly clear idea of the benefits as well as the pitfalls of such a venture. Troy decided to cast away fears and jump in anyway.
Just this morning, one of our daughters emailed from her grandparents’, where she is staying for a week. She was recalling the beginning of the dream, when so much work was going into setting up the new store and how exciting it was to watch it go from an empty couple of rooms to a place where people would gather, sometimes just to talk, sometimes to try out a new electric or acoustic guitar, sometimes to have their weekly guitar lesson or just pick up some new strings or picks.
We are all walking into this new picture frame of our lives together, in many ways. And so many things have contributed to our coming to this place of recognizing that, despite many successes, the dream wasn’t going to be large enough to sustain our family long term. The final knock came in the spring when, during the crux of the flooding, my husband’s store was among the businesses labeled nonessential that were asked to close their doors temporarily. This local crisis combined with a wounded national economy helped lead us toward the pursuit of another path; one more stable and sure.
Neither my husband nor I will miss the achingly long retail hours – six days a week of work, sometimes without a lunch break, and a lot of lost opportunities with family. It’s been rough-going at times for me having to accept this schedule. And over time, it’s robbed Troy of some much-needed breathing space as well. At the same time, there was a joy in knowing he’d done it and in the ongoing challenge of doing his best to serve his customers well. The evidence that this was, in fact, being accomplished could be found in our encounters out in public when, without fail, someone would spot Troy and approach him with a smile on their face to tell him how much they were enjoying their new guitar or amplifier. He always thought of the customer first and tried to match them up with the best equipment for them, not necessarily the most expensive (unless that was their aim). His genuinely honest approach is what made the business work for as long as it did.
And on occasion, a few fun perks came his way – like having the chance to hang out with Eddie Van Halen and other rock stars he’s admired at the annual National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention in Los Angeles. Sometimes, he was offered free tickets to concerts. Other times, he earned music gear through high sales numbers. His vendors occasionally would treat him to dinner. Sometimes, the kids would get a trinket or two from these perks.
But despite the good moments, there are times elements beyond the control of a single person and even a single business enter in. For Troy, those things have converged in a way that has challenged him to let go and head in a new direction — working in an environment in which an entire business will not rise and fall on his shoulders. I think he will rest more easily at night and have more chances to reach out to the greater community in new ways. I’m excited for what’s to come for him, and all of us. More time with Daddy can’t be a bad thing. These tender years are speeding past, but it’s not too late to hop on the bustling, fleeting train of childhood and enjoy the ride.
I feel certain the best is yet to come and that he’ll thrive in his new position. Having multi-tasked successfully day in and day out for the better part of the last five years, he is ready for this new challenge – more ready than he would have been five years ago. Much more has been gained than lost, and though not entirely visible yet, the benefits of all that hard work seem to have helped make the risk worth it. I’m proud of Troy for having jumped when he saw few other options, and I’m proud of him for landing this new position as well. I see in him a brave man who is doing the best he can for his family.
The day he locks the door for the last time will be a hard one, I’m sure, but I’m placing my own emotional bets on our new life ahead. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for some new or used guitar gear, or even if you aren’t, come visit him this week at 3005 Main Avenue in Fargo. He’ll do his best to match you up with something of your liking.
From one evening in September 2005 when the kids and I took a “jammie drive” to see the store’s progress: