Brattleboro's Maple Leaf Music moves in new direction
BRATTLEBORO — Maple Leaf Music will be changing its model of business after 35 years in existence and 22 years in its current location at 23 Elliot Street.
"One of the biggest reasons is the increases in rent prices in downtown Brattleboro," said Christian Glines, owner for the last four years. "There was a yearly increase. And then when our lease came up, there was a large increase."
Redevelopment of the Brooks House, which was renovated after a fire in 2011 damaged it, was cited as one factor for the spike in rental prices. Glines said he was given square-footage figures quoted from rental properties inside the Brooks House.
"It's a tough situation," said Dawn Russell, co-owner and Glines' partner. "It's a 25 to 30 percent increase and we've done any of the renovations that have happened here. It needs a lot of work."
Paul Levitt, the building owner, said he received a request from Glines to change the configuration of the space by splitting it in half.
"It just wouldn't work. It's unfortunate," Levitt said. "I wish him the best of luck in the world. I can't make a space into an unusable space."
A new tenant is scheduled to take over the property. Levitt said he was not at liberty to divulge details.
"It's their prerogative," he said. "But it will be something nice."
Levitt called Glines "a nice guy" who paid his rent.
"I'm sorry he couldn't make a go of it from what I see," said Levitt.
The couple looked for other locations downtown after not being able to come to an agreement for renewal on the lease.
"And nothing really came up," said Glines.
But they recently closed on a home in Brattleboro, where some of the shop's services will continue.
"We love the community," said Russell, who also works downtown in marketing and web design.
Maple Leaf experienced a very slow winter, according to Glines, who pointed to employees at ski areas not getting as much work as usual. He heard from other downtown businesses who witnessed a similar reduction in foot traffic over the last four to six months.
April 30 is the store's last day of business downtown. Cash customers will get a 30 percent discount off everything in the shop. A 20 percent discount will be available with other methods of payment.
"It's a little sad because the reason I bought the store was to continue the legacy of the store. It's great to be able to provide service to local musicians," said Glines, recalling how he'd help people set up guitars or pedal boards. "That was the fun part of being here. We will miss that aspect."
Besides renovating their home to make space for giving lessons, hand-made instruments will be sold there on an appointment-only basis. But they're also tapping into the power of technology, the same market that contributed to pushing Maple Leaf out of Elliot Street.
"So many people are selling $5 above cost because they do bulk sales. You can't really compete," said Glines. "It started to spur me into doing instruments one at a time, not mass produced. You can't just go out and buy five or 10 copies at a time."
He will continue to use reverb.com to sell instruments, comparing it to Ebay or other auction websites. He purchases from small makers, many of them from around New England. The website at mapleleafmusic.com will be maintained.
Glines hopes the change will lead to more gratification.
"I'm optimistic. Now I'll have an opportunity to teach again. I always loved that," Glines said. "Showing people how to play instruments will probably be a little better than trying to sell people instruments."
He has taught lessons for over 20 years.
Another cause for optimism is Glines' and Russell's new music project, Cadillac Envy, a rockabilly band scheduled to perform at McNeill's Brewery on May 14 during Brattleboro Brewers Festival and again at the Four Columns in Newfane on Memorial Day. The band has a page on Facebook.
"Not having a storefront will definitely free us up to play music ourselves," Glines said.
"It's just going to shift the way that we're connecting," Russell added. "I feel good about it."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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