B&B Music stores sold to national chain

CAMDEN — Any prospective musician from the past three generations knew that B&B Music and Sound was the premier place to go in the Dover-area if they wanted to pick out an instrument to play, buy sheet music or take lessons.

If there was a guitar to pick, a trumpet to toot or a drum to bang, B&B Music had it.

The B&B era officially came to an end last Thursday when Music & Arts, a national brand of Guitar Center, purchased the B&B Music stores in Camden, Lewes and Salisbury, Maryland.

It was easy to tell it was a tough decision for Roy Voshell to sell the longtime Dover musical institution, which he bought from his father, Harry.
“It’s been extremely emotional and very difficult,” Mr. Voshell said. “My father ran this business for 40 years. I bought the business from him in 2002.

“I have been trying to avoid making an announcement and haven’t had a chance to put out what I want to put out on our Facebook page. My goal was to take care of my employees first and make sure they had an equivalent job role, which Music & Arts has provided. As far as the sale goes, it is final.”

The remarkable B&B era began when Robert “Bob” Bennett and Fred Brown opened the doors to the original B&B Music on June 15, 1955, located inside the old Bayard Hotel building on the corner of Loockerman Street and Governors Avenue in Dover. They began selling vinyl records, sheet music, pianos and music accessories.

Harry Voshell joined the B&B Music partnership in 1963 and the business expanded to include supplying instruments to local school programs at his request. He was later given the chance to buy the store, which he did.
The business eventually relocated to Camden where it has continued to thrive more than a half century later, now known as B&B Music and Sound at 3443 S. Dupont Highway in Camden.

Along the way Roy Voshell got involved and later purchased the store so his dad could retire.

Harry Voshell was proud of his career in music and equally proud that his son had his same passion for providing musical instruments to musicians of all ages.

Matt Stapleford

Matt Stapleford will serve as the store manager for the Camden Music & Arts location. He said he is excited about making the transition, which will become even more visible when the signage surrounding the building is changed in the coming weeks.

“I think we’ve had a really good reception from the local community so far,” Mr. Stapleford said. “That’s why I’m so excited about this new Music & Arts location. We share a lot of the same kind of instruments that B&B Music became known for carrying for the community.”
In recent years, Roy Voshell opened The Rockshop Performing Arts Center – adjacent to the music store – which he will continue to own and rent out for concerts and events.

“It’s still going to be The Rockshop and that’s 100 percent separate,” Mr. Voshell said.
Interestingly, B&B Music and Sound was sold to Music & Arts, a business whose story seems a lot like its own except it decided to expand on a national scale.

The first Music & Arts store was located in a small house in Bethesda, Maryland, and run by founder Benjamin O’Brien. When Music & Arts opened in 1952, it offered printed music, music lessons, dance lessons and art supplies. Mr. O’Brien decided shortly after opening his business that he wanted to focus on music to better serve his customers – a decision that remains intact to this day.

Since the 1990’s, Music & Arts has expanded nationwide through a series of acquisitions and mergers with other music dealers. In 2005, Music & Arts joined forces with American Music to become the largest band and orchestra instrument retailer in the United States.

Music & Arts now comprises 200-plus retail stores, 120-plus educational representatives and 300-plus affiliate locations. Based in Frederick, Maryland, the company of trained musicians says it “offers friendly service and everything musical for students, parents and educators.”

Despite its size, Music & Arts spokesperson Leslie Buttonow said the company likes to keep the feel of a community-respected business even after they acquire them. She said their philosophy is not much different than B&B’s.

“In each community Music & Arts enters, they work with local schools to support their music programs as well,” Ms. Buttonow said. “When their entry into a new community is the result of an acquisition, they work closely with the previous owners to ensure continued service to existing customers, and that the previous store’s legacy will also continue in terms of the high level of service their customers will continue to receive.

“Sometimes, previous owners or staff remain with Music & Arts.”
Mr. Voshell insisted that be the case for much of his staff at B&B. That, he said, was priority No. 1, and Music & Arts retained many of the B&B employees’ services, though it wasn’t clear how many stayed.

Joey Fulkerson, a well-known local musician who has worked for many years at B&B Music and Sound, announced on social media last week that he would be making a career change. Ironically, it had nothing to do with B&B’s impending sale.

“Lots of change happening,” Mr. Fulkerson wrote last Thursday. “B&B Music has been sold to Music and Arts. I want to thank Roy Voshell and his father Harry for taking a chance on me and for teaching me so many things about business, hard work and integrity.

“I have been contemplating starting my own business for a couple years now. Not even knowing what was coming at B&B, I recently got the wheels turning and am proud to announce Fulkerson Music Services LLC. I’ll be providing quality string instrument repair and private lessons on guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele for beginner to intermediate students.”

Mr. Voshell believes Music & Arts will be able to successfully make the transition into the Dover, Lewes and Salisbury markets.
“Basically, they’re going to do everything that we did,” he said, of Music & Arts. “I knew they would not be able to offer the contracting side (the sound business). We’re trying to find another contractor to make sure customers are covered.”

Ms. Buttonow said she doesn’t expect the changes at the music store to be monumental in any way.
“As for the store itself, it’ll offer musical instrument sales and rentals, as well as a convenient repair shop,” she said. “(Music & Arts has) a broad and modern selection of products, and each store is run with a local community ‘Main Street’ feel, but with the advantages that come from being a national chain.”

As for Mr. Voshell, the end of summer will be a particularly bittersweet time. That’s when children entering the fifth grade typically pick out an instrument to play in their school band and the excitement level hits a crescendo.

“Obviously, that’s an exciting time of the year,” he said. “There’s nothing more exciting than seeing the look on students’ faces when they are deciding which instrument they want to learn how to play.”

As for his immediate future, Mr. Voshell said, “I have probably several years’ worth of work to just close out what’s left of my corporation. I’m not even close to retiring yet, but hopefully I can get to working towards that goal.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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