A great candidate for a downtown anchor business would be Guitar Center. Though many of the city’s middle aged, hyper conservative paranoids don’t know it, Provo actually has an amazing — and nationally recognized — music scene. Several bands have recently been signed to major record labels, and some of the most stalwart businesses in downtown are actually music venues. I don’t know why the city and the citizens don’t make more of the music scene, which is easily one of the most entrepreneurial segments of the local economy. They’re frankly throwing away economic and cultural opportunities by not embracing it more, though that’s a topic for another post (or many other posts).
But despite the amazing music scene, it’s actually difficult to purchase a decent guitar in Provo. Or a fairly priced set of guitar strings, drum sticks, or a plethora of other equipment. There are some stores. I typically go to Bill Harris Music, for example, due to its central location. There also are some stores in Orem (Van Wagenen Drums and Guns, for an extremely sketchy example).
But none of these stores really carry decent brands, and their prices are generally exorbitant. I enjoy Bill Harris because going in there is always a folksy adventure, but I typically can’t find a Fender or Gibson guitar in there. Drum sticks at Bill Harris are many times more than they would be online (an unfair comparison for any brick and mortar store, I know, but still). In fact, Bill Harris’ store’s entire business model seems doomed, as sad as it makes me to say it.
At the same time, Provo has a young population, filled with teenagers and college students. Though I lack quantitative evidence, my sense also is that the per capita number of musicians is higher in Provo than other parts of the county.
So why don’t we have a decent music store? Why are the only Guitar Centers in Utah located up in Salt Lake County?
Guitar Center seems like the kind of store that eventually will arrive in Utah County, the only question is where (and when, of course). If company executives are left to choose a location on their own, I could see them running the numbers through a computer and choosing American Fork. But downtown Provo is an infinitely better place for the store. The music scene, the demographics, the walkability , etc. all suggest that there would be high demand in that area.
Guitar Center would be a positive anchor because it also potentially generates a lot of foot traffic. Because the company also owns the Musician’s Friend catalog, Guitar Center locations sort of run on the Apple Store business model, serving as much as product showrooms as actual retail locations. The result is that more people visit a Guitar Center than actually plan on immediately purchasing a product.
Honestly, bringing in a Guitar Center seems like such an obvious choice I can’t see why we don’t already have one. But if we wait too long, we never will.