Blue Note Music hits right notes in Platteville

Blue Note Music

Owner: Tim Durst

Address: 200 North Court St., Platteville, Wis.

Phone: 608-205-4531

Services: Instrument repair, sales and rental

One of the few tri-state area’s music repair stores began as a way to help Tim Durst pay his way through college at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and has undergone a “slow expansion” during the past two decades.

Durst, who opened Blue Note Music in 2003, started repairing instruments in his basement. He took a break from his music performance studies to earn a musical instrument repair and construction certificate from Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing, Minn.

His personal instrument, a french horn, needed work, and a Google search for instrument repair led him to the nine-month program.

“It’s in the blood,” said Durst, whose family has “always been musical.”

The shop, according to Durst, adds “quite a bit” to the Platteville community as the only one of its kind in the immediate area.

“There isn’t any other music store in Platteville or even in the area. There’s definitely a need for it,” he said, citing UW-P and the area’s “robust folk music scene.”

Wisconsin has only 180 musical instrument repairers and tuners – one of only seven states in the country in the 180-340 employment range, according to 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Yearly expansion

Blue Note had been located at a downtown Platteville storefront for several years, but Durst said that about five years ago he purchased and renovated an old church to serve as the storefront.

“The basement is entirely dedicated to repair,” he said. “It used to be a community room.”

The main floor is all retail, mostly featuring used instruments though there are a few lines of new instruments that they picked up in recent years. Retail items range from band and orchestra instruments to guitars, amplifiers and sheet music.

Since opening nearly two decades ago, Durst said, Blue Note has seen more walk-in customers and been able to expand its advertising to the Dubuque area.

“Our business has expanded every year since we opened,” he said. “Even during COVID we didn’t really have a slowdown at all.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted businesses to close, Blue Note continued to operate by appointment and caught up on a backlog of repairs. Since restrictions have eased, the business has been open at normal operating capacity.

Retail purchases increase

While repair services were the original, “main money maker,” Durst said he’s seeing “more and more” of an increase in retail purchases.

“As far as single biggest money makers, it’s probably the guitars and ukuleles,” he said. “We also do a lot of band instrument rentals. It’s nice because it’s a consistent income. We can count on that every month.”

The rentals are to individual students rather than the schools themselves – most notably beginner students who haven’t decided which instrument they want to play. Services also include a rent-to-own program in which the monthly fee goes toward the purchase of the instrument.

When Durst opened the storefront, he taught piano lessons and has added instructors based on need and availability.

In his time running the business, Durst said the biggest lesson he learned is that doing what’s right for the customer is right for the business.

“Treat people the way you’d want to be treated and business is going to increase,” Durst said. “Even if you might take a hit every once in a while in the bottom line. If you’re approaching a music business strictly from a money-making perspective, I don’t think you’re going to be successful.”

For more information, visit bluenote