K2 Music to close in Camden

By Susan Mustapich | Jul 07, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Harvey Curtis, owner of K2 Music in Camden, has announced the store will close.

CAMDEN — After many years of working at something he loves, most recently in his own music store, K2 Music owner Harvey Curtis has announced Camden's only music store will close Aug. 1.

When Curtis and longtime friend and employee Mac Economy opened K2 Music in May 2012, they thought it was what they were going to be doing for the rest of their lives, Curtis said recently. But last year, he began to see the extent of sales lost to Internet purchases with fast delivery, and realized the days of his brick-and-mortar music store were numbered.

Curtis has been working in music stores in Camden, or just over the town line in Rockport, ever since he was hired at the Northern Kingdom music store 30 years ago. He was hired by the store's second owner and worked in the Rockport location. There he met Economy, who invited him to play bass in his band, Mid-Life Crisis. When Northern Kingdom let the two of them go in January 2012, they took a long walk around Beauchamp Point, and before the walk was over, had decided to open their own music store. The name K2 came from a nickname they shared, which was "the two guys from Northern Kingdom," Curtis said.

Four months earlier, he and Economy had looked at a large retail space at Renys Plaza "just for fun" and met Bob Reny. They had liked the space, and coincidentally, Reny called Curtis, and asked if he was still interested in the store the same day the two were let go from their jobs. He told Reny they wanted to open their own store, but needed only half the retail space, so the Renys built a wall to divide it. Curtis said the Renys were "super-cool and supportive" and excited for them to have the store.

Curtis and his wife, Jody, were able to secure a loan to make the dream possible. While working at Children's House Montessori School, Jody remained part of K2 as bookkeeper and silent partner.

For Curtis and Economy it was a fresh start. "We were going to have fun and do what we do. We knew we weren't going to get rich doing this, but it's what we both love to do," he said.

The two kept the friendship they started as coworkers going. "We're two brothers, almost an old married couple. We'd go back and forth and just have fun with each other, and have fun with our customers," Curtis said.

"When we opened the store, our own personal mission statement is, we wanted to make sure we had things that people used on a regular basis," he said. That turned out to be hundreds and hundreds of items, too many to name or categorize, including pics, guitar strings, sheet music, reeds, and lots and lots of guitars, both electric -- and all the equipment needed to play them -- and until recently, a full array of Curtis' favorite, Taylor acoustic guitars.

Curtis made service the main reason to buy a guitar at K2 Music, and to get questions answered and more, before purchasing any product.

He said when customers bought a guitar, they would know that when the guitar came in, he was going to look it over and make sure that everything was OK with it. Most importantly, they would know that he was going to set it up and make sure it was playing great.

Customers also knew they could bring that guitar in any day of the year the store is open, and he would make any adjustments to make sure it was still playing great, for free, he said.

Last week, he said, a gentleman came in whose wife had bought a guitar online at Christmastime. The man didn't think it was playing as it should, Curtis said. He took it out of the case, and saw it had never been set up. "It played terrible," Curtis said.

While people assume that online purchases are going to be cheaper than at a brick-and- mortar store, Curtis pointed out, that's not true in many cases. But the bigger point, he said, is that without the service, a guitar purchased online may not be ready to play.

"If someone wasn't a player, and didn't know that it could play better, they might look at it and think, this just isn't for me," he said. "It doesn't play good, it doesn't feel comfortable,  and they could give up the instrument completely, because it wasn't set up for them."

Another aspect of service was selling the right instrument to a customer. That could be a parent coming in with kids looking at a particular guitar, and knowing it's not the right instrument and trying to educate them, he said. Or it could be not selling up to the limit of a customer's budget, when a less expensive instrument was a better fit for them.

In part, it's about being able to sleep at night, knowing "I've done the right thing for people who have given me their hard-earned money," he said.

It's also about something bigger. "I want to make sure this journey of music is fun, and you keep doing it forever," Curtis said.

K2 has always been about more than products and services. The heart of the store comes from the human interactions and the positive powers of music, he said.

"There are hundreds of people who come in on a weekly basis who just love music," he said. "To them, there's a lot more value to it than just a pack of strings showing up in a post office box."

The people are from all generations, and this is what Curtis is going to miss the most.

"Because I've been doing it for 30 years, the kids that were kids when I started, are now coming in with their kids. It's a blast," he said.

"I've got customers who will come in, and sit and eat their lunch, because they want to talk about their kid playing guitar or how they were working on a particular riff, or it's just a friendly face," he said. "Many of the people who were customers, are now my friends," Curtis said.

He has customers who are older whom he enjoys seeing, and he will be disappointed not to see them on a regular basis after the store closes, he said.

"Someone comes in, I don't care if they're the most amazing player in the world or they know four chords," he said. "When you pick up whatever it is you play, and you play it, regardless of how well, does it put a smile on your face? If it's yes, that's it! That's all that counts. If it puts a smile on your face, then you've already succeeded."

K2 hosted Music After Hours jams, which replicated the fun, camaraderie and connection Curtis discovered playing in Economy's band. The first event was ukulele. It was a success, with people filling the store and playing in both rooms, he said.

Curtis loves the ukulele because it's an accessible instrument. "You can learn a half a dozen chords, and you're going to hang out with people who know a half a dozen chords and you're gonna play songs, and feel like you've accomplished something,," he said. "And you're part of a social network that's real, and you're looking at each other, and you're interacting, and it's not through a screen. That's what music is supposed to be."

K2 also hosted an annual country music show for four years in the Reny's Plaza parking lot.

The first country music event was inspired by a small event on a Friday with "Fred Thompson, a pedal steel player who is kind of a local hero in these parts." Curtis asked Thompson if he would come back again, and Rosey Gerry took over the organizing.

Gerry brought a flatbed truck and 14 musicians with him, and people showed up an hour early, and stayed until the last note played, Curtis remembered. The Renys let K2 use the entire parking lot after the department store closed, and Scott's Place stayed open. That first concert was attended by about 200 people Curtis said.

"It wasn't a money-making venture, but it brought people together to play music, and it had our name attached to it." he said. "We had a great time, folks had a great time. We got to hear all of these people who come in and buy stuff from us play."

This year, K2 will not be hosting another country music show, Curtis said, now that he is running the store by himself.

Curtis said 2018 was a tough year for the store There were times when a product ran out, and he could not fill the hole, because rent and utilities needed to be paid. Another blow was when, after many years of displaying a full array of Taylor guitars valued at around $30,000, Taylor changed its rules so that the full array had to be displayed, and sales goals met, which K2 could not do. Other companies had also altered their rules, making it more difficult for mom-and-pop music stores to carry their products, Curtis said. While the store had survived competition from online stores for years, it seemed that the combination of online sales with fast delivery was luring more and more of K2's potential customers.

Curtis sought out investors or a new owner to take over the store, which he and Economy both wanted to see continue. "Unfortunately, no one bit," he said. At that point Economy knew he had to look for another job.

Then the store had a terrible Christmas, he said. Economy came back after the New Year, and said he had found something.

Curtis had to be grateful, because things were near the point where the store could not afford two paychecks anymore. "But coming in that next week and it was just me, it was a little tough," he said sadly. "We had worked together for 23 years."

Since Curtis announced on K2's Facebook page that the store would be closing Aug. 1, he has heard many stories about how much the store and its services have meant to people over the years. These stories are echoed in an outpouring of comments on the Facebook post from longtime customers, those with stories of buying their first guitar, or children's guitars from Curtis and K2, and many expressing sadness for the loss of Camden's music store, and best wishes for Curtis in the future.

It's the human connection with the business that he will miss the most, and will be the biggest loss, he said.

K2 Music is located in Reny's Plaza in Camden, and is open from  10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, see the K2 Music Facebook page, call 706-4195 or 855-891-4195 or email k2musicstore@gmail.com.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 08, 2019 15:38

Good luck in the future. You gave it the best and the community was better off for it.



Posted by: Patricia P Weaver | Jul 08, 2019 06:36

This breaks my heart. Both of you were so much help to me. I love you both and wish you luck and happiness on your next adventure. Bless you both.

 



Posted by: Ananur Forma | Jul 07, 2019 23:06

so sorry.



Posted by: Eric Thurston | Jul 07, 2019 17:32

Very sorry to see them close. I bought a couple of Yamaha acoustic guitars and a keyboard from them. Prices were as good as anywhere on the internet. And I got to see them and play them first. Great service. Good luck to you both. :-(



Posted by: Ian Emmott | Jul 07, 2019 17:31

It’s sad to read this and I’ve never been there. The issue of supply companies like Taylor are also felt in almost every sector.. I hear this allot especially in the smaller home improvement stores. Larger companies have exclusive contracts with name brands and are not allowed to be distributed to the smaller often locally owned businesses like the old EBS, now Hammond. Unfortunately it seems the folks that will pay a little extra and wait a little longer is not sufficient to keep places like K2 Going. Very sad!



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