From little ditty to opus

Dave Bartlett
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Music City continues to grow, buys out Atlantic AV

When Steve Edwards started Music City 13 years ago, it was a small music store on Blackmarsh Road in St. John's.

"When we first started, I had probably about 12 guitars," he said of his first location. "I did have a couple of used pianos and I remember filling the floor up with (microphone) stands in the middle, trying to make it look like we were a music store."

Music City Owner Steve Edwards (centre) poses with Andy Jordan (left) and Adam Higdon in the basement warehouse of his new complex on Water Street. Jordan and Higdon run the Stage Eleven part of the business. Photo By Mark Burt/Special to The Telegram. -

When Steve Edwards started Music City 13 years ago, it was a small music store on Blackmarsh Road in St. John's.

"When we first started, I had probably about 12 guitars," he said of his first location. "I did have a couple of used pianos and I remember filling the floor up with (microphone) stands in the middle, trying to make it look like we were a music store."

It was hardly a city - barely a village.

But now, his musical metropolis has grown into an audio empire. Last month Edwards added Atlantic AV to the Music City Canada Group.

"When we look back, I don't know how we got here," he said with a laugh during an interview with The Telegram Friday.

Dressed casually, the 35-year-old lounges on a brown leather couch in the Rock City music school, part of the 36,000-square foot building he bought last year on Water Street.

It all grew from the dream of a 21-year-old entrepreneur.

After three years in the little shop on Blackmarsh, he bought a building with an adjoining house on Waterford Bridge Road near Bowring Park. His young family lived in the house until about 2003 when he expanded the business to include the music school.

About four years ago he opened a second location on Stavanger Drive as a test of his original plan - to open a chain of stores across the country.

"We opened a satellite store to get a feel for what it would be like operating another operation without being there all the time," said Edwards.

But about a year and a half after opening the second store, Music City bought Stage Eleven, a pro audio and lighting production company, from Andy Jordon and Adam Higdon. Higdon was a former employee of Music City, and both still work for Edwards.

After taking over that company, which included a warehouse full of audio gear, Edwards started looking for a large building to house his entire operation.

He finally found the perfect spot at 687 Water St.

But the new building also presented challenges.

The week Music City moved in last September, a storm flooded the basement warehouse.

Edwards had just spent 18 days renovating the building as the Waterford Bridge location had already been sold, and had a date with a bulldozer.

"We lost about $250,000 worth of gear in about 15 minutes," Edwards said.

He's since added a barrier to prevent flooding in the future and has bought back the damaged gear from his insurance company. A flood sale is being planned in the next few weeks to let people buy what could be salvaged for dirt cheap.

Edwards wasn't about to let the flood dampen his spirits and said overall, buying the building was a great move to cut down on his overhead costs. He figure's he's now saving about $30,000 a month.

The Stage Eleven division of the business does about 95 per cent of all the pro audio and lighting work in the province, does the loading and rigging at Mile One Centre and is gearing up to provide all the gear needed for the Junos.

On March 1, Music City acquired Atlantic AV, another company that provides audio gear for conferences, and has contracts with the Delta Hotel and The Rooms.

Between the two companies, Edwards figures he now has more than $5 million in audio-visual gear and two 53-foot tractor trailers and four cube vans to move it in.

But then Edwards gets to what really makes his company successful.

"All that gear is useless without great technicians," he said.

In fact, throughout the interview, Edwards lists off all the people who have helped him build his business.

He employs between 40 and 50 people full-time, from music teachers and sales staff to technicians. Another 150 people work casually when events such as the Junos come around.

What he demands of all his workers is superb customer service. After all, the company's slogan is "When you're here, you're family."

"We live that," said Edwards.

"The biggest weight on my shoulders is knowing how many families are really supported by what we are doing here," he said.

"I want to make sure that we make all the right steps so our people really can do well."

Edwards said in the past, there were times he bit off more than he was comfortable chewing. But now, he said, there's too much to protect, so future expansions will be carefully planned and thought out.

"If you really care about others, the world gives you back," said Edwards.

"When (businesses) become people, and not just a company, that's when you have the opportunity to move mountains."

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Music City Canada Group, Delta Hotel

Geographic location: Music, Blackmarsh Road, St. John's Waterford Rock City Water Street Bowring Park

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Recent comments

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Great job to Steve and his staff....

  • mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    your a great boss steve also a great person

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Great job to Steve and his staff....

  • mark
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    your a great boss steve also a great person