In February of 2020, Dr. Philip Mills and his daughter Abigail Hostetter, opened Grumblefish Music.
“We thought, it could be fun,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll make some money sometime, somewhere in the future, but it really wasn’t about making the money so much as we just wanted a music store where people could come and kids could learn.”
With the realization that there would be supply chain issues due to COVID-19 – like making an order in September and it not arriving until January – they became dealers for several brands. While they’ve still had some issues getting parts, over time they’ve acquired a rather extensive inventory.
“Whenever somebody would come in and say to us, do you have such and such, we might say no, but we’ll get it,” Mills said.
They have a large selection of guitars and also carry violins, stands, cowbell, cowbell holders, harmonicas, drums, baritone ukuleles, keyboards, children’s guitars, three quarter size electric guitars and more. He added some electronics, like universal adapters for when you lose a cord, even if they aren’t really something a music store carries, but because no one in town carries them and people kept asking them about it.
As a practice, he said they don’t carry things if they don’t think it’s a good deal for people.
“You can buy garbage on the internet, which, by the way a lot of people do buy guitars on the internet, and then they come here to have me fix them,” he said.
When you buy a guitar online, they go through different environments and climates and in the transition. They aren’t necessarily damaged, but often need to be reset, he said. And they do clean and repair instruments.
He said the instruments they carry are a little more expensive than those online, but are worth it.
“My first banjo was a real cheapo, and you can’t believe the trouble I went through with that thing. So I figured, I’m not doing that here,” he said.
It’s a similar situation with their ukuleles.
“The minute you strum (a cheap one) it goes out of tune, and you’ve got to keep re-tuning, it’s a piece of junk you’re not doing anybody favors,” he said.
If someone wants to buy a guitar, but aren’t sure about it, he said he’ll encourage the customer to think about it and come back in two or three days. He said even if they don’t still have it, they’ll get another one.
“The reason why we do that is not because we’re the world’s worst salespeople, but we want to have a relationship with the people that come in here,” he said. “We want everyone to walk out of here satisfied and feeling like they got a good deal.”
Mills and his family moved to Lincoln City six years ago. He and his wife were living in Eastern Oregon, and he was offered a job in the area as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I really, really took to Lincoln city. The first time I was here, I thought it was such a great little town, and my opinion has not changed. I still like it,” Mills said.
Mills has several teachers on board for different instruments. He is particular proud to have Richard Paris, a.k.a. “Wavy Gravy,” on board.
“This guy’s really good. He’s two things: He’s an excellent guitar player, and he’s an excellent teacher,” he said. “That guy could explain it to me … I’m like Forrest Gump … he explained it in ways I understood.”
Paris teaches guitar, mandolin, bass guitar and banjo. Mills said Paris knows just about everything about every instrument really, and he’s very well-versed in music.
“To me there’s something magical about playing a musical instrument, I think it’s because when I was a kid I couldn’t do it. I really wanted to, and it took me a long time to learn as an adult,” he said. “I really get the hang of it now because I play all the time. It’s not uncommon for me to sit play on my banjo for like two hours.”
They are currently looking for an assistant manager to cover the store when he goes back to work in the fall. They’re open seven days a week. Sunday is a shorter day, but he said people seem to appreciate that they are open.