By Jonathan Phelps New Hampshire Union Leader Oct 27, 2019
MANCHESTER — Over the past year, the Manchester Music Mill added more space to meet customer demand.
Owners Joe and Dawn Lacerda bought a 20,000-square-foot commercial building behind the 329 Elm St. store. The new space allows for warehouse space, an outlet store for aging inventory and a performance space for customers to demo sound systems.
It took more than a year to renovate the two-story brick building built in 1910. The building sold for $360,000 in May 2018, according to city records. The building previously housed PHD Communications.
The project included $250,000 in renovations into the property including new doors, windows and an elevator.
“You never know what you are going to find,” said Joe Lacerda of the outlet store.
“This is aging inventory that we marked down to give good deals to local customers,” he said. “It has been great for us because we’ve been growing and growing, and things get lost in the mix in one space.”
The outlet store allows for the latest product to have priority in the main store.
About 40 percent of $610,000 investment came through a 20-year fixed U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan supported by the Capital Regional Development Council (CRDC), a nonprofit development corporation that provides a variety of economic development services to businesses and local governments throughout New Hampshire. Camden National Bank helped finance 50 percent of the project.
The building is now appraised at $800,000, according to the couple.
“We didn’t realize it would increase that much,” Dawn Lacerda said. “This was considered attic space because there was no heat, the windows didn’t work, there was no insulation and no lighting. It was barebones.”
The store, which opened in 2005, had two previous locations before buying and moving its current location in 2013, also with the support of CRDC. The store includes 12 soundproof rooms designed for lessons, plus space for The Music Techs, an instrument repair shop owned by Dawn. The remaining 9,000-square-feet is occupied by the Van Otis Chocolates.
Stephen Heavener, CRDC executive director, had been a customer at the store before helping with the loans.
“They’ve adapted to the market. They are not just a retail guitar store,” he said. “They rent out space for music lessons and decided to take advantage of the outlet business.”
The business is part of a growing commercial part of the city across from the Market Basket.
Manchester Music Mill previously rented warehouse space on East Industrial Drive for its inventory, which required employees to drive to fill orders. The tiny backroom of the main store had been used to hold inventory, storage, receiving packages and shipping.
“It is hard to believe how much we had shoved in here,” Dawn Lacerda said.
The second floor will include a stage for in-house performances, clinics and sound systems demonstrations for churches, restaurants and bands. It is set to open early next year.Phil Daniele of Auburn shops for guitar strings at Manchester Music Mill on Elm Street in Manchester on Friday. The music store is expanding.
“We enjoy being able to spread out a little more because there was a lot of constraints in the 11,000 square feet,” Joe Lacerda said. “We basically doubled our space, and we don’t have more inventory, so our customers can see everything.”
Business grew 25 percent since the Guitar Center opened on South Willow Street about a year and a half ago, they said.
“We make sure nobody is going to compete with us,” Joe Lacerda said. “There is not an opportunity for us to lose a sale with what we do.”
Manchester Music Mill brings in about $10 million in sales each year.
“Next year will be a growth year,” Joe Lacerda said.
Photo Caption: Juan Coronado of Manchester plays a ukulele at the Manchester Music Mill on Elm Street on Friday. The music store is expanding.