“Your neighborhood music boutique since 1946,” reads the business card for Pedrini Music, which moved to its present location on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta in 1997. Founded by Bruno Pedrini in Glendale in 1946, the original store was located on Brand Boulevard.
At a time when local, family-owned retailers are threatened to the point of extinction by the Internet and national chains, Pedrini Music's ability to survive is a not-so-mute testimony to the power of hard work, loving care and a little bit of luck.
“Like a lot of other businesses, we were suffering from the weak economy of the last several years,” says Diane Pedrini, who, along with her husband, Manny Mora, and her sister Noreen, took over the store’s day-to-day operations in the mid-'80s. “But last August, we won a 2012 Lexus in a raffle at the Chumash Casino, so we took the cash instead of the car and used the money to pay all our back rent, renegotiate a new deal with our landlord, and renovate the store.”
They started in January and finished last month, doing everything themselves, from repainting to putting in a new floor and rug. Mora even built a stage for in-store performances. “Manny used to be a commercial artist, so he hand-lettered all the signs, too,” says Diane. They revamped their website, got a Facebook page, a new logo, and business cards as well.
“We also started selling vintage instruments on a consignment basis,” says Joe Mora, the son of Manny and Diane and a graduate of Boston's Berklee College of Music, whose professional credits range from playing guitar for Pete Yorn to serving as a guitar tech for punk-rockers Weezer and Bad Religion, R&B; vocalist Trey Songz, and, currently, alternative-rockers Band Of Horses.
“We got a lot of instruments that were still in their shipping cases from a store that's going out of business in Orange County,” he continues. Among them are a 1975 Cordovox and a Crumar T2 organ, a 1983 Ibanez Roadster guitar, and some vintage pedals such as an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Yamaha digital delay.
“There's a lot of musicians who live in the foothills,” adds Joe, “and they're always buying and selling equipment. We're trying to become more of place where they can hang out and try out things right here in the store. You don't have to go into a special room.”
“We've always had that family atmosphere,” says Diane. “I brought Joe into the store since he was in a stroller — I've got pictures of him sleeping in one of the sheet music bins — and we have customers who've been coming here since they were kids and now their kids are our customers.”
The store sells or provides rent-to-purchase brass, woodwinds and violins, as well as music books in bulk, for the nearby Crescenta Valley and La Cañada high schools, as well as the International School of Music in Glendale, and for performances at the McGroarty Arts Center in Sunland. Pedrini Music also has its own resident teachers and all their students.
“When we first moved here,” adds Manny, “I built those four teaching and rehearsal rooms downstairs, put in air conditioning and heating, and a bathroom for our teachers and their students, who have their own entrance.”
“Unlike most stores, we do not take a percentage of the teachers' rate, they just pay a flat monthly rental fee,” says Diane, “so we have some wonderful teachers who are really good with kids.” Among them are guitar instructors John “Groover” McDuffie — who's played with Rita Coolidge — Vince Lombardi and Larry Arrieta, as well as Valerie Keith (violin), Bob Riggs (woodwinds), John Montgomery (drums) and Kathy Stokes and Scott Rowe (piano). All their biographies are on the store's website.
“The other thing that's different about us is that we provide great customer service,” says Noreen, who parlayed her degree from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising into a managerial position with Bullock's department stores before joining the family business. “We work as a team and we all do a little bit of everything.”
“Most of our business is sheet music,” says Diane. “There's only maybe four major music stores left in Southern California that carry what we have here: Everything from classical and children's music to pop standards, Broadway, movies and Disney music to Latin, Italian, Polish, Irish, Jewish, French and German.”
The store also stocks a wide range of accessories: Strings, straps, reeds, capos, mutes, oils, drumsticks, drum heads, gig bags, tuners, metronomes, manuscript paper and even conducting batons.
“Most music stores don't have the variety of instruments that you'll find here,” adds Joe, including mouth harps, musical spoons, slide whistles and ukuleles. “There's a huge boom in ukuleles right now. I was at the last NAMM [National Association of Music Merchandisers] convention in Anaheim — our family's been members of NAMM for many years — and I've never seen so many ukuleles. But check out that ukelin — it's a half-violin, half-ukulele — next to that Irish harp over there.”
Indeed. Among the framed vintage sheet music, the musical gift items (cards, T-shirts, ties, pins, clocks, coffee cups), the family photos, including autographed shots of Joe with rock stars (Eddie Van Halen, John Entwistle and Joan Jett, for openers), you'll find enough washboards, banjos, mandolins, castanets, congas, melodicas, accordions, and kazoos to toot, whistle, plunk and boom your way from here to wherever your musical inspiration takes you.
DON WALLER has written professionally about music, TV, films, books, comedy, magic, cooking and drinking for more local, national and international publications than we have space to list here. Contact him at email@example.com.
Where: 2916 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta Cal. 91214
When: Tues. through Fri., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact: (818) 248-1290; www.pedrini-music.com.