By Josh Bergeron | LSU Student
Rapidly improving technology is creating problems for many locally-owned music stores, laments Fred Zeagler, owner of Zeagler's Music in Baton Rouge.
"Our profit margin has been reduced because of technology and the internet," Fred Zeagler said. But it is not all gloom. As a full-service music store, he says, "we can do things like repair instruments and give advice. That's not something a computer can do for you."
Zeagler maintains his stores are the only full-service music store in Baton Rouge or Monroe.
So far, Zeagler Music has stood the test of time and technology. This year the company celebrates its 45th anniversary, it's 37th in Baton Rouge. It operates two family-owned stores – one located near Baton Rouge Community College on Florida Boulevard and another in Monroe, La.
Zeagler previously owned a store in Metairie, but scaled back to focus on Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina ransacked his business. Fred's brother, Grayson, operates the Monroe store.
The company opened its doors in 1968 when Everett and Dorothy Zeagler purchased a small sheet music store in Monroe. In 1976, the Zeaglers expanded to Baton Rouge.
"Our main band repairman moved to Baton Rouge and suggested we open a store here," Fred Zeagler said. "Since we opened, I estimate at least 10 music stores have closed."
The store's main source of income is through schools. In addition to selling and repairing instruments for school bands, the store also offers music camps and lessons for band members.
With nearly 37 years in Baton Rouge, Zeagler's has developed a recognizable group of clients, which helps boost visibility. Some customers travel from New Orleans simply to purchase what isn't readily available there.
"Mayor Mitch Landrieu was in town and stopped by to purchase some sheet music," Fred Zeagler said. "He plays the trumpet."
But Landrieu isn't the only musically inclined politician in Louisiana to frequent Zeabger's. Gov. Bobby Jindal purchased a violin from the store as a child.
"People come here as children and then remember us and return later on in life," Zeagler said. "One time I saw Jindal at a party. He said ‘Hey, you're the music store guy.'"
One thing differentiating Zeagler from other music stores, he notes, is the number of employees with college degrees. In Baton Rouge, seven of his 12 employees have degrees in music. In Monroe four in 10 have college degrees.
"The problem with some stores, especially big chain stores, is that they pay cheap wages and don't require someone to have a college degree," said Grayson Zeagler. "At our store we have several people with degrees. That helps improve the quality of service."
But in 37 years, Zeagler stores also have fallen victim to criticism, as one online review notes: "They give excellent lessons and the staff is probably one of the best, they are extremely friendly and helpful," the only thing that would make the store better is if they had a pet cat."