Melody Music closes after 37 years

September 05, 2003|HERB BROCK


Staff Writer

One of downtown Danville's oldest retail businesses is playing its swan song.

Melody Music Shop at 139 N. Third St., which has been in business in the downtown for 37 years, will be closing on Sept. 13.

The store, once a gleaming showcase for the latest in guitars, accordions, organs and pianos, and a noisy studio for at least two generations of music students, now is very quiet and virtually empty as shoppers have been taking advantage of a 50 percent off clearance sale of its merchandise.

"I've been pondering retirement for quite some time and finally decided it was time to do it," said Leon Hash, the 71-year-old owner, who, in recent years, has operated the store along with his youngest son, Kevin.


Hash, a Louisville native, opened his shop in 1966. Its first location was a section of an old garage next to the old Hub Frankel Department Store on Third Street. The shop was then moved to another Third Street location, next to a laundry. A fire that damaged the store's second location forced another move, and that was to the location Hash has rented on North Third since 1971.

"It's hard to count exactly the number of instruments we've sold over the years, but I know we've sold thousands of guitars and hundreds of pianos and organs," said Hash.

The veteran music store owner has seen fads come and fade away with the "88 ivories" remaining the constant in the ever-changing music instrument business.

"We've witnessed several trends in popular music that have affected what we've sold," he said. "Some of the trends have included accordions and then electric guitars in the 1960s. Electric organs and keyboards were popular later on. But while instruments come and go, the piano has remained steady in popularity."

Selling instruments has been the largest but not the only part of Melody's business, Hash said. From 30 to 40 percent of the shop's income has come from music lessons and more than half of Leon's and Kevin Hash's time has been spent on giving them, he said.

Hash started in the music business in his hometown of Louisville in 1951, when he got a job with Shackleton Piano Co. He worked there for 15 years and then decided it was time to open his own store. Where to open it was the question.

"I became familiar with Danville because it was on my weekly route from Louisville to Tennessee where I worked at a Shackleton's in Knoxville," he said. "Every Thursday night, I made the trip to Knoxville and always drove through Danville, and then drove back through on my way home to Louisville."

Hash said Danville had "tremendous eye appeal" but he wanted to know about its business atmosphere, so he checked with existing retailers and with other business and industry managers in town as well as manufacturers he had dealt with.

"Danville came highly recommended," he said.

Liking what he had seen and heard, Hash made the decision to open his shop in Danville.

He had a home-made staff. He oversaw sales, purchasing, marketing and lessons. His wife, Barbara, put to use her bookkeeping and secretarial skills as bookkeeper. And then, their three sons - Phillip, Jerry and Kevin - joined the family workforce as they came of age.

As teen-agers, Phillip and Jerry, now in their early 50s, used to transport pianos from suppliers, including Kimball Co., from distribution centers to the store. At age 7, Kevin, now 38, started contributing. His first task was to assemble piano benches.

Phillip and Kevin eventually worked at the store. Both helped with sales and lessons, with Phillip giving piano and organ lessons and Kevin giving piano and guitar lessons. Phillip went on to open his own music shop in Somerset, which he still operates, while Kevin remained at Melody in Danville to assist his dad. In the meantime, Jerry went on to non-musical, but "productive," careers at Kentucky Utilities and now at the University of Kentucky, his father said.

In his retirement, Hash said he plans to do some traveling and spend as much time as possible with his three sons and their families, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"The grandkids and great-grandkids are the apples of my eye," he said.

Kevin, whose wife, Rhonda, is a cashier at Cracker Barrel, plans to look for a job and hopes he can find something that involves music. He also would like to continue giving music lessons, perhaps from his home.

Meanwhile, Hash will also spend his retirement continuing to appreciate music, whether he's playing it or listening to it or teaching it to his great-grandchildren. He said he is pleased and proud that his own love of music and the music business has been passed on to at least two of his sons.

But he's also happy to have spread his appreciation of music to hundreds of Danville area children over the years.

"What's kind of special to me is to see the children or even grandchildren of some of our former students now taking lessons from us," said Hash.

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