Sparta Music Shop is Now Open in Downtown Sparta, at 211 South Water Street. The store has been updated and is now offering a surprising array of Instruments, products, lessons and services. Like most social businesses during the pandemic, Sparta Music Shop had the tough decision of having to closing down, possibly to never reopen. The Tock family took the forced shutdown as an opportunity to take a deep breath, exhale and plan their next steps.
The location, in and of itself, has some history behind it. It was once the site of Sundrop Soda’s Invention and Manufacture. It also had been a music store, with a couple different owners and names. It was once called “The Music Center,” up until 1998, and was owned by Anne Gonyea. In 1998 it became “Dana’s Music,” and was owned by Dana Tock. Dana owned it through 2021, when her son, Joel Tock took control of the reins, and changed the store name to the “Sparta Music Shop.”
During the pandemic shutdowns, local merchants lost a lot of business, even long time customers. Dana’s Music was no exception. Dana, herself, began teaching virtually, and the Tocks began discussing, as a family, what to do with the shop. They definitely wanted to keep the space and decided to use the quiet time to get down and do some hard work, such as changing the floors, moving out some heavy displays, taking inventory, and moving furniture. The result was an updated shop, with more space, some new items, some fun historical highlights, and even some inspiring faces looking down from above. “There’s Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Diana Ross, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty,” said Joel. “I’d like to line the walls with the greats.” A look in the back revealed an Elvis poster puzzle, ready to join the gallery, as well as a collection of posters and flyers from his parents’ own popular ‘90’s and ‘00’s band, MidWest Coast.
Joel would like to make the store welcome to any shopper to stop in, musician or not. “Soon, we will have locally made and fun upcycled items, as well as Spartan, bicycle, and musical themed gifts and souvenirs, for people to purchase,” Joel stated. Like before, the Sparta Music Shop continues to offer instruments for rent and sale. They also offer instrument parts, repair and service. “Guitar strings are our most popular item,” says Joel. A look around the store (and on their Instagram feed) reveals sheet music, guitar picks, chimes and all sorts of fun instruments too; from tongue drums and piano harps to djembes, drum sets, guitars, and violins.
The shop also continues to offer a range of music lessons, including piano, drums, violin, guitar, and electric bass. Sparta Music Shop also offers lessons in the arts of sound engineering, recording and production. Sparta Music Shop has some veteran teachers and staff, and is looking to fill some vacancies coming up in November. “Ivy has been an incredible asset. She’s taken on a management role, ordering supplies, keeping inventory and teaching,” says Joel. “She’s moving to Las Vegas and we will need someone friendly to run the front during the day.” The Sparta Music Shop is also always looking for teachers who are good with kids and enjoy teaching, like Dana Tock, Joel Tock, Dale Gonyea and Tyler Boegler. Dana herself, also plans to return to in-person teaching again, after the pandemic-induced shutdown. It was her first break in teaching since the 1980’s.
Now that Joel has taken the torch, he has been updating the shop, with the help of family and friends. Joel has dreams of growth within some familiar realms, as well as some in exciting and unexpected directions. Music and visual arts go hand in hand, and soon the shop will also offer another art form: pottery. In recent years, Joel has discovered a passion for and affinity with clay and pottery. The basement of the Sparta Music Shop, with its ample space, concrete floor and history of art and screen printing, is the perfect place to put some pottery wheels. Experienced artists, along with beginners who would like to rent a wheel, will be able to do just that, and can even get a little guidance from Joel, in order to get a feel for the clay and throwing. While Joel would like to put kilns in, he acknowledges that the historical building might not be an appropriate place for them. He plans to tote the pieces up to another pottery shop and kiln, for firing, as another service.
Sparta Music Shop is also offering another new service, to help in spaces where folks have trouble hearing one another. It is called “Acoustic Treatment Services,” and it will help when there is too much reverb in a space. An example is when you say something to someone across a noisy room, and they simply cannot understand you. This is a sign that the acoustics in the room need attention. Joel’s recent clients and projects include: The New Lisbon Memorial Library, The Place (in Norwalk) and his own recording studio, Smash Ranch. Tock is currently open to quote and book new projects that may require acoustic treatment.
Sparta Music Shop, at 211 S Water St, in Sparta, Wisconsin, to see all the fun updates, sign up for lessons, purchase an instrument, gift, or unique gift card, apply to work or teach, and to show community support for this local small business in the heart of Sparta. Current hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment. They can be contacted at SpartaMusicShop@gmail.com. Sparta Music Shop is also on social media, @spartamusicshop.
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