John was active in all aspects of the business to keep up with growth. With a small staff of only four employees, he couldn’t afford to be “just a manager.” The two things that initially set Stanton’s Sheet Music apart from other stores were the extensive mailing lists that they compiled, and the ability of the staff to assess new materials to make high-quality recommendations. To extend the customer base beyond Central Ohio, John obtained the high school and middle school directories from surrounding states and sent a flyer to every school that seemed large enough to likely include a band or choir. Because John was careful to hire musically educated staff, each of those flyers was full of the very newest and best music for school ensembles.
Stanton’s Sheet Music established a strong reputation with music publishers early on as a company that managed its finances well—more than your typical “Mom & Pop” music stores. Because of this, publishers were inclined to enter into new ventures with the store. With publisher support, Stanton’s rented the basement of a nearby church to have its first choral reading session in 1961. Featuring both school and church choral music, this became a regular and well attended event that eventually moved to Mees Hall at Capital University to accommodate the up to 700 choir directors involved. For band directors, Stanton’s was the only store in the state large enough to stock all the titles from the ever-growing Solo & Ensemble list. This made Stanton’s Sheet Music a regular weekend destination for musicians from all over Ohio!
1972 – 1978 100 East Main Street
As the company grew so did its need to expand to a larger facility. In 1970 John leased space at 100 East Main Street which became a two floor operation. The first floor showroom was for piano and popular music, where teachers could pick up their teaching method books and find the latest popular arrangements for their students to enjoy. The second floor was for the band, orchestra and choral music, where directors would find stacks and stacks of music to peruse. It was during this period of the company that John and Mary started to think of retiring and passing the business on to new leadership. John conducted a national search looking for the right person, but eventually he discovered that the one person who seemed to stand out was already a Columbus resident.
James Strouse, a graduate of The Ohio State University, had taught several years as a high school band and orchestra director. In 1967, Jim was approached by Coyle Music Center, a large dealer of band instruments, to join them as a business partner. He left teaching to start his new career with Coyle’s, and within a few short years he became a well known roadman to band directors in the Southern Ohio region. He was eventually asked to move back to Columbus to manage Coyle’s ever-growing sheet music department, and began to develop an understanding of the needs of not only band directors, but choral directors as well. In December of 1975, John Stanton contacted Jim to discuss the idea of selling Stanton’s Sheet Music. Jim and his wife, Shirley, had three small children at the time, so it was an enormous decision for them to take this kind of risk; however, within a short period of time an agreement was made and the purchase transpired. John stayed with the company for another year to smooth the transition before Jim made the announcement to the staff and publishers that he had purchased the company. John and Mary retired January 1st, 1977.
1978 – 1982 118 East Main Street
Within two years of Jim purchasing the company, 100 East Main Street had become too small for the ever growing inventory. With the addition of the toll-free number and continued development the mailing list, business was booming, and Stanton’s needed more space. Three doors down on the same block, a small furniture store had vacated its location. It took four days and a lot of back-breaking work on the part of the staff to push cart after cart of music down the sidewalk to the new location. The size of the store was doubled so that all of the retail operation could fit on the first floor. For the next few years, the company continued to expand, reaching out nationally to find new customers. The demand for new products was growing so quickly that within four years of the move to 118 East Main, customers and employees were literally stepping over piles of music in the aisle ways. More customers were spending weekends at the store browsing and listening to recordings of new music, and the company was clearly growing out of the building.
1978 – 1982 Growth
Jim Strouse’s enthusiasm for the company was immediate and the customer base was growing and growing. Jim’s reputation with the band and choral directors he knew from Coyle’s helped him to become a trusted resource at Stanton’s as well. The staff continued to be comprised of active musicians with educational backgrounds. Strong relationships with publishers allowed Stanton’s to see the thousands of new products being published each year.
During these years, the creation of workshops became a significant component of customer relations. In evaluating products for teaching opportunities, engaging texts, techniques, and appealing melodies/harmonies, Stanton’s staff put together new music workshops for choral, band, hand bell, and classroom music. Stanton’s also began attending state music education conventions and strengthening affiliations with local colleges. Bringing such clinicians as Bill Moffit, Ruth Artman, John Ness Beck, John Rutter, Joyce Eilers, Ed Lojeski, Roger Emerson, Mac Huff and John Jacobson to area events helped teachers to discover new music for their choirs and bands. Since publishers at the time could not produce CD recordings for mailed promotions as they do today, Stanton’s workshops were a valuable tool for teachers to experience new music.
1982 to Present
By the early eighties, the downtown Columbus economy had started to drop. An area set aside in 1968 for downtown urban living had not met the city’s expectations, and an A & P grocery store in that area was struggling to stay in business. In the summer of 1982, Jim began to inquire about both that building and another property further down on Main Street as possible new locations to accommodate Stanton’s growth. The A & P building sale came up more quickly, Jim decided to act on the purchase, and Stanton’s Sheet Music took ownership of the property in October of ‘82. By the end of December, renovations were done; Stanton’s never closed, but after four days and many trips back and forth between 118 East Main Street and the new location, 330 South 4th Street was opened for business. The new location offered the expansive space of a building truly designed for retail sales. Staff was added, and the company had tripled in size by the end of the 1980’s. To help manage the business, Stanton’s purchased its first Apple computer in 1979. With the assistance of IBM, software to perform accounting and receiving duties was implemented in 1984, and by 1987, the entire inventory was integrated into a multi-user network.
Throughout the eighties and nineties, Stanton’s was helping to shape -- and being shaped by -- the music publishing industry. The store turned to publishers to find products that were educationally sound, with good teaching opportunities and techniques, and the publishers knew they could count on Stanton’s to help get those products into the customers’ hands. Stanton’s hosted the first Joy of Singing school choral workshop in 1985 to complement the already strong sacred choral reading sessions. A new Music First Express catalog, distributed jointly with Hal Leonard Publishing, allowed elementary schools across the country to discover Stanton’s. The Kent State Choral Reading session and The Bowling Green Band Clinic workshops were becoming well established, and Stanton’s was traveling to conventions, such as the National Flute Association, American String eachers Association, Trumpet Guild, American Choral Directors Association along with many regional state MENC conventions.
As the company approached the new millennium, Stanton’s Sheet Music made it a priority to keep up with technology and remain relevant to the customers. Upgrading to a more capable mainframe and progressive programming helped the sales staff find information more easily and process it faster. The launch of www.stantons.com in 1995 was the beginning of several generations of websites that have taken Stanton’s from a simple database lookup in the early days to today’s website that incorporates a full sized listening library, product previews, clinic registrations, social networking, and music downloads, while still striving to bring musicians new products that include teaching and performance opportunities.
Jim Strouse began to contemplate retiring from Stanton’s Sheet Music and the process of passing the reins to a new generation began. Two of Jim’s children, Eric and Julia, had been deeply involved in the family business from a young age. They continued sharpening their skills through their college years and after graduation by working in several of Stanton’s departments. Julia worked in the pop/keyboard department which allowed her to work with in-store customers, develop workshops and product promotions, and strengthen overall customer relations. Eric’s work in the choral department from 1987-95 and the instrumental department from 1995-2005 developed his knowledge of standard repertoire, customer service, planning for conventions and clinics, general management and product marketing. When Jim retired in 2005, Eric Strouse took over as Company President and Julia Moessner as Vice President.
Eric and Julia continue working to take advantage of technology, remain relevant to today’s consumers and grow Stanton’s as an international force in the print music industry. Stanton’s persists in seeking out new ways to establish and maintain customer relationships, and they carry on in providing high-quality recommendations from a musically educated staff. These two elements that set John Stanton’s store apart from the competition in 1960 are still a vital part of the way that Stanton’s Sheet Music operates today in 2010 and into the next 50 years.