Ever wanted to get a guitar re-stringed, grab a cup of coffee and try your hand at a Xylophone all in one morning? At Music & Co, you can do just that! In 2019 after working in the music industry for thirty years Terry Hudson opened the Okehampton based cafe come music shop with the original intention of focusing mainly on the coffee and having a couple of music accessories tucked away at the back to keep his passion going… But Okehampton demanded more! Now with a stock over over 200 instruments, accessories, as well as repair services, Music & Bean Co has become a commmunity hub for coffee and music lovers alike. BIPC Devon talks to terry about his small business journey…
For those that don’t know your story, what is Music & Bean Co and how did it start out?
“I’ve been in the music industry for thirty years, mainly on the sales and manufacturing side. I did seventeen years with Fender out and about and got to the point of being regional manager with them. And as a ‘slow down’ as it were I had always joked that I would open a café when I got bored of the music industry, which seemed like an odd thing, to have a business plan based on a joke, but it was just one of those things that I’d always thought do you know what I’d quite like to do that, but having been in the industry for so long, I couldn’t really let go of the music side of it. So four years ago I took the plunge and opened Music and Bean Co!
So what it was, was 60 – 70% café, mainly coffee and snacks, no cooked food, and then a small area with music accessories – I only opened with twelve guitars! It was very much focused on the coffee and if anyone wanted to buy a cheap guitar they could. But I didn’t quite realise how much music and art we had in the area! The business in the last four years has evolved to meet the needs of what is around us, so essentially the café now has twelve seats, and the music now has close to two hundred instruments!”
Suddenly Terry gets a rush of customers, hangs up the phone on the interview and rings me back twenty minutes later exclaiming that he’d just had a whole queue of regulars, plus a customer requesting a guitar re-stringing. But now the morning rush has quietened Terry has the time to tell me about his café’s other services;
“The whole premise of the café is tied in with a music shop. Music shops themselves are normally deathly quiet between nine and twelve in the morning. Having dealt with music shops nation – wide and having gone in and out of them at different times of day, you’d see music shops with tumble weed rolling through them at ten o’clock in the morning. And the poor first customer who comes in is met by every member of staff going ‘Can I help you!’ because they’ve been starved of something to do!
The café was very much about a social space. Somewhere where people can come in, enjoy a cup of coffee have a chat- the room is set up so that the counter faces every table, so I can engage everybody. If they want to sit there quietly and mind their own business they can, if they want a chat, I’ll happily chat with them. With regards to the services, it’s a standard music shop, musical instruments accessories, repairs, then alongside that a record shop.
You’ve essentially got three businesses under one roof, obviously the café, the standard music shop offering musical instruments accessories, repairs, and then a record shop! I do a lot of new and used vinyl, currently I have nearly two thousand in here and it’s growing on a daily basis! With that I’ve tied in the band t shirts, keyrings, mugs, all the gift ware you’d expect. But they’re all under one roof!”
Building a Business Community
“Now under the arcade I’m in right now, you’ve got four businesses offering coffee – I was the second just to say! But we all have our own clientele, we don’t overlap much, each place has their own unique selling point. I’m not going to get the blue rinse brigade, we’ve got a fantastic little café here called Crumbs, they get a lot of that crowd. But it works, in their customers can sit down and get a bacon sandwich. But in my place, they can’t, a muffin is the most I offer! So, it does mean we end up with bunch of traders who actually all get on very well.”
It sounds like it’s more of a business community rather than straight competition?
“Very much so, it’s an independent own, we’ve got a real community spirit round here. Trains – when they haven’t been on strike – have brought people into Okehampton with the new rail line.”
What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced as business owner, and how did you overcome them?
The first hard lockdown came just before Music & Bean’s first anniversary, so that was obviously a worry point for not just me but independents across the town. Having only twelve months under my belt and no trading history put me in a difficult situation, as most of the packages of support were for businesses that had been open over twelve months which I didn’t qualify for! There were a few retail grants which I could get, but like I say it was community spirit that got me through the first lock down!
I had a regular customer who dropped around thirty guitars, that kept me busy, so I had things to do over lock down.
But when we were allowed to open for take away coffee and stuff like that you saw a lot of regulars and stuff coming down. From my point of view a lot of my customers are single tons who come in, a lot of the time just for social interaction. My demographic is not nessilaryly young kids from the college, I do have some of those, but I get a lot of guys in their sixties, seventies, eighties who come in sit down have a cup of coffee and a chat. It’s very much that, it’s a community business.
Is that community spirit the value that keeps you going?
“Yes, I’ve always been very much a social person. All my previous jobs have been person facing, when you’re working for a global brand like Fender, you don’t really have to sell it, people already want it. So what you’re doing is going in and talking to people and making relationships, and that’s one thing when I left Fender I didn’t want to lose, the social aspect. To be honest it keeps others sane, but it keeps me sane too! Through a shop door over a year, you meet the most amazing characters. Also, it’s a very happy place to be, I enjoy coming in every morning!
The most recent challenge is the cost-of-living situation which we are going through at the moment, I’ve seen on the music goods twenty percent raise in prices. But the worrying one is on the café side.
My milk has gone up now by 60%, I used to pay £1.10, now I’m paying £1.60 for it. The coffee beans themselves they’ve gone up as well because of the transport costs, and you can’t criticise the suppliers for that, because they’re all facing the same increases.
I keep my coffee at an affordable price, what I want it to be is that people don’t come out once a week for my coffee, they come out two or three times a week and enjoy it. For example, an Americano costs you two pound! They’re not coffee shop prices, they’re artificially low to bring people in. I do have people come in, ask for a cup of coffee and walk out with a Ukelele which is brilliant!
So we’re in possibly the second challenge facing the business in four years. Once it’s all finished you can call be back and see how it all went!”
We will! And finally do you have any exciting plans coming up for the rest of the year?
“I’ve got a bit of promo coming on. My good friend Simon Jacob used illustrate for 2000 AD the comic, he’s now doing some independent comics called Wizards of Witch Maze, so they’ll be coming into the store, I’ll also be doing some of his artwork and the exciting thing for me is, he is currently designing Music and Bean T Shirts for me! Which will come into the Cafe and have his artwork on! So that’s my main project, but with the rest of the business in terms of stock levels I’ve got to a point where I am very happy where I am. I very rarely have to say no to somebody coming through the door, whether they’re asking for a specific lead or a digeridoo, I’ve got it in stock!
Building a Business in Okehampton?
Building a business based in Okehampton? BIPC Devon can help!
Okehampton Library hosts a Business Information Drop-In session every month and is always available for one to one’s with trained staff who can guide you through our vast array of databases, resources and more all available to you for free!
Whether you are already an established business owner or are trying to find out how to turn your passion into profit, we can direct you to the information to best serve you.
No need to book, just pop in!
By Isabel Flynn