Beaumont Music Store Gets New Home After Nearly Seven Decades

Swicegood Music has spent the majority of its nearly seven decades in business on College Street in Beaumont.

When it moved from the original downtown location, Swicegood and a 24-hour pork restaurant were the only businesses on the road.

It’s a scene hard to imagine now, as Baptist Hospital and other health care offices fill the pavement, along with a HEB grocery store, pharmacies, endless fast food options, restaurants, gas stations and more fill the busy hallway.

The growth spurt has brought commercial real estate agents looking for more developer opportunities and, as a result, several offers to buy Swicegood Music owner Kurt Killion.

He had always said no, even after the Swicegood flood during the Imelda tropical depression.

“We were only closed for a few days and were still able to do door-to-door sales for simple items like ropes or reeds while we cleaned up,” Killion said, adding that inside, “it’s not Wasn’t pretty with bare concrete floor and walls missing a few feet.

But it was the very commercial growth of College Street itself that prompted Killion to seriously consider its latest offer for sale, now over a year ago.

The glut of traffic on the roadway, especially at lunchtime, when popular drive-thru services like Chick-fil-A could block an entire lane of traffic, made entering and exiting the store more problematic.

And there was a growing problem with homeless people staying in the area, most of whom Killion and the employees had come to know over time.

“As a person you feel for them, but as a business owner it was not good. Some customers were afraid to enter (if a homeless person was sleeping in front or hanging around),” he said.

When he arrived to find someone sleeping outside the storefront, he would tell them they had to leave, saying, “Look, I get it, but I’m trying to run a business here.”

Then the store was vandalized.

A homeless man allegedly threw a brick through the store window and stole several guitars before police arrived on the scene.

The man was arrested and guitars were recovered from nearby pawnshops, but the instruments had been damaged.

When Killion’s proposal to sell Swicegood was accepted the next day, he moved the veteran Beaumont business elsewhere.

“It was just the right time to do it,” he explained. “The money was fair and the building was 60 years old.”

Killion called Gerald Farhar – a friend in real estate – and said, “I have to go.”

Farhar suggested a new property he had acquired along Twin City Highway in a new commercial development area. This site was the first developed on a completely new street – Lone Star Drive in the Netherlands.

It was Killion’s old playground and 1,500 square feet larger than their old property, where the storefront and outdoor warehouse and storage units were approximately 8,500 square feet.

The size difference isn’t big on paper, but the layout of the new property, with warehouse inventory, repair, and showroom all under one roof, made it appear larger than the numbers shown.

The open floor plan at the new site allowed for larger showroom displays, for one.

“There were some things, like impulsive objects or wand displays, what did you have, that we had no place to display (before on the floor). They were all behind the counter at the old location,” Killion said.

Sheet music and books were also in a separate room from the old space.

This amounted to a cramped shopping experience.

This is no longer a problem now.

“Aesthetically, it’s much nicer,” Killion noted.

It’s a difference that customers have also noticed.

“Returning customers like it to be newer and bigger,” Killion said, and since the move, “we’ve seen some new faces here — mostly Mid-and South-County folks who hadn’t been in Beaumont before.”

Its employees also appreciate the new space.

What they lack in lunch break options within walking distance on College Street, they make up for in in-house functionality.

“Our workspaces are more spaced out here,” said Myles Peace, who started at Swicegood as a janitor eight years ago while studying at Lamar, “(The move) was an adjustment, but it’s It’s good to have your own space and not be packed together, having to ask, ‘Can you move this, so I can get there?’ “

It’s a huge benefit that they’ll likely appreciate more in a few months, when Swicegood’s instrument repair team sees its highest volume of business from its best customers – school music programs.

Over 1,000 instrument services come during the summer months before classes resume.

Swicegood Music serves the musical needs of over 90 regional schools – providing instruments, repairs, sheet music and making routine on-site calls to check in with band managers for news

needs throughout the year.

Their service extends from schools in the Golden Triangle to East Houston and north to Livingston, Cleveland and the Lake District.

“There aren’t many stores like this in our area,” Killion said, adding:

“Obviously we’re here to make money, but it’s more of a service to our school’s music programs. We help schools access and procure the sheet music and instruments/repairs they need. »

“Texas is the ‘gold standard’ for school music programs,” Killion said, noting that those programs dovetail with the state’s dedication to high school football.

It’s a mindset that has helped Texas music programs avoid the creative program budget cuts experienced by many schools across the country.

“The Texas Music Educators Association has a good lobby in Austin. They make sure these programs get their share,” Killion said.

This allows groups to walk and do business at Swicegood’s as well.

“What makes our business grow are strong group programs where parents feel the financial contribution is worth something – it’s a good thing to spend money on. When you have more kids in the group, we have more business,” he said.

However, doing more for school groups goes beyond being good for Swicegood’s business.

It’s a mission Killion benefited from as a child, when his parents gave him his first instrument for a school band – a saxophone bought from Swicegood Music decades before he owned the store.

The saxophone sparked a trajectory of personal music history that led to Killion becoming a music student at Lamar University, then a college orchestra teacher for ten years – two in Port Arthur schools and eight in the Netherlands. -Low.

Since joining Swicegood in 1992, he has given back to the very programs he has benefited from and made a number of friends along the way.

Killion and others became bandmates in Eazy the Band, which included Michael Westbrook, a former Hardin-Jefferson High School band manager and the first confirmed local death from COVID-19.

They still play, mostly now at Pine Tree Lodge, although the shows following the Westbrook loss have been tough, Killion said.

But the power of music heals, and Killion is ensuring that Swicegood endures as a musical resource for generations to come, including employees like Steve Huelsman, who was 18 when he started working part-time at Swicegood’s.

He is now part of the shop’s instrument repair team while continuing to perform as a guitarist with bands throughout the region.

“I’m in my 25th year and I haven’t left yet,” he said.

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