After 33 years of business in Dahlonega, the idea of closing Vintage Music, Dahlonega’s beloved music store, due to the impacts from COVID-19 was a little too real for its owner John Grimm.
“When the virus started, business slowed down pretty much to a halt,” Grimm said. “My online lessons grew pretty big because a lot of people were stuck at home. There weren’t much sales, but I was just in here teaching pretty much all day long...and making a fair amount of money doing that, but at the end of the month, my overhead was so great that at the end of the month I had nothing to show for it, no salary, nothing. It was like working for nothing. So at that point I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’”
In that moment of discouragement, Grimm took to Facebook, updating the community with the idea his store might have to close. Hundreds of shares, comments and likes later, he was encouraged to keep pushing on.
“I was just very touched by the outpouring of support from the community, it was just incredible,” he said. “All positive comments, it was kind of like going to your own funeral, it was very humbling, just all these people that really appreciated what we have done.”
The post didn’t just lift Grimm’s spirits. As the shares multiplied, so did the awareness of the small business’s struggle, causing many to lend a helping hand.
“So after all those people started posting, I just had a lot of support from the community,” Grimm said. “I think this story’s mostly about community and how great Dahlonega is. I had one guy come in, he saw that post. He bought two guitars for two of his kids and bought three-months-worth of lessons and insisted on paying in advance for his lessons. Many friends would buy instruments even though they didn’t need them necessarily, just a lot of support.”
One of those supporters was Alli Kirby. Kirby’s 10-year-old son Cash was one of the many that decided to continue their lessons online once the pandemic hit.
“My son Cash continues to take online lessons from John as he really has a gift for teaching, and inspiring young minds,” Kirby said. “Cash has even started to write songs and looks up to his friend John.”
While the store isn’t technically considered essential, Kirby, like others, struggled to imagine this community without its music store.
“When we heard the news that due to the COVID-19 virus Vintage Music is considering closing its doors forever, we as a family felt deeply saddened,” she said. “We couldn't help but feel like the door might close not only for our son Cash, but for our entire community.”
However it’s not just his own customers that would be affected. Ann Whitley-Singleton, the curriculum director for Dahlonega-based music program Georgia Pick & Bow, said that the program would be hard pressed to operate without Grimm and his store.
“John Grimm and Vintage Music have been instrumental to Pick & Bow since its very beginning,” Whitley-Singleton said. “John has been a teacher for the program since the start, having been involved even in the planning process that got it up and running in 2007. He has not only taught fiddle, banjo, and guitar for us, but he has helped us acquire the large inventory of instruments we rent out to our students, has helped to keep our inventory of instruments in good working order, and has been a very convenient source for those instruments, their strings, rosin, capos, tuners, and everything else that we need to make our program the success it has become.”
Whitley-Singleton credits Grimm for helping make Dahlonega’s music community what it is today.
“I wish that I could even know how many people of our local music community got their start from John Grimm,” she said. “He has given lessons in his shop to so many children and adults, many of whom are now professional musicians in their own right. He has also kept our local community in instruments and related supplies. I cannot imagine not being able to go up those steps to John’s shop, see his friendly face, and chat while purchasing my own rosin, strings, and other things to keep my own playing going.”
The support from the community continues to be what pushes Grimm to keep going, even when everything around him seems to have stopped.
“It was definitely a huge encouragement, because everything else I was doing had fallen by the wayside, I used to tour a lot, I used to tour in Spain and the UK and Canada and all across the U.S. All that shut down,” Grimm said. “I would do recordings and record bands, but no one was recording then. I work at Pick & Bow, that program is stopped. I was going to be the opening act for Bear on the Square, that got cancelled. And I do this thing at Mars Hill College every year and everything got cancelled, so ways of funding myself got dried up. But that’s pretty much true for every store in town I think here, it’s not just about Vintage Music, it’s about communities supporting their local businesses. I think that’s super important.”
As small businesses across the town and the nation all struggle during these perilous times, Grimm hopes people understand the impact of their actions, not just on him, but all local businesses.
“I don’t care if somebody buys from Amazon rather than here as long as they are educated in what they’re doing and what that means to supporting a business,” he said. “If they save maybe a dollar for a pack of strings and buy on Amazon and everybody does that and all of a sudden my business is closed, I don’t want them to think ‘what happened?’ I want them to know what their choices mean….If you don’t support your local businesses that you love, they may not be there.”
Vintage Music is currently open to the public, however Grimm mandates that those shopping inside must wear a mask. Vintage Music also offers online shopping, which can be found at vintagemusic.com/shop.