A man walked into Champlin Music last Friday to buy some strings for his guitar. The total was $17.12. The bespectacled owner of the store, Denny Champlin, rang up the purchase on the old register, which spat out a long receipt.
The man was one of Champlin’s last customers. He has sold his business to Jeff Grounds, a Martinsville resident and recent Ivy Tech graduate. Grounds will move the business and open up shop at some point this year. Champlin said the time from which he started his business – more than 30 years ago as a teaching studio at his country home – has flown by.
“My dream came true,” Champlin said. “God made my dreams come true.”
Champlin started thinking about semi-retirement two years ago when he was 62-years-old and drew his first Social Security check. He was sitting in his bathroom on June 30, 2014, praying to God for someone to buy his store. A friend of his sold his music business at an auction; Champlin said he didn’t want that.
“It broke his heart,” Champlin said. “I never wanted to go through that. But I told God – ‘I am this tired. I’m drawing a line, saying July 1, if nothing happens, if you don’t pull something off for me, I’m going to contact an auctioneer.’”
“I would like to be remembered as having touched this town positively,” Champlin added.
Jeff Grounds walked into Champlin’s store the next day. The two shook hands and the business was sold. But Champlin still kept running the business until Grounds graduated college in the middle of 2016. Grounds had a dream of owning an art and music store.
“It was a God thing,” Champlin said.
The store will be renamed “JAM.” Grounds will combine music with art in a new building, which has yet to be determined. Along with teaching music and selling instruments, Grounds will sell painting, drawing and other art supplies. He said there aren’t enough supplies in Martinsville, especially for people wanting to take classes.
“You have to go to Greenwood or Bloomington to get anything,” Grounds said. “That will help a lot too. I want you to walk in and feel welcomed.”
For Champlin, he wanted to do something in his life that he enjoyed. He said he had friends who made more money working at companies such as Chevy, Allison, or GM.
But he chose music. He started by giving lessons out of his home in the country. Seeing those students in need of instruments prompted him to start his own business in 1980.
The business eventually moved from the family farm to his current house at 159 W. Randolph St.
“If I hadn’t had this home, I never would’ve seen my family,” Champlin said. “When you own your own business, you’re there all the time.”
“I’ve worked for a living,” Champlin added. “I’ve earned enough to feed my family. I’ve not gotten rich – every musician thinks he’s going to have that one hit record or whatever. I’ve got to go to work every day and enjoy it.”
Champlin said the business environment has changed since he started. A town that was once filled with mom-and-pop shops and family businesses now has chain stores. Chains in towns such as Greenwood or Bloomington, Champlin said, have “a thousand” guitars but no one who knows anything about them. Customers oftentimes aren’t sure what to buy. People walk into his store and need help.
“You can’t have a music store that’s not owned by a musician,” Champlin said. “We still have to compete price-wise with the chains, but we have to give people full service.”
“There’s been six or seven stores close because they can’t keep up with me,” Champlin added. “They just can’t. There’s less overhead and I’ve been at it longer.”
Champlin has spent July boxing up instruments and equipment. Although the business aspect of his studio will be sold, he will return to his roots as a teacher and performer. For students, he’ll be teaching music. He’ll also be teaching the store’s new owner a thing or two about running it.
“I’m going to teach him the music business,” Champlin said. “I kind of adopted him as my nephew, basically. I want all my customers to go to Jeff.”
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