For Dan McLung, it's always been about the music and the freedom that comes with working for himself. The musician, who plays bass with the Moon Mountain Ramblers, has been self-employed since he was 23.
"I suppose I'm unhirable," McLung, now 62, jokes.
A Bend resident since 1984, he originally opened the Piano Shoppe, playing off his experience as a piano tuner. But after about 15 years, musical tastes shifted.
"Piano sales declined as the market changed," McLung recalls. "I loved selling musical instruments, and since I play guitar and am in a band, I decided to switch the product I'm carrying."
And so, 12 years ago, Music Makers was born. Specializing in high-end acoustic guitars, the shop sells a wide range of fretted instruments and caters to bluegrass musicians like McLung, offering mandolins, banjos, and resophonic guitars.
"We carry such a variety of price points for acoustic, I get just about everybody—from people just starting out to people with six or more high-end guitars," McLung explains, adding that prices range from $200 to $4,000.
While customers may be able to find cheaper deals on accessories through major online retailers, McLung says Music Makers provides a level of customer service that can only be found in a local shop.
The store offers a generous trade-up policy and includes a free humidifier with every guitar purchase, to accommodate for the dry climate. As a result, McLung says, instrument prices may be lower at his shop. Plus, customers can play the instrument they are hoping to buy.
While he understands that many working musicians have to save a buck where they can, McLung emphasizes the importance of supporting local business, especially during the holiday season. Shopping local keeps money in the community—through employee spending and charitable donations—and keeps local shops in business.
"If all the holiday shopping is done online, fewer and fewer local retailers will continue," he says.
McLung illustrates this point by sharing a "horror story" about a father and son chatting about a pair of headphones the son is interested in. At the end of the conversation, the father says to the son, "Let's go to the store and check them out," to which the son replies, "I just bought them online."
"Fewer and fewer people even go to a retail store," McLung muses. "It doesn't even cross their mind."