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End of the Road: Stan’s Rock ‘N’ Roll bike shop closing

BY GENE COLEMAN

NATCHEZ — Stan Smith keeps on smiling even as he talks about the day when the sustain of guitar chords will become inaudible and the wheels on the bicycles will stop spinning at his Rock ‘N’ Roll Bike Shop.

Smith, 63, recently announced in a social media post that he plans to retire, but will continue to teach guitar lessons from home.

Smith said internet sales are hurting brick-and-mortar businesses because the overhead makes it hard to compete with online prices, and it has diminished his sales on everything from instruments to accessories.

“The closing date is not written in stone,” Smith said. “Hopefully by the end of the year.”

Smith was a surveyor at age 21 when he landed what he said was a much more desirable job. Smith began running the guitar department and delivering pianos at Heard Music Co. in Natchez.

“Working for Heard’s was awesome,” Smith said. “I went from working survey, cutting with a bush blade all day long, to stringing guitars and hanging out with musicians.”

In 2008, Franklin Heard retired as owner of Heard Music Co. and Smith took over. When business faltered, he downsized to focus on stringed instruments and opened Stan’s String Shop at his current location on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive.

Smith, however, conveys a sense of optimism as he thinks about closing the doors for good.

“When I had to move out of the old Heard building,” Smith said, “I had spent most of my adult life in that building. When I had to clear that out of there that was a horrible feeling. I don’t think this will be as bad.”

Heard speaks highly of Smith’s work ethic and his rapport with music students at Heard’s Music Co. Heard said he believes the person-to-person aspect of retail is diminishing.

“Doing business today has changed,” Heard said. “The personal touch of the salesman — when you order something online you might not ever talk to that person again. If there’s a problem, it’s a whole new ballgame this day and time.”

Smith said he has many interests, including having learned to play mandolin, having an eye for photography and being an avid bicyclist.

Smith recalled how he decided to add bicycles to the store’s lineup. On one of his trips to a local bicycle shop, Smith said, the idea came to him.

“I looked at the bike shop downtown and realized a lot of musicians ride bikes,” Smith said.

Smith didn’t just see musicians riding bikes, he saw “dual customers.” That’s when he altered his music business to include bicycle sales, repairs and rentals.

Steve Comeaux is a fellow guitarist and a friend of Smith’s. He said it was Smith’s tutelage on cycling techniques that nurtured his interest in riding.

“I wouldn’t be riding today the way I am if he hadn’t taught me,” Comeaux said. “It’s just like guitar — You can read a book by Mel Bay, but it’s not the same as hearing it and trying to replicate it.”

Likewise, Smith said it’s unfortunate that future generations won’t have the camaraderie and musical education that comes with shopping in a small music store.

“A lot of musicians used to come hang out by the store and you’d learn music theory and how music really works, just with everyday conversations,” Smith said.

Comeaux said Stan’s place was more than just a retail store for many people over the years. Comeaux said he sees it already in the personal social media comments Smith received regarding closing his doors.

“There will be a lot of people when he closes the door that just won’t know where to go. It will be a big hole in people’s lives,” Comeaux said.

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