If you go back to 2006, a 24 year-old college graduate named Patrick Harkins had just moved back home from Austin, Texas.
His dream was to open his own a guitar shop like the one he had worked for throughout high school and college.
He found a place, built it out and lined the walls with guitars he had collected from all over the country. That was the easy part. He really didn’t think about the fact that soon he would unlock his door and have a store.
“The first day, I turned the sign from closed to open, put a key in the door and unlocked it,” he recalls. “I turned around and had this sinking feeling: ‘Whoah, what have I done here? I hope this works!’
That was ten years ago, and this month, Harkins celebrates the success of Fondren Guitars by Patrick Harkins.
“It’s become bigger than I planned and I see the next step already,” Harkins says. “It started with me and one guitar teacher and now we have a roster of teachers instructing a multitude of instrumental lessons, a student rock band, a school of music and an online store in addition to our retail storefront on Fondren Place.”
Beyond the business, though, is Harkins’ love of music and the opportunity to share that with others. “There’s a lady who just started playing and she’s checking out a guitar out there right now,” he says from his office. “Yes, I will probably sell her a guitar, but I’m helping her develop a lifelong love of music. I’m helping build something. I’m really proud of all the musicians we’ve helped create.”
Fortunately, that happens a lot. Harkins talks about Kolbe Alsobrooks, who, as a kid who came in with raw talent and nothing more. “We showed him how to play,” Harkins explains, “and he took it and ran with it. He was in our student rock band and was so good, so I said, ‘Why don’t you teach?’ Then as he got older, he was helping run the store. He is finishing an engineering degree at Ole Miss now, but he’s a full-on musician, playing around town in Oxford. He just placed second in a talent competition at Ole Miss and has started the college’s first-ever student musicians’ group. It’s cool to see I sparked that interest.”
Buying anything retail is too easy these days, a fact that sometimes scares traditional brick and mortar operations. But Harkins has reason to believe he will be around for a while, thanks to his loyal customers. “That is the reason we’re still here ten years later. People believe in us and want to support us and I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve tried to instill in everyone who works here, that, to go in any store, you have to go out of your way. Because you don’t even have to get on a computer; you can reach in your pocket and buy anything you want. For our customers to physically come here, it says a lot and means lot. It’s the reason we are trucking along… because people believe in us.”