In 1978, Dale Keeney packed up his life and moved to Moscow, taking a chance on starting a music shop in his garage.
Forty years later, Keeney Brothers Music Center is still around, and a lot more than a music repair shop.
Dale Keeney said he wanted a smaller town to raise his family, and while working in a local Spokane music center, he was getting a large number of clients from the Moscow-Pullman area, as there was no local music center in this area at the time. Keeney was going to change that.
“They said, ‘Why don’t you move to Moscow and we’ll bring you some business,’ so that’s what I did and that’s how it worked,” Keeney said.
He then started the garage shop with his brother Lyle Keeney. Initially, they only offered repair services, but soon customers began to ask for more, such as valve oil or reeds, prompting them to carry the products.
Having a physical store is much more fun, Keeney said, as there is more room for people to look around. They can stay and be an actual part of the store.
Though Keeney said he spends the majority of his time repairing instruments and running the store, his love for music never died.
He was the drummer for the band The Fabulous Kingpins before becoming their front of house and audio engineer.
“When I was just a boy — just a little kid, like 10 years old — I fell in love with music at a very young age,” he said. “I fell in love with music and particularly guitar rock, I loved guitar rock.”
Josephine Jones, a University of Idaho fifth-year vocal performance student, has been working at Keeney Bros. since 2015.
The business was an obvious choice for her as a place of employment while attending UI, as it benefits her major. As a vocalist, she is able to understand more about what instrumentalists need, Jones said.
“I get to see a different side of my music friends when they come in, and it’s also fun because I’ve known all my coworkers for so long, it’s just a been a really fun chance to get to know them,” she said.
Jones said she started a new tradition at Keeney Bros., where she plays the ukulele outside the store during the Saturday market in the summer months.
For 10 years, Keeney taught drum lessons at the center. He said his favorite part was watching someone who couldn’t even play a note. Five years later, they could play with the best.
Keeney Bros. started as a family business, from Keeney and his brother Lyle, to Keeney’s wife and children helping out.
Working at Keeney Bros. throughout her college experience, Jones said the center has become a family for her. She has gotten to know her coworkers well and made strong connections.
“We’re always here to help musicians, a lot of people tend to focus on online sales,” Jones said. “I feel like it’s a lot more convenient to come to the store, a lot of people in the music building know who I am, and I’m always really friendly and happy to help.”
Keeney said he plans to work for another 10 years before he considers retirement — though he can’t imagine his life without the store.
“Nobody can make music without this, and I just feel blessed that I can be part of making it possible for people to be musicians because, without a local music store, you can’t be a musician,” he said.
Alex Brizee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @alex_brizee
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