Music Man Glenn still picking at 83

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, July 7, 2011

Virdie Glenn, 83, has owned Glenn's Music Mart in Clanton for 43 years. He said he has no plans to stop selling instruments and teaching lessons anytime soon

In today’s world of major corporations, conglomerates and mega businesses, one has to wonder if there’s still a niche for the little guy. Running a small, hometown business just doesn’t seem worth it anymore, right?

According to Virdie Glenn, wrong.

Glenn, owner of Glenn’s Music Mart in downtown Clanton, has been in business selling instruments, repairing them, and teaching lessons for 43 years. He says he isn’t in it for the money; instead, something else makes him stick around.

“I just love music,” he said. “I can’t hardly wait till I get down here every day.”

Glenn, 83, has been playing the guitar since the age of 15, and spent several years in a traveling country/gospel quartet. His strategy for business is simple, he said: Know what you’re talking about.

“To run a public place you have got know what you’re talking about,” he said. “If someone comes in with a question, and you say ‘I don’t know,’ that doesn’t do much good.”

Glenn has gone to great lengths to make sure he can answer any question a customer might have.

“I know how to play mandolin, bass, dobro, banjo and violin,” he said. “I figured if I was going to teach and tell people about them, I’d better know them.”

He said he takes a similar approach to dealing with customers. Despite the fact that there are much larger music businesses in Birmingham and Montgomery, he feels the way he does business helps him get by fine.

“Just treat [customers] right,” he said. “If [an instrument is] good, tell them. If it’s not, tell them. It’ll all catch up with you eventually.”

"Any guitar player in Chilton County, I've had something to do with it." -Virdie Glenn on how long he's been in business.

As an instructor, he can pick out quickly those who he knows will or won’t become musicians.

“I can tell in five lessons if they’ll learn or not,” he said. “One thing you’ve got to do is practice. Some go home, put it by the bed, and won’t pick it up again till the next lesson.”

He says watching those who do stick with it makes running the shop and teaching lessons worth it.

“[My favorite part is] teaching someone guitar and having them become as good as you,” he said. “Watching them learn something they had no idea about.

The casual eye might not notice the store itself, tucked away in the heart of downtown, next to the Grand Ole Café. One look inside the store reveals a wall lined with beautiful instruments, most being guitars with a few banjos mixed in for good measure. They come in all sizes and colors, even in hot pink.

For 30 years he’s been located in this spot, and he doesn’t look to retire or get out of business anytime soon.

“Not if the Good Lord lets me,” he said. “I love it too much. A fella never needs to retire fully. He needs to keep something going.”