Tobias Music sits in a hotbed of chain retail. Within six miles of the independent Downers Grove, Ill., guitar shop lies Guitar Center, Sam Ash Music and Best Buy — national music retail players with the advantages of deep advertising pockets and mile-wide inventories. They carry many of the same brands as Tobias Music, including such names as Taylor Guitars and C.F. Martin, at discounted prices. Still, company co-owner Paul Tobias isn’t sweating.
In fact, he often beats those companies at their own game, price, via a low-overhead business model — he and his father, Ken, run the tiny 400-square-foot shop by themselves. And when customers purchase a guitar, he throws in a few free value-added services, including a restringing and setup. Sometimes, he’ll even sweeten the deal with a free tuner or handful of picks.