After working in construction, the Schwallers and Rob’s dad, Bert, took a leap of faith and opened Music Gear in Independence Square on Nov. 12.
“People around here needed a music store that wasn’t a chain,” Rob said. “This place is warm and inviting and in a good location. We don’t always feel the need to sell — we like people coming in just to play around with the guitars or ask advice. Part of owning a local business is really just getting to know the community.”
Takin’ Care of Business
Although Rob and his dad took a risk opening up a music store for the first time, it wasn’t completely out of left field. His dad has 40 years of guitar training. He taught Rob how to play guitar at 10. The two of them bonded over the past couple decades by attending guitar shows together, buying and selling. Rob’s wife, Abi, is a piano player and singer.
“One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned about opening a shop is that you have to know each other’s roles,” Rob said. “We’re a great team because my dad and I know the music side, and Abi has worked in retail before, so she knows that side. But if Abi is sick, I have to know how to run the cash register, and if I’m sick, she has to know how to answer questions about music gear.”
Every Guitar Tells a Story
“There’s a story behind each instrument, which is eye-opening,” Abi said. “Learning as much as I can about their history is not a chore at all; it’s been fun. Since we’re getting new instruments all the time, there’s always something to learn.”
Love and Marriage
Rob and Abi have been married four years, and they don’t find running a business together to be a strain on their relationship.
“We’re together all the time now, and we still like each other,” Rob said, laughing. “A lot of people warned us it was going to be a challenge, but we’ve made it work. Really, it’s all about communication, honesty and keeping work life separate from home life.”
Teach Your Children
The couple’s passion for music education has shaped their vision for Music Gear. They are working with a Blue Springs elementary school on a discounted rental program for kids who can’t afford instruments. They hope to do the same with the Independence school district. They’ve also donated instruments to elementary schools.
“Music is math, motor skills, logic, creativity — it’s everything,” Abi said. “It’s a good, healthy form of expression, and kids really need that these days.”