Loser’s Music Inc. in downtown Lebanon is celebrating its centennial this year.

“In the music industry the trend is for huge multi-location retailers. There aren’t many of us (independent, family-owned music stores) around,” said Bruce Marquette, who owns the business with his wife Janice.

“Celebrating a 100th anniversary is something that most businesses do not get to do. The fact that Loser’s Music Store has reached this impressive milestone means that not only do they know what they are doing, but the community is supporting them as well,” said Karen Groh, president and CEO Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“Having Loser’s as a mainstay in the downtown showcases that downtown is a great place to do business.”

Marquette explained that Loser’s was founded in 1923 by Art and Elsie Loser. At that time it was located at 60 Cumberland St. “Loser’s has always been a downtown business,” he said.

In 1954 Loser’s was purchased by his parents — Robert and Grace Marquette, who were both lovers of music. In 1970, the store moved to its present location in the former J.C. Penney building, 728 Cumberland St. “My parents bought the building, renovated the interior and expanded the front onto the sidewalk area,” Bruce said.

Robert died in 2003, and Grace continued working at the store into her 90s. She died in April at age 98. Bruce and his wife Janice became second-generation owners when they purchased it in 2005.

While Bruce and Janice are the second generation of their family involved in Loser’s, the third generation is also now involved; their daughter Lisa Vannoy is now working at Loser’s.

Janice Marquette, Bruce Marquette, and Lisa Vannoy are the second and third generations to be involved in Loser’s Music in downtown Lebanon.

“As a family, we decided over the years to have the name remain Loser’s. About 10 or 15 years ago, we updated our signage and stationary, putting punctuation over the ‘o’ so people know how it’s pronounced (with a long ‘o’ like the word ‘low’),” Bruce Marquette said.

He describes Loser’s as “an old-fashioned music store.”

“Our niche is putting instruments and sheet music in the hands of school students and churches. We also repair string, bass or wind instruments, and we’re one of the few stores left that has books — music books and music for performances.”

Since there are not a lot of music stores that sell music books and sheet music, Loser’s ships material throughout the country. “Years ago most of our customers were all from Lebanon. Now with our online sales, we have a lot of customers we’ve never met,” Marquette said.

“In the store, we do have a lot of repeat customers — we know them by their first name and we know their families.”

Filling the niche for schools and churches means that Loser’s busy time is July through Christmas; the budget year for schools begins July 1.

“With band instruments every year is different; what you’re always hoping with all of the various school programs we work with is that there’s a balance and we have enough of each instrument,” he said, “This year there’s a demand for the trombone and clarinet, and it’s not unique to our area. We ran out of our supply and talked with our supplier, and it’s something they’re seeing around the country.”

A number of years ago, Loser’s also offered music lessons. “We had an extensive lesson program with as many as eight teachers. Most of the students came for lessons on Saturday. But now kids are busy with things like soccer on Saturdays and demand for lessons decreased, so we no longer offer music lessons onsite. We have a referral list of music teachers for a particular instrument,” Marquette explained.

Pianos are an instrument that Loser’s no longer sells. Marquette said a lot of people have switched to electronic keyboards since they’re lighter, more portable, and don’t need to be tuned. However if a customer does have a piano that needs to be tuned, Loser’s can recommend someone.

Marquette said he’s been a proponent of music with both his children and grandchildren. “With music you learn a skill for a lifetime. When you’re learning to play an instrument, it’s physical and mental. You learn about discipline. When you play with or sing with a group, you learn to work with others, just like being part of a sports team,” he stressed.

He said the centennial celebration’s mostly been low-key with things like 100 days of sales and changes in outdoor and in-store signage.

“Walk-in traffic has decreased since the city’s sidewalk project has impacted the sidewalk in front of the store and nearby, but we hope to have an in-house celebration over the holidays,” he said.

For more information about Loser’s Music, visit www.losersmusic.com or its Facebook page.

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Rochelle A. Shenk is a writer with over two decades experience. Her work appears in regional business publications and lifestyle magazines as well as area newspapers. She writes about business and municipal sectors as well as arts and entertainment, human interest features, and travel and tourism. Rochelle...