HAVERHILL — The only instruments left are a flute, clarinet, and conga drum.
There used to be hundreds adorning the walls and filling the shelves of Haverhill’s iconic music store, but those days are gone.
The Haverhill Music Centre, a landmark in downtown Haverhill since opening in 1955, will close at the end of this month after a couple of years of declining sales, said Brian Ross, the store’s owner since 2004.
“It’s a sense of loss and not being able to help what’s left of the music community,” Ross said. “We had teachers here, so we had students coming to learn, and people bought supplies here. We kept people going.”
After years of trying to stave off closing, Ross decided a few weeks ago he had no choice. He had to close the store he bought nine years ago.
It’s all technology’s fault, he lamented.
“It’s real simple: It’s the Internet,” Ross said. “People are buying everything and anything online, everything from sheet music to guitars.”
Bob Bragg, 74, a trumpet player, walked into the store Monday with a newly acquired trumpet to have it evaluated and to get supplies to start learning. He went first to another music store but came to the old shop because he heard it was closing.
“I was shocked,” Bragg said. “It’s been here all my life practically.”
About 40 years ago, Bragg and his younger brother, who was in a rock ’n’ roll band, regularly came to the store for picks, strings, and sheet music.
“It was the place to go for anything musical,” Bragg said, though he admitted it had been a long time since his last visit.
The store relied heavily on the sale of sheet music and instructional books, but the convenience of shopping online dissuaded many from driving to a store for items readily available from home, Ross speculated.
“As gas prices went up, we saw people go online more,” Ross said. “When the sales tax went up, people went online more.”
As he was leaving the store with a large, guitar-print rug, Woody Gaw said the closing of the music store is disheartening, regardless of the reason.
“I am going to miss this store; we all are,” said Gaw, 56, a musician who has been shopping at the store for at least 15 years. “I really liked it a lot. They treat us like we’re friends.”
But the Internet is not the only culprit in the music industry’s restructuring, and even treating customers right cannot fully turn the tide, Ross said.
Young people’s interest in music just is not what it used to be, he said. Long-standing bands like The Beatles, Queen, Boston, and Journey used to inspire children and young adults to learn instruments so they, too, could be famous and talented. With their demise came a sharp decline in musical fandom, he said.
“It was a store packed with merchandise, and people were coming in and out of the store all day,” Ross said.
But as Bob Dylan wrote: “The times, they are a changin’.”
“Our whole industry is suffering countrywide,” Ross said.
In its heyday, the music shop regularly had 10 to 15 musicians browsing the selections, Ross said. But in recent months, visits by musicians were fewer and fewer, he said.
“Musicians talking to musicians all day,’’ he said, “That’s what it’s all about and helping find the gear they need to play.”
But the music has not quite stopped, not yet.
Julio Liriano, who dropped in Monday to pick up a part Ross was repairing for him, said the closing affects him personally.
“Everything I needed for music, I came here,” said Liriano, 72, who has been coming to Haverhill Music Centre for at least a decade. “I don’t know what other place I’ll go to.”
As his store’s final day draws closer, Ross cannot hold back his disappointment.
“It really was a lot of fun when it was really cooking,” Ross said, pausing to look around the desolate shop. “It’s just so sad.”
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