Input Fort Wayne
FORT WAYNE – Sweetwater has long been on the map for its retail prowess in the music industry. Now, with a recent expansion, it’s bringing another distinction to Fort Wayne: The world’s largest brick-and-mortar music store.
Sweetwater’s new 44,000-square-foot store opened on July 7. Since then, Vice President of Campus Sales Operations & Artist Relations, Thad Tegtmeyer, says staff has been busy keeping pace with orders.
In hindsight, Tegtmeyer says the store expansion from its former size of 14,000 square feet was a smart move. In fact, it was a matter of necessity.
“I don’t know that there was any strategic timing to it,” he says. “We had just gotten to the point where… we had run out of space more than anything. And so with the changes that we’ve made on our campus, this space opened up and gave us the opportunity to build a new store.”
According to Tegtmeyer, the decision is part of the company’s larger commitment to executing on a superior customer experience. They have many customers who travel significant distances by car and plane to visit the Sweetwater campus. Taking into account customer feedback, especially from these loyal and repeat customers, Sweetwater has risen to the occasion to provide music lovers with a highly tactile and engaging in-store experience.
For example, Tegtmeyer says they’ve heard that certain promotional displays are rather unique and draw people back in. All of this amounts to an attractive retail shopping experience if you ask him.
Basically, Sweetwater is doing what they’ve always done, but on a larger scale at the expanded store. Staff has quickly adjusted to the new space, which has a few new features.
“First and foremost, we brought into the new store a new Gear Exchange, which is our trade-in and used gear store,” Tegtmeyer says. “Now, when customers come in, they have a clear understanding of what that is. So I think it provides clarity, and maybe some more legitimacy to that department.”
Tegtmeyer considers the addition of the band orchestra store to their offerings as another win. Sweetwater has owned Mynett Music on Hobson Road for years, so it made sense to relocate that business to the Sweetwater campus. It has been renamed Sweetwater Band & Orchestra.
“That’s been a big change for us because, prior to this move, we were not into the band and orchestra side of the business,” he says. “But this will certainly be the catalyst for us to grow that part of the business here at Sweetwater, as a whole. We’ve got an extensive repair and service department, which is a big deal for those customers.”
Sweetwater’s store expansion includes the addition of a band orchestra store.
Another change? Tegtmeyer says prior to the store’s expansion, his team ramped up hiring to accommodate the added bandwidth. Over the next few months, they plan to continue hiring to keep pace with the additional anticipated activity.
Speaking of staff, Tegtmeyer says that he’s proud of how his team came together to expedite the transition. It also helped that staff from Sweetwater’s adjoined distribution center lent a hand. In this way, employees are the secret sauce, he says. So if other retailers in other niches want to replicate Sweetwater’s success, they can’t discount this element.
Sweetwater’s campus is growing at 5501 US-30 West.
Also, it might seem like a bold move to invest in a brick-and-mortar facility in the digital age, as the nation still recovers from the pandemic. However, Sweetwater’s actions are in line with trends.
“Despite a huge number of store closings, dozens of well-known brands across a spectrum of categories opened more than 4,000 locations last year,” according to a February 2021 Forbes article.
So what’s next for this musical retail powerhouse?
“It’s business as usual, really,” Tegtmeyer says. ”From the moment the customer walks through our front doors, we need to continue to refine that experience and continually improve. We have to match the experience every time and make sure that the service our sales staff provides is on par or exceeds the experience that the customer is having in the space itself.”