People’s Music closing after almost 50 years in business

By Laura Hagar Rush, Sebastopol Times, June 30, 2022

alex bryant peoples music

Alex Bryants says People's Music will continue as an online store.

On June 27, Alex Bryant, the owner of People’s Music on Main Street in Sebastopol, put a notice in black on the store’s Facebook page that the store would be closing on September 1 of this year. The response from loyal fans of the store was quick — dismay and resignation going hand-in-hand as yet another longtime Sebastopol institution closed its doors.

The writing had been on the wall for a while: “The reality is Google, streaming music, online shopping and 1-day shipping are here to stay, and most people are enjoying the effortless convenience,” Bryant wrote in his Facebook post.

And while these forces were driving down profits, expenses just kept going up.

“Leases don’t go down over time, and payroll doesn’t go down over time,” said Bryant, who has a job as a software engineer in addition to running the store. “In the end, it was a labor of love. We’ve been doing all we can to enhance the store and make it better and keep it going. But we’re not a charity.”

People’s Music was founded on Sebastopol’s Main Street in 1973. Bryant’s father Bo bought the store from the original owners in 1986, and Alex and his wife Laurie Meade brought it from Bo in 2015, operating the store with their son Ryan and employees Hoytus, Chris and Mark. (Bo Bryant died in 2021.)

Bryant said he’ll keep the store going as a website, perhaps with a specialty in vintage musical instruments. As for the brick-and-mortar store, after the lease runs out in December, he plans to move all the remaining items to a barn on his property, where he’ll continue to do instrument repair.

But he knows it won’t be the same. It’s the exchanges with customers and musicians that he’ll miss the most.

“The store has an intrinsic value that doesn’t really translate to financial value,” he said. “We’ve talked about selling the store, but the bottom line is the store doesn’t make any money. But it’s not about money. Really what the store does is more about the interaction with people.”

In the meantime, he’s looking for a home for the piano that’s in front of the store.

“About 20 people a day play that piano,” he said. “I’m going to put a note on it that says “If you like having the piano here on Main Street, find another store that will host it.”

In the closing notice on the store’s Facebook, Bryant wrote, “Our heartfelt gratitude and sympathy go out to all of you who made People’s Music a part of your life by exchanging musical energy and love every day since 1973 here in beautiful downtown Sebastopol.”