Port Orchard institution DJ’s Music closing this weekend

After 30 years of helping South Kitsap youngsters discover the joys of playing music, Diana Watson is spending the last few days in the music store she ran with her late husband DJ.

“It’s like another death,” said Watson, 62, of facing the end of DJ’s Music, the store she has run since her husband, Donald Joseph, died two years ago. “It’s been death after death after death.”

For a generation, DJ’s music was open near Albertsons on Mile Hill Drive, offering local musicians a play to buy equipment, get repairs and even offer classes. More importantly, the store offered school kids a way to rent instruments for music classes.

“We always said that the other stores get the pros, we get the beginners,” Watson said. “We get to watch them grow.”

Though Watson still loves the business and especially her customers and staff, keeping it open has been a struggle — a struggle she can’t keep up.

“I can’t pay the rent,” Watson said. “I wanted to stay, but I have to pay the bills.”

She said she tried to keep the business open after her husband died, and moved it up the street to South Park Village soon after.

“But the economy just whacked us,” she said. “The phone bill went up, then the other utilities went up, and soon there was nothing left after I paid the bills.”

In addition to the financial hardship, Watson said running the business by herself is something she “just can’t handle anymore.

“I tried, I put everything into it,” she said. “I mortgaged my house.”

On the verge of bankruptcy, Watson said she put the business up for sale. Many people have expressed interest, but a potential buyer has yet to emerge as solid.

“Nothing has come to fruition,” she said, adding that one person is currently negotiating with her broker. With or without a buyer, however, Watson said this is her last week.

“I’m calling this the ‘miracle week,’” she said. “If someone buys it, it’ll be a miracle.”

She said her landlord “has been a doll,” and has been allowing her to stay, saying he would prefer it if she found a buyer.

Watson said she will likely close the business this Saturday, and in the meantime, she is liquidating her inventory and trying to work out agreements with students who have rented instruments for the school year.

“There’s no way I'm taking the instruments away,” she said. “They’ve got to keep them until school’s out.”

These last few weeks have been “an emotional roller coaster,” she said, as customers come in with “hugs and tears.

“I didn’t realize what an effect (this store) had,” she said. “I just knew it was needed.”

DJ opened his first music store in Bremerton in 1979, but soon moved himself to Gorst and the store to its longtime home on Mile Hill Drive.

Several years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease and diabetes, and eventually died in May of 2008.

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