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D.J.’s Music set to play its sad, final notes soon
A wistful smile graces Ursula Geiger’s lips as she described how customers would walk in every day and head straight to the little Post Office in the far rear of the Geiger’s Pharmacy.
There they would find two or three of their friends and settle into the waiting chairs.
Watching them make the same trek day after day, she speculated that they came more for the comfortable social hour than for the mail.
They’ll miss that, she says, her smile growing sad.
As will the people who could trust that she would safely collect their mail and hold it for one, two or even three months while they traveled.
“If only ...,” she started to say. If only someone could have bought the pharmacy as it was and kept the business intact. In January, her husband, Bob, had contacted a trust established to purchase small neighborhood drugstores and inquired. Would theirs be a candidate for purchase?
A negative response came in March. There was no money for such a venture. The business which had been in existence since 1888 would have to close.
By the time they were told otherwise, they were already three weeks into the final sale and it was too late.
Across town, Diana Watson asks the same question as her eyes scan the business her husband, like Ursula’s, had lovingly tended.
If only D.J.’s Music could be sold as is and maintained with the same high standards as her musician husband, Donald Joseph Watson or D.J.
That would be ideal. It would mean that her instructors would continue to teach music lessons.
It would mean that her employees would have secure futures. It would mean that she could leave to spend some time with her 87-year-old mother.
It would mean that her customers would have the same quality of service and attention.
And most importantly, it would mean that the legacy her beloved D.J. built over 30 years would live on in the community he loved.
Like the Geigers, Diana didn’t come to this decision lightly.
D.J. started playing music as a young teen after being asked to keep time for a missing musician at a Grange dance.
He slipped easily into the role. Had what they called “natural talent” and spent wonderful years as a drummer with big bands, like the Glen Fleming, Lohr Brothers and George Sienko Orchestras and small three- or four-man acts like the Sophisticats, Style Setters, Don Smith Quartet, the Victors, the Kadoodles, the 4 Troubadors and Hi-Lites.
Like a traveling minstrel, he went up and down the West Coast, playing amazing venues and loving every minute.
In fact, there was never a time before Parkinson’s robbed him of control of his hands that he wasn’t in a band.
Even after he decided “to settle down” and open D.J.’s Music in 1979 he played with a band or two.
Music was as essential to the soul and body as food.
Like Geiger’s Pharmacy, the store became an institution.
The drummer discovered he was a natural businessman, so on fire was he with sharing a love of music.
He opened one store in Port Orchard, then another in Bremerton and a third in Poulsbo, before buying Bud’s Music and merging two stores into one in Silverdale.
Diana laughs remembering that he never closed the doors of the store, ever, even when they were in the midst of a big move.
People need their music, he explained. They can’t live without their music.
She doesn’t want to close the doors of D.J.’s Music now, either. But whether it’s the economy or she is still grieving his loss, missing him every single day, she realizes she can’t do it alone.
It has become too hard emotionally, physically and mentally.
Yet maybe there is another way.
She searches the large space on Mile Hill Road where she moved the store last August after D.J. passed away. Her eyes light on his drum set that graces the front window before settling on piano teacher and employee Jess Tradewell.
She calls him over. Disabled with spinal muscular atrophy, he needs a wheelchair to move around.
When he started at D.J.’s, he was told by his occupational therapists that if he could stay with the job for six months, he could have a computerized van worth $60,000 to get back and forth to work.
That was 1991, and the highly valued employee is one of the prized gems of the store.
She can go up and down the list of her music teachers and employees and tell you what a difference each of them makes to the store and to her personally.
Heidi, her manager, walked in looking for a job just when Diana needed her.
Tim Bertsch, a guitar teacher, was just a little guy jumping up to see over the counter when he first started coming to the store. Now he is one of her highly sought after guitar instructors.
Bill Carter played with the famed Count Basie Band and teaches clarinet and sax.
They are all so gifted and valuable, she says. All of them – Tradewell, Bertsch, Carter and Cari York, Tina Wyatt, Ken Tissue, Jayme Daumen, Sonny Bracamontes, C. Boyd Woods, Brian Lilly, Robert Caler, Steve Sirotzki, Callie Jones and Earl Rice – gifted, valuable and loyal.
They helped her when she was forced to close the Silverdale store to care for the ailing D.J.
They helped her when she nursed him for five years, four years longer than the doctors predicted he would last, the last two of which he could not speak.
They helped her with the big move when she closed the store on Mile Hill Road and moved to the new site.
They allow the store to be what D.J. always wanted it to be, a place where music lovers, especially those with beginning level and intermediate skills can find a home.
The store has to remain, Diana says definitively. It does so much in so many ways.
Friday nights it stays open until 9:00, when teens fill the stage and seats for the weekly Karaoke Night.
The microphone is open to anyone interested in hopping on stage and sharing their music with a receptive audience. Her eyes glisten as she relates the story of the teenage girl, who walked around the store, before stopping to strum a guitar.
She invited the teen back and the girl came, guitar in hand to sing her own original music.
“The kids are always so good, so respectful,” Diana explains. “That’s what D.J.’s is for. It’s what it is all about.”
It’s the place where Lee Oskar, a musician from the group WAR, famous for “Low Rider” and “Why can’t we be friends?” can host harmonica clinics that leave customers clamoring for more.
It’s a place that sets band students up in their first instruments. It’s the place that offers a huge selection of sheet music, picks, guitars, rentals and more.
It’s a place that needs a new owner, like D.J., who is in it for all the right reasons, someone who is passionate about music, an excellent businessman or woman and who deeply loves the community.
D.J.’s Music, she says, her voice sad and a little tired, “needs a new conductor.”
The store is located in the South Park Shopping Center next to Carmen’s evening gown rental shop and QFC.
Call (360) 876-0066 or stop in.
It needs you.
Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.