Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chg's Final Post on Corner Violin Shop...

September 15, 2006. My first day as a full time employee at A. Cavallo. When I jumped on board, we were down to 3 employees. The shop had lost its full time repair woman earlier that year and Les was still working part-time as he was finishing up his undergraduate degree. Just before we had arrived, the shop had its first real administrative employee but unfortunately we lost her as well.

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I got there. As a former violinist, I may have had some idea of what customers wanted but this was a totally different arena. I had to be on my feet and learn to be a jack-of-all-trades. Learning the lingo of the trade, answering phones, shipping and packing, repair and maintenance, databasing, and ringing up customers.

I was beginning to think that my employment would be a temporary phase like my stint as an intern on the Hill or a landscaper at Lauritzen Gardens. After a year and a half later of working there, I came away with a lot from that experience. Initially, doing all those seemingly menial gopher runs made me aware of how hard small businesses work to survive. Not only did they have to worry about their daily operations but they had to grasp abstract business concepts like selling, marketing, advertising, managing, and administrating. However, I also realized that if a small business like a violin shop was to thrive, it had to go beyond that. It had to be emboldened with a creative entrepreneurial spirit.

With a chance to experiment in a business model and goal that I believed in, I dove right in and did as much as I could. I helped establish A. Cavallo's online presence. It first started with listing a few instruments on eBay. Then learning to sell on We launched a brand new database driven website and it showed real signs of promise at the end of the year. Today, we're finally starting to see more sales on our website than our Amazon platform.

It's not just in cyber-space where we have expanded but inside the shop as well. We've gone from the local shop that services and sells string instruments, to a business that has ventured into other areas like accessories and fittings imported from abroad. Who knew that the shop would be able to hold more than 5 double basses at a time or sell to more out-of-state customers? In fact, this month we've officially started up a wholesale end of the business. Alessandro Imports is the name and we hope to see you on the road.

Our staff has also experienced expansion and change. Les Korus helped us with all of our repairs and rehairs, before he left to become a full time bow maker. I wish him all the luck! You've already seen Matt Mickelson hard at work at bridge carving. Maddy Mayer has been with us on and off throughout the year but will become a full fledged workshop manger after attending classes at Oberlin. Here to replace me is, Cassie Johnson. She'll be a top notch administrator (something the shop has always needed) and will be the first one to greet you when you step into the shop. I've already mentioned the arrival of Daniel Jacobson but it looks like he won't arrive until the beginning of June. Who knows, maybe his position as an intern will be the start of a summer internship program to come?

And finally of course, there's the blog that I launched in May of 2007. It first served as a place for me to document my time at the shop, make mental notes, and write any creative ideas during the dead days of the week. I've left the task to my fellow employees. Let's hope they decided to keep it going:)

May 24, 2008. My last day as a full time employee. I'm off to Ann Arbor where I will be studying architecture and urban design.

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