During the past 38 years, Sharie Schultz may have helped launch a thousand music careers. And she has certainly kept at least that many going.
This week, Schultz, the longtime owner of the Keyboards & More music shop at the DeSoto Crossings strip center near Bradenton, stepped down from her post supplying student musicians in Manatee and Sarasota counties with instruments and lessons. She sold her business to another local youth music booster, Jim Bertrand, ensuring someone else will be there for children and school music directors trying to keep the music playing.
That new chapter for a business that supplies music programs at about 60 local school wasn’t in the cards just a few months ago. Schultz, who recently turned 70, was running out of the energy it takes to run Keyboards & More. She and her husband, Carl, closed the business’ second location at Ranch Lake Plaza in December to cut down on their workload.
For the past few years, Schultz had searched for someone to buy Keyboards & More. She wanted to retire, but she also wanted the business she built to continue. She had a half-dozen employees, 10 music instructors and music students from dozens of local schools who wanted that, too.
“Because I love the music kids,” she said. “I want a place for them where they can come and have people who understand what a musician is all about.”
By chance, Schultz met a music store owner from California at an Orlando music conference in February whose interest was piqued by her dilemma. He suggested she sell the business to his nephew who lives in Bradenton. That nephew was Bertrand.
Because I love the music kids.”
Sharie Schultz, former owner of Keyboards & More
A lifelong French horn player and a father of six variously musical children, Bertrand bought Keyboards & More after his uncle told him it was a “good opportunity, but a lot of work.” For him, owning the store is more than an income. It’s a challenge he knows he’ll enjoy taking on.
“Well, I couldn’t figure out if it was temporary insanity, midlife crisis or living the dream, but I think it’s the latter and the desire to bring music to all the kids in the county,” Bertrand said.
Bertrand has a long background in retail. He’s managed a Bradenton Radio Shack for more than 20 years. He will also have help from his wife and co-investor, Pamela. She recently purchased the School for Constructive Play preschool in Anna Maria. She has experience Bertrand is looking to tap to get more young children playing musical instruments.
Eventually, he said, he wants the store to have its own a mini music academy.
“We want to promote music education,” he said.
Bertrand bought Keyboards & More in a part-cash deal under which the Schultzes hold a note on payment of the remainder of the purchase. The two parties did not disclose the selling price of the business.
A store that found its niche
In the early days, Keyboards & More focused on a very different market. Bob Kenney opened the business as Kenney Music Centre in early 1978 as a piano and organ retail store designed to appeal to retirees. Kenney had asked Sharie Schultz to come into the business at the start, but she held off on partnering in the store for a few months.
“I told him ‘Why don’t you get it off the ground and let’s see how this works?’” she said.
Four years later, Sharie and Carl Schultz bought Kenney out when he became the pastor of a local church. That’s when she changed the shop’s direction and name, aiming Keyboards & More at the youth market. As the business grew, it expanded its instrument inventory to anything band members might need, including woodwinds, strings and brass. It also expanded instrument repair services, practice rooms, instructors and instrument rental service.
Bob Schaer, a music director who worked at Southeast and Lakewood Ranch high schools during a 23-year career with the Manatee County School District, said his programs did business with Keyboards & More for years. Sharie Schultz and her store were unique, Schaer said, in that she sought out school music directors, asked them what inventory they needed her to have on hand and stocked Keyboards & More accordingly.
“It was our one-stop shop in town,” he said.
Schaer also appreciated the sponsorship money the store put toward events, visiting artists and music camps at the school.
“For me, that’s going the extra mile to support the program,” he said.
Bertrand said he plans to continue that tradition. He’s planning to offer free music classes in July to local schoolchildren entering sixth grade to get them interested in middle school band and orchestra. Down the road, Keyboards & More may also offer family-oriented mini camps that involve accessible instruments such as the ukelele or that have a rock band theme.
Keyboards & More will retain its name, but may one day include the “Bertrand” name. It will have some administrative and purchasing links to the small chain of Bertrand’s Music stores Bertrand’s uncle and cousin operate in California.
Keyboards & More can be contacted at 941-746-1414.