Hitting the right note
As e-commerce rises, Brookfield's Guitar Center broadens its brick-and-mortar offerings

By Dave Fidlin - Special to the Freeman 

January 6, 2018


The Guitar Center, an anchor tenant nestled within The Plaza on Bluemound Road, will undergo interior renovations later this month.

Photo by Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman


BROOKFIELD - In the months ahead, budding musicians will have a new venue to hone their skills alongside experts in the field.

The Guitar Center, an anchor tenant nestled within The Plaza, a veteran Brookfield shopping center, will be undergoing a series of interior renovations later this month as its California- based parent company rolls out a tweaked business plan at the local store.

Brandon Isbell, manager of the local Guitar Center, 17135 W. Bluemound Road, said a 10-day interior renovation project will begin Jan. 29 to incorporate four rooms within the store’s existing footprint. The spaces will house private lessons, which will be offered locally for the first time.

The local store is maintaining its existing footprint, Isbell said, and the interior modifications are expected to last about 10 days. Isbell and the other 21 staffers working out of the Brookfield location are planning an open house to show off the new digs Feb. 17.

Once the lessons are up and running, Isbell said he anticipates employing additional professionals at the Brookfield store.

While group lessons have been offered in the past in an informal setting, Isbell said the addition of individual lessons represents a shift in the company’s business philosophy, heading into 2018.

“For the company, it’s about growing the next generation of musicians,” said Isbell. “We want to teach them and help bring them into the world.”

Although it still commands a mere fraction of the overall shopping pie, ecommerce has chomped into many retailers’ brickand- mortar sales across a variety of categories. From Isbell’s vantage point, the lessons are another opportunity to provide an amenity that cannot be replicated online.

“The lessons will be very important to us, going forward,” said Isbell. “It’s something we can do that the Internet can’t. We’ve been putting a big focus on services.”

In its current iteration, The Guitar Center is known primarily for selling a range of instruments and related accessories.

In addition to its namesake instrument, the retailer sells drums, keyboards, vocals and recording equipment, plus anything under the umbrella of band and orchestra categories.

None of the Brookfield store’s existing offerings will be subtracted from the equation, Isbell said. Space within the existing store, instead, will be reconfigured to accommodate the lesson rooms.

On the road ahead, Isbell said plans also are in the works to have more of a community outreach component, offering informal group lessons tailored toward such groups as seniors and youths.

“We’re going to focus on specific segments of the community,” said Isbell.

The Guitar Center, which has roots stretching back to 1959, is rolling out the service- minded approach to its approximately 280 stores across the U.S. in a series of phases.

The Brookfield store, the only one in the Milwaukee metro area, has been perched within The Plaza shopping center for 14 years. The company operates two additional stores in Wisconsin — one in Appleton, the other in Middleton.

The company’s flagship store is in Hollywood, Calif. In its first five years of existence, it was known as The Organ Center before company founder Wayne Mitchell shifted the company’s focus. The retailer’s name eventually was changed to reflect the revamped product line.