For the past three years, business has been good for Chris Lester of Lester’s Rock N Roll Shop in downtown Middletown.
So good that his music store business has outgrown his previous downtown Middletown location at 1123 Central Ave.
Lester is planning to open in larger building that once housed the Music Central shop during the 1980s at 1959 Central Ave., just outside of the downtown Central Avenue corridor. Most recently, it was the location of All Cash for Gold which closed after 17 years there.
A soft opening will be followed by a grand opening in mid-April. Lester is also planning a promotion for National Record Store Day on April 13.
Lester, who has worked in the music business playing or in retail most of his life, said the new location gives him six times the size at half the price. He said things fell into place with his former boss owning the building, and his lease was up at the old location.
“In the last year and a half, business has started to pick up,” Lester said. “With the new location, it gives me more room to get into band and orchestra instruments, accessories and maintenance kits.”
The shop specializes in new and vintage LPs, compact discs, cassette and 8-track tapes as well as guitar sales, repairs and lessons along with skateboards.
“I want to have a ‘vintage vibe’ and I want to make it look like a ’70s and ’80s bedroom with posters on the walls,” he said. “I want people to feel like they’ve been transported to the past.”
The shop also has large wall panels painted with images of the Baker Bowl and the Sorg Opera House.
The new location is several blocks from where he grew up on Harrison Street. He remembers skateboarding for hours at a time in the parking lot of the bank next door that is now the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy or at the former City Centre Mall downtown when a portion of Central Avenue and Broad Street were under a roof.
“There was no Baker Bowl then,” he said.
As for his new shop, Lester, 45, said he has restored the old lesson rooms and is building the shop back to what it used to be.
“It’s cool to see it as a music shop again,” Lester said. “We’ve been prepping for this for the past two months.”
His family has been helping him get ready to open the store as his mom Norma Armstrong was busy sweeping floors and washing windows on Wednesday.
While he is the only employee of the shop, guitar lessons will be taught by his son Joel, his brother Matt and area musician Dave Thornton.
Lester said he will miss being a part of the downtown Middletown businesses and said he’s still close enough to downtown . He also credited people like Adriane Scherer, founder and CEO of We Can Business Incubator, Inc., and the city’s Small Business Development Center for helping him get his business started. Lester said Scherer helped him a lot as he navigated jumping through all of the hoops required to start a business.
“Downtown was a great starting point for me,” he said. “It was a little scary at first, but everyone in downtown helped me.”