Southern Ocean County is unique in that it is home to a thriving music scene, filled with a diverse myriad of full-time musicians. There is no shortage of bars, cafes and concert halls, but what resources do musicians have to buy, sell, exchange or repair their equipment? Until December, the closest stores were Russo’s Music, located in Monmouth County, or Guitar Center, in Atlantic County, which was demonized by most music lovers as a corporate monster.
Fortunately, Jason Schlusser, who resides in Surf City for half the year, was happy to fill that void when he opened Waterview Music, located at 690 East Bay Ave. in downtown Barnegat. “The goal is to be the anti-Guitar Center, he said candidly. He proudly models his company after How You Brewin? cafe in Surf City. The criteria it borrows aim to create a clean and family-friendly community space, and favoring quality over quantity. Knowing the need for a musician resource, Schlusser said, “It was a case of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ “”
Schlusser is a guitarist with a background in jazz percussion and music technology.
“Over the years, I’ve owned recording studios, a booking agency, another (music) store, done live sound…” he explained. “Anything you could do in this industry, I did.” When not living in Surf City, he commutes from Hoboken. “Let’s say I spend a lot of time on the boardwalk.
A few years ago, Schlusser bought a post-Sandy house in Surf City and completely remodeled it. This experience worked in his favor when he saw the vacant storefront in Barnegat’s historic town centre. The space was once home to Tobacco Road, owned by former Mayor Jeff Melchiondo.
Like many other seasonal residents, Schlusser’s family hibernated during quarantine in Surf City, where he homeschooled his children. He spent most of the next year renovating the shop.
“Most of the time it was just me with a hammer and a crowbar, because what else was I going to do?” He credited Dover Construction, parked just across the street, with helping him with tasks he couldn’t handle on his own.
During the pandemic year, Schlusser’s Surf City neighbor Jeffery Thyer also stayed on the island rather than returning to his primary residence in South Philadelphia. During the darker months, they took advantage of the time at home to play music together. When Schlusser opened his music store on December 1, Thyer was the first employee, or “band mate,” as Schlusser described him, to come on board.
In Philadelphia, Thyer sings in the Singing City Community Chorus, where he serves on the programming committee and choir board. He and Schlusser hope to start a community choir within Waterview Music.
Thyer, who he says rhymes with “choir,” is, fittingly, a choir director who makes a living as a musical travel agent. His company plans international concert tours for choirs and orchestras. He arranges everything from flights, buses and hotels, to promotion and marketing, to material selection, to the last detail of the concert itself. “We are a music travel agency, and everything we do is focused on the mission of that group and how we can promote that mission. “
Schlusser explained, “What I take away from his whole journey is that, from the actual selection of material, to rehearsal, to performance, to physically moving a choir – it led us to say OK, why not start an adult community choir here, and put all of its tools to good use? “
Schlusser knew he would need another guitar-savvy employee, but did not advertise it. Instead, he held on by an instinct that told him the right person would come in. Coincidentally, Jeremy Renner (known as the lead guitarist of the Buddy Holly tribute band, the Rave-Ons) wandered around that week to check out the store. Renner is now another “band mate” who is happy to talk shop and provide lessons and non-intimidating explanations to customers interested in music.
Waterview Music aims to serve the needs of the local music community as a referral center for sales, service and lessons. Although the shop focuses on guitars, it also sells quality string, percussion, and keyboard instruments at all price points. Cables, strings and other musical accessories can also be found, including reeds for horns and sound accessories.
Waterview also provides a safe and reliable hub for people to sell their instruments on consignment at very competitive prices.
Every guitar purchase comes with a basic setup, and guitar and keyboard purchases come with two free lessons to accommodate any player. Beyond the first two lessons, all lessons are taught in a hands-on, group-like setting.
“Music is communication,” Schlusser explained, adding that anyone can practice playing alone in a room all day, but ultimately won’t have the skills to play on stage with them. others. “To play with others, you have to use your ears.”
The shop offers a range of guitar services such as guitar stringing and re-binding, polishing, maintenance, modifications and repairs. Schlusser and Renner are content to simply show customers how to use their equipment, which as many gamers know can save people a huge amount of time and money because, as the saying goes, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Renner’s lessons are tailored to each client’s unique situation.
All guitars (including bass) are repaired in-house, but other instruments are sent to K&S in Millburn for repair. “They’re the gold standard,” Schlusser said. “They are currently working with us to set up a scholarship program. So obviously we want to be able to rent clarinets to middle and high school students, and a portion of those rentals will go into our scholarship fund,” he explained. “We are here to support the community and hopefully provide a service to them that a faceless national society cannot.”
The shop also rents orchestral instruments for students as well as drummer guitars for people on holiday who forgot to bring one, or someone who wants to take part in a Waterview jam but doesn’t have a guitar at hand.
Schlusser’s business decisions are driven by personal experience. He told of a trip to Spain, when his guitar didn’t arrive from Heathrow in Spain. “I had to walk into a crazy little store and buy a $350 guitar because there was no way I was spending all my time on a sailboat with friends without a guitar!”
At the back of the shop is a multi-purpose ensemble room, which can be rented out as a practice or recording space. PA, drums, keys and amps are all included for one rental fee.
With the community in mind, Schlusser also hopes to host a variety of monthly community jams of all skill levels, including a possible doo wop jam, a bluegrass jam, possibly a Grateful Dead party and even a jazz exploration, according to the report. ‘interest. He would also like to see monthly drumming circles come to fruition. Thyer will lead an adult vocal ensemble on Wednesdays and Thursdays, traversing a variety of material from classical to Broadway. They will also stay in season, singing Christmas carols and other holiday tunes in December and Irish folk songs around St. Patrick’s Day, for example. The hope is to provide a non-religious choir experience for singing enthusiasts.
Waterview Music doesn’t just cater to the needs of adults. “I have two young daughters. I’m very sensitive that things are suitable for children, girls, families and beginners! A workshop of steel drums for children is already in preparation. For the little ones, Waterview Music also offers “mommy and me” music lessons on Thursday mornings.
Some would say that a brick and mortar store can’t compete with the internet. Quite the contrary, said Schlusser.
“You’ll often see products here (for) cheaper than you can find them online – and even on our website.” This is because there is a minimum advertising price involved in listing items for sale online. “What if you had to give something back? Forget. You lost all the money you saved (by ordering online) and more.
The real benefit of a brick-and-mortar store, Renner and Schlusser added, is that it allows people to come in and ask questions. This ensures that they are getting the right product at the right price. “And you can steel drum while you’re here,” Schlusser joked. “We don’t have all the nuts and bolts, but we do offer some good solid stuff.”
Non-musicians can also come in and buy a gift for the music lovers in their life, even if they don’t have any technical knowledge. The store is a fun place to buy Waterview merchandise, such as handmade trucker caps, shirts and mugs by Matt Burton of mt burton Gallery in Surf City. (Fun fact, Burton and Schlusser attended the same high school.)
The fact that so many restaurants and bars are places dedicated to music shows that “people really care” about live music, Renner shared. So, he added, “having a hub is really nice.”
“It’s a company that gives back,” Thyer said, to which Schlusser added, “And being a small store, we have some leeway to be creative.”
Waterview Music is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Visit the store’s website, waterviewmusic.com, on Facebook at @WaterviewMusicNJ or call 609-300-4301 to stay up to date with the latest events and classes.
— Monique M. Demopoulos