Yellowknife’s only musical instrument shop has been feeling the rhythm of life under the pandemic slowdown.

The clientele at Fiddles and Stix Music Centre represents the fact that so many Northerners have been at home instead of at the work site since the pandemic and ensuing social lockdowns arrived.

“People definitely turn to music at a time like this,” said owner Jim White. “It wasn’t quite the bottom dropping out like we expected it might be. We never did actually have to close completely. Covid gave everyone who ever thought of doing anything for home recording an opportunity to do so.

Jim White, owner of Fiddles & Stix Music Centre said sales of musical instruments and recording equipment have increased as more people have time to play while stuck at home because of the pandemic. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

“People decided ‘Oh, I’ve got this time maybe I’m going to learn to play guitar? Or ‘Maybe I’m going to learn to play piano?’ Or ‘I’m going to do my recording project that I’ve never had the time to do because I’ve been working so much.’”

As more local musicians hunkered down in their home studios and played, sales increased at Fiddles & Stix for traditional instruments like guitars and pianos and contemporary technology like USB recording devices.

That led to a shortage of certain items, namely digital recorders.

“(They) are in very short supply right now because of all the home recording going on. Right now a lot of the companies are a couple months behind. No one expected the business will increase in certain areas so that’s what’s happened with music,” White said.

The experience of White’s shop makes it stand apart as among the few retail businesses for whom Covid hasn’t been a very rough period.

In fact, in his 26 years of owning Fiddles and Stix, he says the shop has faced harder times in situations unrelated to pandemics.

“We’ve had worse years. A lot of that had to do with people switching to online ordering and with the smartphone we really noticed a change in business. And the effect of (ordering from) Amazon too,” he said.

White calls the business performance of the past six months “level” because there has been less foot traffic, but the customers who did come in knew what they were looking for, and sales rose.

Other areas of the business experienced a drop.

The shop’s in-person guitar lessons for 60 to 70 students that ran five days a week ended when students stopped coming after the end of March Break.

The guitar teacher tried to shift to an online model of teaching music but White said they didn’t work out.

“I just don’t think that really works for most people. Just like I don’t think school online can work for a lot of people. You have to be really disciplined.”

The loss of the lessons represented a monthly revenue drop of about 10 per cent, White said.

Even though sales have been higher, they haven’t always kept up with supply shipments of home-recording technology due to some companies in southern Canada shutting down or operating with fewer staff members.

“As far as people calling up about their orders, I have to tell them ‘sorry about that. it’s taking a bit longer.’ That’s never fun telling your customers why it’s slow. And I have no control over it. And sometimes they don’t care. But people are understanding.”

White is taking his situation one month at a time and hopes that after students go back to school in a few weeks he might be able to start up the music lessons again in November.

“If things continue to progress we hopefully will feel comfortable restarting the lessons. As long as we’re case-free. Hopefully we’ll get back to some type of normal life the next few months.”

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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