It must have been like that final season 10 episode of “Friends” when all six characters leave their keys on the kitchen counter in Monica and Chandler’s empty apartment. Happy to be moving, they knew they would miss the good times lived within the apartment’s walls.
After 10 years at 325 Main Street, Pritchard Music Academy (PMA) moved last weekend to Kentlands Square. On Sunday, Becky Pritchard posted to Facebook, “We are now officially out of 325 Main Street. We turned off the lights and turned in our keys at about 4:00pm. Before we closed, we walked through every room and talked about the last 10 years. Change is hard. We loved our shop on Main Street and will miss our neighbors but know that our next chapter is going to be very exciting.”
Becky and Joe Pritchard—together with daughter Olivia—opened their new 2,700 square-foot store at 221 Kentlands Boulevard, right next to Grape Escape, on Wednesday, April 3 at 10 a.m.
“We’re really excited, we’re so excited,” said Joe Pritchard.
More retail space at the new location means that PMA is now a full-line music store. “We’re adding drums and pro sound and DJ, which is what makes it a full-line store as opposed to a specialty store,” Pritchard explained.
Strings, brass, woodwind and fretted instruments, electric guitars and keyboards, drums and pro sound now live happily in PMA’s front retail space surrounded by freshly painted walls of bright blue and warm beige with a hint of yellow. “I’m a retail guy,” Pritchard said. “I need to be on the floor.”
Look for more drum and DJ retail to be added soon during the store’s “running start opening.”
More teaching space at the new location offers more versatility to teachers and students. Six private lesson rooms are big enough that any instrument can be taught in any room. At their Main Street location, some rooms were too small to teach “violin or trombone or bass because you need a lot of space,” Pritchard said.
Two group lesson rooms are large enough to accommodate five pianos in each room. And the Pritchards are especially happy to now have a dedicated ensemble room. “Our ensemble program has gotten so big,” Pritchard said, “so we’re dedicating a big room just to the ensembles.”
He acknowledged that he’ll miss the ensemble rehearsals held outside the store on Main Street, “sometimes because we didn’t have enough room. It was fun and it was also a good change for them (students) to get out and play.”
He’ll miss, too, his Main Street landlord, Cliff Burke. “We were lucky because our landlord lived above us,” Pritchard said. “He was there every day. … I don’t think we’ve pulled the lease out three times since we’ve been there.”
And he’s thankful that the Saul Centers leasing agent considered them for Kentlands Square. “This was the first time we had a leasing agent … who asked us the right questions and realized we were a valuable member (of the local business community). She asked us all the right questions—how many rentals do you do, how many students do you have—and said, ‘Oh, OK, you’re on Main Street and people know you.’ She did all the research.”
The Pritchards began thinking about a bigger location six months before their Main Street lease was up, and they have been working on the Kentlands Square move since this fall. As with any buildout and move, there have been some bumps along the way, but “everything went pretty well considering,” Pritchard said.
When they encountered a recent fire code issue, the fire marshal and John Schlichting, the city’s director of Planning and Code Administration, met with the Pritchards “and they came up with a solution that meant we could open on time,” Pritchard said. Other area music stores have been grandfathered in, so “we are going to be the only one that is up to current code. … Certainly we’ll be the safest place to take a lesson.”