About Us

Shop Talk: Baum's Music

By Nancy Salem
Tribune Reporter
March 7, 2005

Name: Bill Krum
Title: President.
Company: Baum's Music, 2908 Eubank. N.E.

The business: We're a retail music store. We specialize in school musical instruments, accessories, printed music, instruction and repairs.

Number of employees: 29.

Time in business: The business was founded in 1947 by Elmer Baum. My wife, Mary, and I purchased it in November of 1988. It was first located on Cornell, and then moved to south San Mateo then in 1973 to the Eubank location.

Age: 67.

Previous jobs: After college, I taught for nine years with Albuquerque Public Schools as an orchestral string teacher. Then I joined my father in the wholesale candy business in Albuquerque. We then bought a candy business in Santa Fe. It was called Krum Distributing Co. We had that until 1986. Then in 1988 I bought this business.

Education: I have a bachelor of fine arts in music from the University of New Mexico.

How I started this business: I started doing business with Baum's as a music student at UNM. At that time it was at 112 Cornell S.E. It was behind what's now the Frontier. I went there to get my own instruments repaired, buy accessories and so forth.

As a teacher for APS, the district took care of repairs, and I took all the instruments to Baum's. So I knew the company for 30 years before I bought it. I bought instruments for my children there.

When I sold my business in Santa Fe, I called Jerry Baum, Elmer's son, one day and said, "Jerry, did you ever think about retiring?" And he said it was just the right time to call, because he definitely was interested in retiring. He was in his late 60s at the time. And so we did our negotiations, and I purchased it.

Main responsibilities: Through the years, I've done a little of everything. I oversee the financial matters. I also do the major instrument purchases and help with the marketing.

Best thing about the business: There are two great things: the staff and the clientele. Our staff is well educated and professionally trained in each of their respective areas of expertise. The clientele is the world's best. They frequently come to the store as families. They're interested in enriching their lives through increasing their knowledge and appreciation of music.

Worst thing about the business: There really isn't anything, except that we could use a 26- or 28-hour day. We run out of time.

Best thing about doing business in New Mexico: It's the people. New Mexico attracts many outstanding people because of its scientific, academic, military and supportive services. Combine that with our own unique cultural base and it's an unequaled body of talent.

You could start a symphony at Sandia Laboratories, and it would be a very good symphony. There are countless outstanding musicians, both vocal and instrumental. It's phenomenal. It's true at Los Alamos, also. And it's true of our professional people as a whole in Albuquerque.

Up the street is a dentist who's a fine French horn player. We just have a beautiful customer base. My biggest regret is that the kids grow up. Kids come in as elementary and middle school students; they grow in their music and chronologically. Then they graduate from high school and disappear from the screen.

I love my customers. That's why I come to work in the morning.

What is a distinct challenge to this business? The mass merchandisers have discovered our product line and can sell it for less than I can buy it. But there's an enormous difference in quality. They're bringing in product manufactured in third world industrial nations that don't have the technology needed to produce first-quality instruments. They could catch up in several years. But currently the product doesn't meet the standards needed for success for the students.

And there's no backup with parts, and instruments do break down. We have no source of repair parts when we're asked to fix those instruments.

What was your best business idea? Bringing the next generation into the store: my son-in-law Dan and his wife - my daughter - and their children. They've done wonderfully. Each one has varying degrees of interest in music education, and they're all participating players. Dan has brought so much business knowledge. I'm the music side and he's the business side. It's a good marriage.

And it was a good idea to increase our product mix. This was prompted by Dan's presence. He was instrumental, sorry about the pun, in getting me to bring back electric guitars into the mix. That's an active, exciting part of the business.