As family-owned-and-operated Schmitt Music celebrated its 125th-anniversary last year, the founder’s great-great grandson, Peter Schmitt, took on the role of CEO. “I'm just blessed to have the opportunity to continue the legacy of Schmitt Music,” he says. “It has been overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.”
Founder Paul A. Schmitt built a company that has carried on through generations, and there are currently four family members from the fourth and fifth generations still actively involved in the business. Co-owner Doug Schmitt has been with the company since 1983 and Doug’s son, Ted, joined the company in 2016. He currently serves as Controller.
Peter’s father, Tom Schmitt, has been with the company for 51 years and served as president and CEO for 36 years. Last year, he stepped into the role of executive chairman. Peter, who joined the company in 2014, is part of the fifth generation to be in a leadership role in the company.
“My dad has been totally supportive of my initiatives and projects here at Schmitt Music,” he says.
One of those initiatives has been relocating its corporate headquarters from Brooklyn Center to the border of Edina and Bloomington. “It made sense for us to relocate our Brooklyn Center corporate offices, warehouse, and flagship retail space for band and orchestra instruments and our flagship piano showroom,” says Peter. “We engaged with the design firm Shea out of Minneapolis and Finn Daniels Architects to create an elevated, unique experience for our customers.”
The contemporary design of the new location blends all the aspects of its music business, from retail and repair to classes and performances. “Customers can have one-on-one interactions with our repair professionals and luthiers,” he says. “We have private lesson studios for beginner, intermediate and advanced musicians. We primarily teach students in the fourth and fifth grades, although we have some younger students taking private piano lessons, and of course, we teach adults as well. We serve all levels from novice through professional musicians.”
Its qualified instructors encompass a large range of musical professionals. Pre COVID, Schmitt Music was teaching over 10,000 students each week in its 12 stores in six different states and throughout many public and private schools.
Schmitt Music also hosts spring and winter piano recitals in its stores as well as some smaller ensemble performances. The new store will feature master classes and Steinway artists performing in the new 120 seat concert hall as well (Schmitt is an exclusive dealer for Steinway & Sons.)
“We also have a close partnership with the University of Minnesota, particularly with Preston Duncan (the professor of saxophone), with the MacPhail Center for Music, and with many others ,” says Peter.
Being in business since 1896 is a milestone many companies don’t come close to achieving. “We’re grateful to our very supportive customers and communities and look forward to serving them for the next 125 years.”
Schmitt Music is more than just selling and repairing instruments, providing lessons and hosting performances. It’s also about creating relationships with its customers and connecting with the community.
“We serve schools by providing students with instruments through our Better-Than-Rent student instrument program,” says Peter. “We also have partnered with several select districts to offer instruments to kids who cannot afford them. Our goal is to create more music makers. That's what we're passionate about - giving kids access to music education.” One example is in partnership with McPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis; “We support their Ascension [Catholic School] program and provide instruments at no cost.”
But, what really makes Schmitt stand out, he says, is what they call their three P's - people, programs, and participation. “So, people stands for our staff and the level of expertise we have here at Schmitt Music; programs refers to what we offer along with our instruments and making those instruments accessible to students and parents; and participation highlights how we participate in the school communities we serve,” he says.
While being part of the leadership of this long-standing, successful family business keeps him very busy, Peter also puts aside personal time to spend with his family. “I live in Afton with my beautiful wife, Margit, and three children,” he says. “Paul is our eldest, he's 11 and plays the trombone in band, Timothy is 8, and our youngest, Lynn, is 6 years old. We enjoy just being outside. We like to ski in the winter. We live on five acres and have 40 chickens that we care for, and we like gardening as well.”
His sons actually started an egg business and use their electric scooters to sell and deliver farm fresh eggs to neighbors. Peter laughs and says, “They’re already real entrepreneurs with a business mindset!” And in addition to being a wife and mom, Margit is an extremely talented artist whose favorite mediums are drawing and painting.
Peter looks forward to many good years ahead with Schmitt. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to lead the wonderful people that we have working for us at Schmitt Music,” he says.
Visit their new headquarters at 7800 Picture Drive in Bloomington or online at https://www.schmittmusic.com/ for information about its musical instruments, classes and upcoming events.