A retail oasis

Aug 15, 2012 by

Submitted by April Elaine Wright

One of the wonderful benefits of the great Southern California LA basin are the many independent retail establishments, who actually care about customer service.  These usually small, sometimes-obscure treasures sit in plain sight, yet go unnoticed in normal daily busyness. Their unique habitats deliver a revitalizing change of pace and restore my faith in humanity.

One such oasis is the Claremont Folk Music Center. It is more of an experience than a store, and the magic of it stays with you long after leaving. Inside are the sounds of instruments being tuned and tried, musical toys of exotic origins being played.  You’ll hear wind chimes, rain sticks, maracas, drums, strings; it’s like one big orchestra pit warming up, and most amazingly, it is not noisy. It is quietly joyous. Small crowds gather when the experts/employees move throughout the different departments to answer questions, demonstrate techniques, or explain details.

The walls are covered to the ceiling with instruments of the usual kinds, but also with unique international ones such as sitars, bodhrans, dulcimers, mandolins, and ukeleles. The place is a cultural hub as visitors from many different countries and of all ages learn about how some instruments are made, how they work, their use, care, significance, and histories. There are toys and gifts from far lands as well. There are musical gadgets and gadgets for music. There is sheet music for both instrumental and vocal perfomers. There are instrumental accessories. There is jewelry, clothing, hats, shirts, wraps, wind chimes, and stationery goods. Your eyes tire before you have seen it all. Your wish list grows, your holiday shopping is marked, and you nearly forget what you came in for. Whatever it was, it could be a long time before you ask about it, since there’s so much to see on the way to it, and it’s such an entertaining environment.

Here is a peaceful, hospitable realm where the sharing of magical sound and information is so cordial, and the happy harmony is so absolutely soothing. Everyone is busily occupied speaking among themselves, while the spontaneous melodies remain gentle accompaniment to the congeniality. It seems like a momentary vacation to other worlds of calmer bygone eras. As I reluctantly exit this safe haven, its balm of the soul leaves me thirsty for more, already anticipating my next visit.

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