Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - September 30, 2011

Horns aplenty

Menlo resident sets up new music shop

by Karla Kane

Should you find yourself with a stuck trombone slide, a dented oboe or a problem piccolo, have no fear. Bridgepoint Music is here.

Menlo Park's newest music store, located at 657 Oak Grove Ave., is fully equipped with a repair shop, along with a selection of orchestral instruments and an ever-expanding sheet-music collection. And though the shop has been open only since this summer, owner James Manganaro already has plans to develop and diversify.

"Right now we're in the middle of getting permits from the city for practice rooms for lessons," he said. He envisions four to five soundproof practice spaces rented out to local music teachers.

Manganaro is a longtime tuba player who found that, alas, being a professional tubist is not the most lucrative of career paths. Though he does freelance gigs and plays with some groups, he said: "I needed to find some other way to supplement that income. I knew that I wanted to do music so I decided to learn how to go into the repair business." He went to a specialized school in Washington, worked in a music store for a while, then decided to open one of his own.

"It started off just as a repair shop, then I thought it would be a good idea to offer rentals that were in great condition," he said. Eventually he set the goal of opening a "good, full-service" retailer, offering high-quality instruments as well as repairs and custom parts.

Currently, his shop is centered mostly on band instruments, "with an emphasis on the student line," Manganaro said. "Pretty soon we're looking to bring in more pro instruments."

Because Manganaro aims to sell only trusted brands, the store at present stocks mostly woodwinds and brass instruments that Manganaro has personal experience with and can vouch for. "I'm looking for the stuff I believe in, the quality product," he said.

He hopes to expand in a year to bring in orchestral string instruments, along with more employees who are experts in instruments he is less familiar with. But though he may eventually add a variety of miscellaneous melody-makers such as ukuleles to his stock, he said he's not interested in supplying traditional rock 'n' roll instruments at Bridgepoint.

"We leave the guitar, drums and bass to other stores. It's a different kind of music store than that. There's already a lot of that in town," he said, referring to Redwood City's nearby Gelb Music, a mainstay of the local rock-music scene.

So far, business has been good, he said, including "a lot of fourth graders getting their first instruments." That's a demographic that Manganaro, who started his music career in middle school, can relate to.

"I was a quirky kid. I want to be different. I wanted to play the sousaphone (a type of tuba)," he said, of the instrument that stole his heart. The tuba, with its rhythmic low notes, he added, is "very beautiful."

Repair-wise, Manganaro and his associate technician can work on "anything from simple cleanings to complete overhauls; building custom parts; fixing stuck valves or stuck slides; dents; adjustments; everything and anything that needs to be done," he said. His father, Charles, helps out with bookkeeping and the rest of the business side of things.

As for the store's moniker, Manganaro said with a laugh, "I needed a name, but my name doesn't have a very good ring to it and all the really cool, awesome names had already been taken." He came up with "Bridgepoint" on a whim, "and nobody hated it. It sounded pretty good."

Manganaro said he's been pleased with the interest he's gotten so far and said he's focused on "making sure everyone in Menlo knows we're here. The repair department is going pretty strong."

He's keeping up with his own musical pursuits as well. "I'm in a couple brass bands. It's important for music stores to maintain an active relationship with the community," he said. "I'm always looking for places to play."

Info: Bridgepoint Music is at 657 Oak Grove Ave. in Menlo Park. Call 650-326-7600.

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