Back to Archives

Musicians Exchange rocks

Robert Richholt lived the dream and now helps creates them

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Musicians Exchange operates with a mission to support up-and-coming musicians and provide them with inexpensive instruments and equipment to pursue their dreams. “It’s not the logo on the instrument that makes you good,” says owner Robert Richholt.  His Musicians Exchange buys, sells, trades and consigns on South Tacoma Way.

Richholt, who made a living playing music for more than a decade, is a great source of advice and information for emerging bands. He also has loads of interesting stories that sparkle with celebrity name droppings.

Yes, he was once an esteemed ruler of the corporate beast known as Guitar Center, but most people around here remember him as the keyboardist and co-founder of the band Strypes — a local band in the ’80s that released several singles and received air play all around the country. When Strypes played a gig in the Pacific Northwest, people stood in long lines to get in, and that was before Steve Fossen from Heart joined the band.

The band toured the United States, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Okinawa, Guam and Canada. “Those days were great,” remembers Richholt.

Guitar Center days

When Strypes dissolved in 1989, Richholt moved to Los Angeles, where he was to become a national manager for The Guitar Center Corporation.

“For six years I lived on airplanes,” says Richholt, “Flying around the country to all the Guitar Center stores.”

In 1995 he left Guitar Center to move back to home to Tacoma, where he opened his own musical instrument store, the first incarnation of Musicians Exchange. But his Guitar Center pals weren’t ready to let go of him yet.

“I consider the CEO of Guitar Center to be a friend of mine,” says Richholt, “When they came to me in 2000 to be the one to open the new Tacoma Guitar Center store, it was an honor.”

Richholt recruited a new GC staff and opened the store on 38th Street in Tacoma. A few years later, the pay structure for all GC employees nationwide underwent a dramatic change.

“Most of my staff would have been reduced to minimum wage plus commission,” he explains. “I was against reducing pay for my hard working crew.”

He says that corporate pressures led him to the decision to leave GS and re-establish his own store, Musicians Exchange, in a new location on South Tacoma Way in 2004.

The store

In addition to mentoring young artists, Musicians Exchange has demonstrated a strong sense of community spirit by organizing benefit concerts for local charities such as the AIDS Foundation, women’s shelters, food banks and individual musicians in need. The mayor of Tacoma recognized these efforts by presenting Richholt with The Bob Marley award for community service. Richholt also received an award from Fort Lewis for donating musical equipment and strings to the soldiers in Iraq and to Washington state children’s institutions.

The music

The business side of music has never dampened Richholt’s passion for music.

“I still love pop rock,” he says. Bands he’s into right now are Jet City Fix, Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse.

“I still enjoy playing music,” he says, “Fans are always asking for Strypes reunion shows, and that’s why we did four shows a couple of years ago. I’m sure we will play a show together again in the near future.”

The band

The band members from Strypes are still good friends.

Richholt says, “I’m fortunate to have Jesse Seales teach guitar lessons at my store one day a week. He’s booked solid from morning to evening. He is an extremely popular guitar teacher. Regan Lane is currently working on a new CD with producer Todd Ensminger. Steve Fossen is playing music in Seattle and working at Bass Northwest (where the pros shop). Andy Morrison currently resides in Tacoma and played the last reunion shows with us. Bob Hoffman is currently the lead singer in a local band called Peaceable Lane.”

[Musicians Exchange, 5429 S Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.474.9988]

Comments for "Musicians Exchange rocks"

Comments for this article are currently closed.