Loud and Clear Music celebrates deep roots in new home

Glading Marteen 

A lively scene during its reopening celebration Saturday, Cotati’s Loud and Clear Music was as filled with laughter and sound as with bass guitars and hi-hats. Those who couldn’t fit inside or needed a break from the noise stood chatting out front.

Though the store moved only a few hundred feet from its previous location, it’s the culmination of a long journey that ended with the purchase of a historic property at 8000 Old Redwood Highway. The 1917 building, with its Old Western facade, sits alone on a corner just off Highway 101.

Dozens of people wandered in and out Saturday afternoon, chatting in corners, testing out instruments, buying equipment and listening to live music playing from a small stage in front of a wall of guitars in every shape and shade. Every inch of the place was crowded with stacks of amps, keyboards, drum kits and accessories.

“This is unbelievable,” said owner Neville Hormuz, 51, between handshakes and hugs. “I’ve nearly cried twice. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Hormuz has been working in music stores since he was a student in the early 1990s at Sonoma State University. He met his wife in one, they got married there and when the Cotati music shop where he’d spent almost 15 years closed in 2010, Hormuz and a few of his former coworkers decided to branch out on their own.

They started with primarily doing audio-visual installation but quickly got drawn back into instrument sales. However, with little seed money for brand new stock, they had to find a creative workaround — selling used musical instruments and gear, too, much of which came from former loyal customers.

Going the consignment route, where musicians come to trade out unique pieces with long personal histories, had the added benefit of helping Loud and Clear compete as a brick-and-mortar in a largely online retail world.

Indeed, the store has quadrupled in size since its inception and now boasts a staff of 13. Last year, it also made the National Association of Music Merchants’ 2021 Top 100 dealers list, the only Northern California business to earn the distinction.

“There was a huge turnout,” Hormuz recalled. “People brought all this cool gear, and they haven’t stopped. It’s amazing. It’s really a community store.”

Beyond retail, Loud and Clear does repairs and offers music lessons and four-week “band camps” that end in monthly performances at a local cafe. (Those have been on hiatus due to COVID-19 but will likely start back up in June.) The shop also hosts fundraisers each month for area animal nonprofits where musicians can get their instruments restrung in exchange for a donation.

The store’s deep ties were on full display at the bustling unveiling of the new location, which featured performances by eight-string guitarist Nate Lopez and the Derek Irving Duo, a stand-up bassist and guitarist with a rockabilly feel.

“They take care of us,” Frederick Kraft, 77, said of those running Loud and Clear, “so everyone likes to show support.” Kraft, who goes by Doc and was decked out in head-to-toe yellow, bandanna and cowboy boots included, leads the Doc Kraft Dance Band that plays regularly throughout the North Bay.

Veteran drummer Mike Gentile, 70, would leave the store’s reopening with an electric Yamaha drum set. Gentile had his eye on it since he tried it out at Loud and Clear’s former location.

“I loved the feel of it,” he said, adding the store always has what he needs.

Gina Muzinich, 63, who plays the hand drums, surprised Gentile with the drum set. The pair originally met years ago in a Brazilian marching drum and now play together for fun.

Loud and Clear’s big little move was spurred by issues with a previous landlord and a looming deadline to move out by 2024. In an ironic twist, Hormuz credits the pandemic for the ability to get a good loan to buy their own building. Everyone taking up instruments during the shutdown has also been a boon for business.

Fittingly, the close-knit Loud and Clear crew did all the renovations themselves, updating electrical wiring, restoring the hardwood floors and uncovering a unique curved wood ceiling in the process that gives the shop a distinctive charm. They also got help from music-loving friends and customers.

“It felt really good,” Hormuz said. “Like this whole place was built by musicians, and we had the love for it because we all were sticking together.”

You can reach Marisa Endicott at 707-521-5470 or [email protected]. On Twitter @InYourCornerTPD and Facebook @InYourCornerTPD.

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