BREWER, Maine — Even after he finally scraped up enough seed money to open up a permanent store 15 years ago, Mark Braveman didn’t really envision anything more than a modest music store.
“When we started we were selling just used equipment because I had a hard time getting franchises,” said Braveman. “At first, I was just looking to make a paycheck for myself while playing in a band full-time.”
Instead, Mark’s Music has done so well since its grand opening on Black Friday 1995, Braveman has gone from full-time band member to a full-time supplier of everything and anything band members need.
Nowadays, Mark’s Music doesn’t even sell used instruments. It sells many of the top names in the music equipment business, but also sells services.
“We don’t just do retail, we also rent booths and do production for stages, lighting, music, etc. We also do installations for churches, nightclubs, Hollywood Slots, the University of Maine and other businesses,” Braveman said. “The sound stuff and production was never in the original plan. I never expected to be doing what I’m doing now.
“We started doing sound and installations about six or seven years ago, but the last five years, it’s really become a major part of the business.”
Braveman will mark the 15th anniversary of the business next week, and instead of spending money to throw his usual annual anniversary party, he has decided to bring rock musician and former Opiate of the Masses drummer Chris “Seven” Antonopoulos from Sweden to Brewer to host a drum clinic and put everything in his store on sale for the week of Thanksgiving.
“We’re going to pass the savings on this year because I know some people are pretty strapped for cash, and we’re getting our Black Friday stuff out of the way early,” said Braveman, a Bangor native.
It has been quite a business odyssey for Braveman, who went from selling used music equipment and instruments he either traded for or bought out of a garage on Broadway or on eBay and in Uncle Henry’s to owning a small business that employs seven people — four full-time — and which is worth nearly a million dollars.
“I’m fortunate to do what I love to do and I can’t really put a price on that,” Braveman said.
Not bad for a guy who, when he was 13, hung out at Coastal Music when his mother went grocery shopping and convinced the salesmen to let him clean, sweep and mop floors at the store after school every day to work up enough credit to buy a drum set.
“I had already bought a guitar and keyboard, neither of which I followed through playing, so my mom wouldn’t get me the drums,” Braveman recalled.
Braveman got the drum set, and a bonus.
“I did such a good job that they kept me on as a salesperson and when they went out of business, I moved over to another music store and then took a couple years off to just play drums,” he said. “I had a lot of fun, but realized it wouldn’t pay all the bills.”
Braveman said times were lean initially, but getting into production services and capitalizing on the re-growth of the live music scene in the Bangor area, thanks to local pubs and bars such as Carolina’s, Raena’s, My Fork in Winterport, along with Hollywood Slots and — most recently — the Bangor Waterfront Concert Series has helped Mark’s branch out and grow its business.
“I remember the first day of opening and wondering how I was going to sell the place on the public and now we’re almost at the point where we’ve maxed out,” said the Bangor High School graduate. “What we try to do to compete with internet companies is provide the service that you can’t get elsewhere.”
It helps that all of Mark’s employees, some of whom have been with the store since the start, are either musicians or involved in the music industry.
“It’s what I like to be doing,” Braveman said. “They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I’ve had a lot of fun over the years.”