NEW ALBANY — Anna Blanton has made a career of traveling with some of the biggest musical acts in the world.
A Floyd Central graduate who went on to study violin performance at the University of Louisville, Blanton has played in orchestras for the likes of Josh Groban, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Bruno Mars.
"I did a whole lot of touring and traveling over the past five years," Blanton said. "I got to meet a lot of cool people and play a lot of cool shows. It got to a point where I got tired of traveling and living in hotels and airports and driving nine hours a day to get to the next show."
Now, Blanton is ready for a new phase in her life — a bit of a "slowing down," as she put it.
"I go 100 miles an hour," Blanton said. "I've essentially been self-employed running my own personal business for the past five years, so taking the traveling out and the constant booking and playing is my version of slowing down. I bought a business."
That business is Jimmy's Music Center, which has sat on the corner of Market and Pearl streets in New Albany for ages. On Aug. 1, Blanton and husband Charlie — a New Albany High School graduate who studied double bass performance at the University of Louisville — will officially become the new owners.
Prior to being taken over by current owner James Gaetano, the shop was the Kentuckiana Music Center. Now that Blanton has purchased the establishment, it will be reverting back to that name.
"It is a bit intimidating, I'm not going to lie," Blanton said. "I've had a couple almost-meltdowns over the past few months of 'oh my god, I can't believe we're doing this.' I got my first violin at Kentuckiana Music Center almost 25 years ago. It was before Jimmy took over. It's been around here for over 30 years now, so I'm taking over this legacy."
Along with the name change, the store will also be moving to a new building a few blocks away. It will remain at its current location through August, but Blanton hopes to be moved into 428 Pearl St. — at the convergence of Pearl and Elm streets — by Sept. 1.
Despite the changes, the mom-and-pop feel of the establishment will remain.
"When Jimmy took over, he gave me my first teaching job there," Blanton said. "It's definitely something that's been in my life since I was like 10 years old. It's something important to me. I'm going to make this work and keep that legacy going. It's been part of my personal journey for the past 30 years."
Rather than focusing on retail, Blanton has plans to specialize in accessories, consignment and education. Selling new instruments, Blanton said, is difficult for smaller stores in today's market.
"With the way things are nowadays with Amazon and eBay, you have to be really smart about how you handle the retail portion of things," Blanton said. "If you break a string, you need a string right away. So strings and accessories for all instruments will be there. If you want to consign, we'd be happy to help you find someone to buy. As far as new stuff goes, you probably won't see much of that. It's just the internet age. For a little mom and pop music store, it's hard to compete with that."
The education offerings, however, will be quite expansive. Among the instruments Blanton plans to offer lessons for are the piano, violin, cello, bass, dulcimer, harmonica, mandolin, drums and any style of guitar.
"Education is going to be a big priority for us — having quality teachers, treating them well, and bringing students in," Blanton said. "We want to make sure we have the equipment and the instructional material those students need. That's where our focus is."
Blanton said she has already hired five new private teachers. She and two to three people will work the storefront.
Once renovated, the new building may also hold other offerings alongside the music section.
"[The landlord] has some great ideas for that building," Blanton said. "Hopefully, that'll start coming into play. Maybe there'll be a coffee shop and some other things that might be moving in. We definitely want to make it where we have a coffee-shop concert vibe. It's going to be a little more open than it is currently. We're going to knock one of the walls down and really open it up."
Plans at the new shop include a monthly drum circle, as well as a once-a-month jam session, for which the public is welcome to come in and play.
The community vibe the shop has held over the years, Blanton said, is something she wants to retain. This sentiment was also expressed by Charlie, who had a 13-year career as a manager at Lowe's Home Improvement before becoming a conductor at Norfolk Southern Railway.
"One of the biggest things that I took away from working at Lowe's so long was helping people rebuilding their homes and making them comfortable when they come in looking for what they need," he said. "When I started working at the railroad, I kind of lost that connection a little bit. For me, this is a cool way to really help people getting back into music. If they need help with their instrument, come on in. Community is a really strong word for me. I really felt that at Lowe's, and I can't wait to feel that again at the music store."