Joan Sparks might not have magic flutes, but she’s got the magic touch with her Wilmington business, Flute Pro Shop, which was recently named one of the world’s top 100 musical instrument and product retailers.
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), a global nonprofit, compiles the list each year and will recognize Flute Pro Shop during its upcoming trade event, Summer NAMM, in Nashville. Dubbed the “retail Oscars” by Music Inc. magazine, NAMM’s Top 100 Dealer Awards criteria include exceptional customer service, community support for music education and outstanding sales practices.
Sparks opened the store, which specializes in all things flute-related, five years ago. She prides herself on the store’s quality of products and said she’s looking forward to the shop’s bright future. Read on to see why she opened the store, what the award means for her and about her own experience as a flutist.
TSD: A flute shop isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill music store. What inspired you to open Flute Pro Shop?
JS: I started Flute Pro Shop to answer a need. Many flute-related businesses are not owned by flutists. And of those that are, many want to be all things to all people. My vision was to create a business that was customer and quality centered, keeping the unique needs and desires of flute players in mind. Part of this includes reaching out to young, upcoming flutists and giving them the tools and inspiration that they need to launch a career in this ever-competitive musical world.
JS: The 9,900 members of NAMM are dedicated to the same values as Flute Pro Shop. What is so incredibly meaningful to us is that this honor is given to Flute Pro Shop from our peers, who are also on the front lines of musical instrument retail. This puts us in front of an entirely new constituency, and allows our mission to reach a much broader audience.
This also pushes us to even more creative ventures. We’re keeping them under wraps for the moment, but they will be rolled out as we approach 2016!
TSD: Why do you think you got this recognition— what makes Flute Pro Shop a Top 100 Business?
JS: Flute Pro Shop is using every possible social media and online communication tool available to spread our message. We work extremely hard to develop and follow best business practices. We also offer free downloads of technical exercises in collaboration with composer Daniel Dorff, which are available to fans across the globe. FPS’ Master Flute Technician, David Kee, repairs instruments from every state in the country, Canada and Mexico. So, we are in many ways a global business.
TSD: We know you’re also a professional flutist. Do you still perform? And how does being a flutist affect your business model?
JS: I perform some freelance, and Anne Sullivan and I concertize often as the flute and harp duo, SPARX.
Fortunately, I’ve performed enough so that many flutists knew who I was and that I knew my way around a flute. That was a huge advantage. Being an artist gave me credibility as a brand-new business owner. As a professional flutist, I can perform live demonstrations of our flutes and accessories, and recommend music that is particularly noteworthy— none of our competitors can do that.