After 43 Years, Roberson’s Music Tunes in for Swan Song | Virginie News
By TAFT COGHILL, the freelance star
FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia (AP) – When Roberson’s Music opened in 1978 in Richmond, it was a repair shop for high schools in the area.
But the owners both had ties to the Fredericksburg area and couldn’t wait to return. They quickly moved to the back of a building on Hanover Street in downtown Fredericksburg.
They set up cots to sleep at night and took them off in the morning because they couldn’t afford both a place to live and a place to do business.
Roberson’s has grown from that small instrument repair shop to a full-service music store and studio with 26 teachers, over 300 students, and ties to just about every school group in the Fredericksburg area.
Owner Sheila Burns recently spoke of those humble beginnings as Roberson’s prepares to close on December 23 after more than 40 years in the community.
“Jokingly I call it a repair business gone bad,” Burns said. “I am serving the fourth generation now. I have seen a lot of students become music teachers. I have seen them enter several different branches of the military and join the best honor groups. And thousands of them have enjoyed music as a pleasure in their life. … It’s pretty phenomenal, actually.
Burns and her first husband, Harry Roberson, started the business.
Once they got to Fredericksburg, they got too big for a series of places.
On Hanover Street, Burns recalled that they were in a building that has since been demolished. There was a beauty salon in the front part of the building, and Roberson’s owners had to put up with the pervasive smell of perms.
The owner finally offered them an office on Caroline Street.
“We thought, how are we ever going to fill this huge space? Burns remembers. “Before long we were past that, so we moved a few doors down onto Caroline Street. “
At this point, Burns’ dad joined the staff and built studios, and they started offering private lessons as well as retail items. They continued to flourish there and had to move to Gateway Village near Plank Road.
In the early 1990s, Roberson purchased his final location at 1300 Jefferson Davis Highway in Fredericksburg. They were only able to move into the facility in 1998, as they were still under the Gateway Village lease.
“For a while we had to back up two spots,” Burns said. “But it worked. When we arrived (at the current location) we went back to our band and orchestral roots. Throughout it all, we have maintained repairs, courses, and rental service to the community.
In Roberson’s early years at his present location, Burns remembers a young man practicing his instrument outside on the back porch. He and his family lived in a nearby motel and was prohibited from practicing on the motel property.
Burns invited the young man to use the studio and kept his horn in good playing condition.
“He continued to be in the military band,” Burns said. “I couldn’t find him. It was interesting to see how (Roberson’s) made the lives of many different people.
One such person is store manager James Wilson. Wilson said his family bought their first saxophone from Roberson’s while in Gateway Village.
High school graduate James Monroe arrived on board seven years ago. He has since learned all aspects of the store and reconnected with former band mates.
“This job has given me the opportunity to go back and touch parts that I probably would have forgotten,” Wilson said.
Burns is poised to retire despite the continued success of the business.
She remarried after the divorce of her and Harry Roberson and her second husband died in August 2020. Her mother died in January and her stepmother died a week later. A great aunt died a few months later.
“In 10 months I’ve had four people of age in my life, and it just made me start to think and think that life is short,” Burns said. “Yes, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I like it, but I have to start thinking about the future.
Burns said his son was involved in the ministry and had no desire to continue the business. Her grandchildren are too young.
She put the building on the market earlier this year, believing it would take a few years to sell it. But it sold out in a month and will close in January.
An extended Black Friday sale at the store will result in closure two days before Christmas. Burns said instructors at the store have found a place to continue teaching.
But some band leaders in the area said they didn’t know where to turn next.
There is another music store called KBI Music Shoppe at 4950 Southpoint Drive in Spotsylvania County. There are two in Stafford County: Bang! Music and Catfish Music, both on Garrisonville Road.
Rhonda Kapus, an orchestra teacher at Spotsylvania and Berkley elementary schools, said Roberson had been a part of her life since playing the flute at the age of 10. When she needed advanced music for her audition at Greensboro College, she leaned on Roberson
Representatives from Roberson’s often attended family home evenings at Kapus schools to further explain the instruments to band members and their parents. Roberson also helped Kapus start a ukulele program in his schools.
“They have been incredibly useful in my professional career,” said Kapus. “They are like a family. They know who you are and they want to do what’s best for you.
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