Clifton Park

The beat goes on for Parkway Music duo

'I wanted to find a way that I could make a living and still be in an industry that I love'
Thomas Murphy is co-founder of Parkway Music in Clifton Park.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Thomas Murphy is co-founder of Parkway Music in Clifton Park.

The story of Parkway Music begins long before two friends opened the business, though it is rooted in their mutual love for music.

Thomas Murphy and Matt Hatfield, both 49, grew up in Clifton Park, and have been playing music together since they were 15. In 1994, they opened their store, viewed by its clientele as a one-stop shop for various instruments, lessons and repairs.

They remain passionate about the business and the music.

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“We still play together every now and again,” said Murphy. “It’s like we’re teenagers when we do. I look left and see Matt, and all I can think is it couldn’t get any better.”

Murphy started out on piano at age 6 and continued with the instrument for six years until he found his love for guitars. Murphy followed up on his love of music after high school by attending SUNY Oneonta and obtaining a degree in music industry.

While in college, Murphy worked as an intern at Drome Sound, and after graduating he took a full time job there. Hatfield similarly was working at Drome Sound in the early ’90’s, before the two broke off to start their own shop.

“This is something I always wanted to do,” said Murphy. “It’s something I had planned on doing and I knew I didn’t want to do it by myself, and Matt seemed like the perfect person to go into business with.”

Before opening the store together, Hatfield and Murphy used to go on guitar safaris to hunt down hard-to-find musical equipment. “Matt and I did what a lot of other people were doing back in the day — traveling to a lot of different music stores to find cool stuff. Some of these stores were friendly, some weren’t as helpful, and I thought to myself that I could do this better. Music is what I do. I play in bands, make recordings, play with friends. … I love instruments, but being a performer is a tough life. I wanted to find a way that I could make a living and still be in an industry that I love.”

At age 25, Hatfield and Murphy decided it was time to open Parkway Music.

“We have a simple principle for success here,” said Murphy. “And it’s treating people how I would want to be treated. Everyone deserves the same courtesy and help, no matter how much they’re looking to spend. You’ve gotten off your couch, into your car, and gotten here for a reason and we’re thankful for that. We want to help, so we’re honest and straight ahead on prices and fair on trades. That’s worked extremely well.”

During the past 24 years, Parkway has weathered an ever-evolving industry and changing market.

“In the early days the biggest difficulty was getting the big brands in here: Fender, Gibson, Martin, Taylor, Ibanez, et cetera, as a lot of other stores had them locked into contracts. Fortunately I knew a lot of people in the industry and they wanted to help us. So when they could, they started working with us. I think they recognized our potential.”

The store took a lot of work to become what it is today, including the building of their current location at 1777 Route 9 in 2011.

“Matt and I worked for two-and-a-half years straight before we could start hiring help. And we just can’t do it alone. As we could and as needed, we’ve added people that care about the business. I’ve tried to surround myself with greatness and they’re all well versed in what they do. There’s no commission and everyone works on salary, so there’s no push to sell. I’m lucky to have these guys working at my shop.”

Another change Murphy and Hatfield have had to navigate is evolving technology and the onset of the internet.

“The business climate changes quickly, which has become the biggest challenge. Internet sales, competing with Amazon and the like, and really just trying to stay current is something we work hard on. The way we sell things is constantly evolving, with new websites like Reverb.com popping up. We have to participate or else we’re missing out on a large part of the market.”

While dealing with the challenge of being a brick and mortar operation in the internet age, Murphy and Hatfield have made sure to focus on keeping customers coming through the doors.

“An expensive guitar or any instrument really can be a tough thing to buy without holding it and hearing it in person. Our website is huge because it lets people know what we’ve got in stock. They know we have the product, and that they can come in and try it.”

This dedication to keeping an updated business plan and treating everyone well has led to loyal customers who keep coming back.

“I love teaching young people about gear and then watching them grow up to have a lifelong interest in the craft. It’s a thrill to see their face when they hear a cranked vacuum tube guitar amplifier for the first time. That love can last a lifetime. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, music is there. Being a professional is great, but so is sitting on the couch playing music for yourself.”

Beyond selling, Hatfield and Murphy have also made sure to invest back into the community of musicians by supporting benefits and local radio stations such as WEQX.

“We love giving back to those that have supported us throughout the years,” said Murphy. “When musicians have benefits because of health issues or for other reasons, we’re happy to donate anything from gift certificates, instruments for a raffle or even straight-up cash. We donate to the Southern Adirondack Musician Fund as well, which is a great organization that helps musicians in need.”

As Murphy and Hatfield approach 25 years in business, they show no signs in slowing down with their music or their shop.

“I’ve got a bit of arthritis in my hands now,” said Murphy. “But that’s not something that will ever stop me from making music. There will always be slide guitar, a lap steel, a pedal steel, or something else.”

The shop itself is still adding new brands to their catalog, such as Supro and Magnatone in their guitar department.

Visit www.parkwaymusic.com or call 518-383-0300 for more information.

Categories: Entertainment

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