After nearly 80 years of service to all corners of the local music industry, Chick Music is closing its doors. Wednesday, Dec. 15 will be the last day of operation for the family-owned instrument sale and repair store located on Clayton Street. It is one of the oldest stores in downtown Athens, first opening its doors in 1942.
The store is currently operated by four siblings: Van Shepherd, Steve Shepherd, Christy Shepherd-Rochon and Carol Shepherd-Grout. Their mother, Anne Shepherd, now 92 years old, has owned the company since 1988, when her husband, Billy Shepherd, passed away.
“I think we’ve had a part in music and the growth of music in Athens. We’ve been part of everything from supporting the symphony to private music teachers,” Van Shepherd said. “To all the bands that put Athens on the map,” Steve Shepherd continued.
The family has now made the decision to end Chick Music’s 79 years of operation. With the lease on their building coming to an end, Anne Shepherd in poor health and extensive backorders in their supply due to the pandemic’s effect on distribution, it seemed like the right time to close up shop. In addition, the Shepherd siblings are at retirement age.
Reflecting on the last 79 years, Chick Music has a long history, a powerful legacy and a deep connection to the musicians of Athens. From school bands to R.E.M., the store has seen and supported an entire generation of local music.
History of Chick Music
According to Chick Music’s website, the store started out as Chick Piano, which opened in 1942 on Jackson Street. It later moved to Lumpkin Street in the late 1940s and finally to Clayton Street in 1968.
The store was founded by Lewis Chick, a blind man who worked as an attorney in the 1940s but, according to Steve Shepherd, could not find work because of his disability. Instead, he opened a music shop, which he named Chick Piano.
Chick met Billy Shepherd, the Shepherd sibling’s father , at a tuning school for the blind, according to Van Shepherd. Billy was legally blind, and after meeting, Chick and Billy Shepherd became friends. After Chick died in 1964, Billy bought Chick Piano from Chick’s wife.
In the 1960s, Chick Piano began expanding their supply to meet the changing demand brought about by the popularity of rock ’n’ roll music. In 2002, the store broadened its name to Chick Music and five years later, the business expanded with a three floor addition. It included a larger repair shop, private lesson rooms, a recital hall and a piano showroom.
Leaving a legacy
Chick Music has been dedicated to serving musicians both big and small in Athens. Everyone gets their start somewhere and Chick Music has been there to supply to both new musicians and veteran rock artists.
Before the pandemic, Shepherd-Rochon coordinated the teaching facilities of Chick Music, which hosted around 20 teachers and served around 200 students. They also served a number of local school band directors and faculty musicians at the University of Georgia.
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