Company name: Mobees Music
Owners: Brian Boog and Maureen Quinn
Number of employees: 2
Type of business: Buys, sells and trades new and used musical equipment and recycled fashions
Location: 297 Thayer St., Providence
Year Founded : 1996
Annual revenues : WND
Enter Mobees Music and prepare yourself for a flash-card review of popular culture.
From Partridge Family board games and Pac Man mugs to a Disco Duck marionette and a 1961 Silvertone guitar, Mobees has it all. That also includes Dukes of Hazard lunch boxes and “Have a Nice Day” smiley face coasters. Mobees has legwarmers. Mobees has a Photobooth.
“When people come in they freak out,” said co-owner Brian Boog of the Thayer Street shop, run by him and his wife, Maureen “Moe” Quinn. But the store, which is also decorated with leopard print faux fur and long out-of-print posters of bygone icons, has not always caused such sensory overload.
“I literally opened the door with nothing,” Boog said. “I took a small business loan out. And I had a broken amplifier and a broken guitar [to sell].”
The original store, at 183 Angell St., was founded on the fact that there were no other musical instrument accessory stores on the East Side. In serving this need, a word-of-mouth loyalty with the local musicians was soon established. They would buy, sell and trade with him. In fact, Boog remembers the face of almost everyone who has ever sold any musical equipment to him.
“He’s one of our guys,” says drummer Travis Lawton.
Armed with more instruments, and a taste for vintage products, Boog set up a web-site with the help of Providence-based Web-design company Hellfire. Selling primarily 60s equipment, mobees.com was averaging 5,000 hits per week. He shipped amps to Indonesia, and a bass guitar to France.
When the second-story shop above OOP! became available to rent, Boog asked Quinn if she was interested in selling clothes again. Quinn had started Venus in Furs in 1995, and then retired from that business to be an office manager for Big Sisters of Rhode Island. But she was ready to get back into it.
“We talked about creating a place where you create a whole rock ‘n’ roll environment,” Quinn said. “Wouldn’t it be cool to put it all together?”
The name, incidentally, comes from “Mo” in Maureen’s name and the “bee” of Brian’s. Quinn said she knew the store would be a success at the new location because of “local kids, East Side moms and all those Brown and RISD students.”
“And we do get them all,” she said.
Boog said the client-base is 60 percent college students and 20 percent moms, with the other 20 percent being local musicians who have watched his business grow.
So what does Mobees do when the spring turns to summer and temporarily takes those college kids with it? The mom-support can only go so far.
“You go elsewhere to find business,” said Boog, citing the on-line auctioning phenom known as e-bay. Under the seller name mobeesmusic, the store has sold over $1,500 worth of products within the last two weeks through e-bay.
But e-bay is a double-edged sword. Boog said he has lost a bulk of the store’s used instrument sales to the on-line company, because people can find exactly what they want from the search engine, whereas Mobees is a game of chance.
As far as the clothing goes though, that gamble keeps customers coming back.
“Their stock is always interesting, and their stock is always rotating. You’re going to find something totally new every time.” said customer Sara Archambault.
In keeping with the buy, sell and trade ethic upon which Mobees was established, Boog and Quinn will give a seller half of what they will charge in resale, as store credit for any item. And when they reject an item, they will often donate it to the Big Sisters, Earthen Vessel or Camp Street Ministries.
Approaching their one-year anniversary at the Thayer Street location, Boog reflected and said it really hasn’t been hard to sell merchandise, but like any used business, “it’s getting hard to find stuff.”
Boog sees the way the store has mutated in the last year and suggests that, with little or no business training, the best thing they can do is “keep being nice to people.”
That sort of ingenuity, coupled with the fact that no other stores in the area can boast of a two-piece vinyl bell bottom cowboy suit for sale, as well as a 1946 Slingerland 10×14 parade snare drum, is what makes Mobees exceptional.
“Everyone says to focus your energies on one thing and go with it,” Boog said. “But that’s no fun.”