Music, when it’s good, has a unique power over time. It can make time stand still or transport us back to special milestones in our lives. The mark of a good song is its timelessness. And a good album can make an hour feel like minutes.
Musicians Discount Center, a veritable Cutler Bay landmark, turns 30 this month — a rare distinction among businesses of its kind. In doing so, the independently owned one-stop shop for music lovers has transcended generations and outlasted many of its contemporaries.
“We’re celebrating our hard work and the customers who support us — many who came here as kids and were this big,” said owner Mike Cohen, holding his hand just above his waist. “Now they come in and have their own kids. It’s amazing.”
To commemorate the occasion, Cohen is throwing a celebration with live bands, giveaways, a drawing for a free guitar and a sale he said will take at least another 10 percent off the store’s already competitively priced inventory. The event takes place Saturday, Nov. 18.
“There are a lot of options out there, and we are still one of the true big independent music stores left in Miami — maybe the top one,” he said. “Our prices are often better than those of bigger stores, and we don’t mark up our prices before discounting them.” Remarkably bigger on the inside than its storefront suggests, Musicians Discount Center is a true musical mecca. Shelves, racks and cabinets are filled with instruments, amplifiers, sheet music and sound and lighting equipment. The store’s vast and diverse collection of records, which earned it “Best Vinyl Store” honors in the Miami New Times’ 2010 Best of Miami list, has kept it perennially atop numerous lists since.
And the artwork adorning every wall — both original and reproduced — adds to its creative atmosphere.
“You can find things here you can’t find anywhere else,” said customer Kristian Quintanal. “I’ve gone to other stores, but the people here are warmer, they keep the stock here really nice and the artwork is amazing.”
Customers also can bring in instruments for repair and take music lessons. Musicians Discount Center offers vocal and instrument tutoring, including theory and technique instruction for every instrument, style and genre. For parents who want to invest in their children’s musical interests without taking major financial risks, a rent-to-own program is available for school band instruments.
“We pay attention to our customers when they walk in and help them with whatever they need,” said employee Juda Shkolnik. “As long as everyone walks out happy, we’re happy.”
A lifelong musician who now plays drums with Jazz Connection, Cohen first got into the retail side of the music business in 1981 with a small new and used record store on Old Cutler Road. Burglaries prompted him to move briefly to Cauley Square in Goulds a year later, where he began to add instruments to his inventory.
In 1983, he relocated again to what is now Homestead Air Reserve Base and opened a shop called Records & Things. Business, he said, was thriving.
“It was its own little community, ‘the City of Homestead Air Force Base,’” he said. “I saw the opportunity, because all the GIs loved vinyl and instruments, and most record stores then didn’t carry instruments.”
In 1987, Cohen opened a second store on the other side of the base. He named it Musician’s Discount Center. Two years later, he opened a third location under the same name in Cutler Bay. For a time, he managed all three stores.
Then Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, destroying both Homestead stores and severely damaging the Cutler Bay location, which closed for a year while Cohen rebuilt it. Business eventually recovered. Since then, he more than doubled the store’s floorspace and sold thousands upon thousands of instruments and records.
“It’s been a good ride, a little tough at times, but I love the challenge every day,” he said. “I love interacting with the people. I think if I ever left the business, that would be what I missed the most.”
Musicians Discount Center, 19405 S. Dixie Hwy., celebrates its 30th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 18. For more information, call 305-255-9466 or visit MusiciansDiscountCenter.net.