Pandemic doesn’t stop Milano’s sound of music The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Pandemic doesn’t stop Milano’s sound of music

December 10th, 2020 Mesa Tribune Staff
Pandemic doesn’t stop Milano’s sound of music

By Alli Cripe, Tribune Contributor


Milano Music Center has stood in downtown Mesa for over 74 years and it’s not about to lay down for the pandemic.

The store sells everything a musician or recording artist could ever ask and is known for its row of hanging guitars and a rolling ladder alongside that says, “Not the stairway to heaven.” 

Upstairs above the main store, the Linton-Milano Music School has taught generations of aspiring musicians to play instruments or learn voice. Across the street, the Linton-Milano piano store holds drum lessons in their basement.

While many Mesa businesses have suffered during the pandemic, the music center, piano store and the music school have all survived.

But Brenda Martin, the manager of Linton-Milano, said it has not been easy. 

“All of our lessons went online,” said Brenda Martin, manager of Linton-Milano Music. “I think at the time we had close to 800 students. We lost probably a third of them in March.”

Martin said in the beginning, staff was severely cut. “We pretty much had to furlough everybody,” she said. “Chuck Linton was covering the piano store across the street and I was upstairs by myself.” 

All lessons switched to an online format and the teachers quickly learned how to use Zoom, according to Martin. Downstairs in the Milano store, manager Jim Minch said masks were, and are, enforced as well as social distancing. 

“Customers came in with their, you know, COVID checks, their $600 and said, I want to buy an instrument,” said Minch.

Minch witnessed a sharp spike in home recording equipment and an influx in families shopping for instruments.

He said customers wanted to encourage their children to learn an instrument rather than spending more time on the internet or watching Netflix.

“There’s so many customers that I’ve had for a long time and you get to be friends with them,” said Minch. “You get to know their first name and how many kids they’ve got. It’s just a different business relationship. It’s different than buying tires or something.”

Family is an important factor for the Milano business, said Minch.

The Milano Music Center opened after World War II and when the owner’s daughter Mila Milano met a musician named John Linton, the business expanded into Linton-Milano, said Martin. 

Eliot Webb, a 15-year-old guitar student, works Friday afternoons in a sort of musical clerical job at Linton-Milano’s. His mother and father met and fell in love in the same spot.

“My dad taught guitar in one of these rooms here,” Eliot said, gesturing to a hallway of lesson rooms. “And she worked in the piano music section and at the register. She stocked books and everything – kind of what I do.”

This year, Eliot’s mother encouraged his desire to sign up for lessons.

He wanted to become more independent and save for a Fender guitar, so in September, he started a campaign to get a job at Milano’s.

“He made his mom call in three times and ask if there were openings,” Martin said. “Cus’ he really wanted to work here.”

Eliot is one of many students who signed up for lessons later this year and increased the total number of students to 750 – just 50 shy of the student occupancy before COVID-19 hit. 

Additional business for Milano comes from schools and churches.

Schools have bought large amounts of sheet music, said Martin, while Minch said that some schools have bought a high number of flat, roll-up keyboards because they’re easy to sanitize. 

“And then the churches were setting up their conferences,” Minch added, noting that these services were online.

“By dumb luck we had all of that stuff in stock because we were planning on Easter and we were planning on the Aloha festival,” Minch said, adding that ukulele sales also rocketed.

Despite the fact that many businesses have shut down, Minch and Martin said that Milano’s is still financially stable. Business is just slower than usual. 

“We’ve got 75 years of experience,” said Minch. “You’ve got to adapt. Everybody goes through it.”


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