Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Today I pay tribute to a shop that has been a favourite for many in Launceston, Barratts Music.
Ms Rattray - They are all my favourites.
Ms ARMITAGE - The Barratt family started in retail when James Barratt senior opened the clothing store Barratt's Corner in Rooke Street, Devonport in 1894. He would later sell pianos and organs. In 1904 his son, James, bought the business and in 1924 he turned it into a dedicated music store called Barratt and Joscelyne. The business was moved to its current site in George Street, Launceston, in 1937. Pianos were the main item sold, but accordions and mouth organs were also very popular. The shop also sold second-hand books and music boxes.
One of James' sons, Cyril, returned from World War II in 1945 and went to work with his dad. Cyril bought the business from him in 1949. Music was always quite a family affair, as Cyril also worked with his older brother, Dave, who was an accomplished piano repairer, tuner and polisher. Both had trained as piano technicians in Europe. Dave had a workshop upstairs, where he worked with technicians for many years. As well as musical instruments, the store was selling all manner of things at this time, including audio equipment, fridges and stoves. Dave was in charge of the workshop and Cyril ran the sales division.
A big part of the business at this time was purchasing and restoring old pianos. Today, you can still find old piano parts and tools inside the building, including the hand winch they used to lift the pianos from the adjacent laneway to the top storey of Barratts. That area is used today as a piano showroom, where you can test-drive pianos and electric pianos. In 1954 Cyril's son, Rob, finished boarding school and joined the family business.
Some time later, Barratts was sold to Allans Music. During this time, Rob was appointed store manager. The business would return to Barratt family ownership in 1966. Around this time, Barratts became a Yamaha organ dealership, and since that period the business has established itself as one of Australia's most successful Yamaha dealers.
Mark joined the business in 1991 and he bought Barratts Music from his father Rob in 2001. When asked about what advice his dad gave him when he took the business over, Mark says -
Dad and I were very different and much of the advice he gave worked for the way he ran things. He could be quite a stickler, and I am more laid back. The main thing we agreed upon and practised was that winning a customer is about making a friend and then maintaining that relationship. It's good business and it makes the work environment a fun place to work.
Clearly, it is a fun place and a great place to work. One employee, Cheryl Masters, has worked for Barratts Music for more than 40 years. Cheryl has worked for Cyril, Rob and Mark, and she is the business's administrative and print manager.
One of the Barratt family's philosophies has been to show strong support for music in the community. They do that by sponsoring many music prizes, including an Australian Music Examinations Board prize in Tasmania, and others for the St Cecilia Performance Challenge. They encourage local music making and run clinics for members of the public, where well‑known musicians come to play and speak about what they do. These clinics regularly get at least 100 people in attendance.
A major event held to celebrate the store's 80th birthday in 2017 was a rare and vintage guitar and amplifier show. It is estimated 1000 people came to see this vast array of spectacular rare music equipment. Mark says many of the drums, guitars and amps on display are the type that the Beatles used in their heyday. He says -
The George Harrison Telecaster we bought in for the show is a limited release made by Fender USA. It is unusual in that it has a Rosewood body. George Harrison played one like it at the Beatles final concert. It is one of only 19 that came to Australia, and is destined to become quite a collectable.
As regards brushes with fame, Barratts Music has organised numerous clinics where musicians from around the north come to see top musicians perform and talk about their musical experiences and approaches. These include Mark Lizotte from Diesel, James Morrison, Michael Barker, a former drummer for John Butler, George Lynch, and many lesser known but fantastic musicians.
In an online interview with ABC Northern Tasmania in November 2017, Mark spoke of what the family business has come to mean to him: 'I love it more every year. Every day is more fun than the day before.'
Mr President, I pay tribute to the Barratt family and their staff for the rich contribution they have made to Launceston over more than 80 years. I wish them continued success for the future.