West Side GR music store to close after 42 years

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s the end of an era for a music store on Grand Rapids’ West Side. Rainbow Music, which first opened in 1979, will close for good on June 12.

“We have some customers who are sons and daughters of people who came back way back in the day and it’s really good to see those people,” co-owner John Gelderloos said.

Gelderloos focuses more on the finances of the store, but his partner Pete Bardolph is all about being hands-on with the equipment.

“Between new instruments and walk-ins, there’s a number of things I can do for people’s guitars,” said Bardolph, who also co-owns the shop.

Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids on June 2, 2021.

The owners of Rainbow Music connected through music while playing in bands during their high school years in Chicago.

“Two different bands, but a year or two later, each band lost some of its less significant members and joined into one,” Bardolph said.

The duo stuck together, eventually landing in West Michigan to study at Calvin College.

“That’s what we liked, playing music,” Bardolph said. “We liked the stuff, we liked to know about our guitars, basses and amps. We said to each other, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make a career out of stuff we like?’”

They took out a loan and opened the store in 1979.

“It was a struggle for a number of years, but we plugged it out and had our loans paid off after about 10 years and business went well,” Gelderloos said.

Rainbow Music reached its peak in the 1990s. Internet retailers and chain stores put a dent into their business. However, the duo takes pride in lasting in as long as they have.

“You offer a higher level of service and do what you have to do to succeed, and you can still make it,” Gelderloos said. “I still believe somebody starting today can succeed.”

Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids on June 2, 2021.

Bardolph says the one-on-one interaction at a small shop like Rainbow Music has been crucial to their success.

“We get close enough to where you can just sit down and shoot the breeze and maybe it results in business,” Bardolph said. “Certainly, it does result in it often enough that we make a go of it.”

Gelderloos will retire and spend his free time volunteering.

Bardolph on the other hand, isn’t ready to call it quits when it comes to music. He will open a guitar service store this summer.

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