Ted Brown Music: Through the Years

by Janessa Pihl

If you live in the state of Washington and have an interest or passion for playing or performing music, chances are you have come across Ted Brown Music. From instruments to sheet music, Ted Brown is a go-to for all things music! This family-owned company is sure to offer a friendly face and quality advice from employees who are committed to ensuring the best for their customers. Since 1931, Ted Brown Music Company has been, and continues to be, a vital part of Tacoma’s music scene.

Who is Ted Brown?

Let’s start at the very beginning of the story by answering the question, “Who is Ted Brown?”  In 1901, Francis William Theodore Brown, who went by the name “Ted” was born in the state of Minnesota. One year later, his family moved to Tacoma, Washington, where Ted would grow up, attend school, and ultimately put down family roots of his own. Ted Brown graduated from Lincoln High School in the class of 1919. After this, Ted Brown worked a few different jobs before beginning with the company Sherman Clay & Company, which had the greatest impact on the development of Ted Brown Music Company. Although Ted Brown passed away in 1971, his name remains a staple in the Pacific Northwest through his family-owned business, Ted Brown Music Company.

How Ted Brown Music Company Came to Be

Ted Brown was well-known within the music retail scene of Tacoma even before opening his own store. In fact, Ted Brown Music Company originated because the former music store, Sherman Clay & Co., where Ted Brown was a known and trusted store manager, decided to close. The reason for the company’s closing was largely related to the post-war depression era that was taking a toll on many, if not all, of the businesses in the city. Despite the risk of being a business owner in the midst of the depression, Ted Brown decided to use his experience in music retail to take over Sherman Clay & Co.

Beginning in March of 1931, the Tacoma News Tribune began to report on the plans Sherman Clay Company had to change ownership over to Ted Brown. One Tacoma News Tribune article specifically mentioned Ted Brown’s desire to continue the excellent service and selection standards that Sherman Clay was known for.

Moving and Expanding the Business

In 1931, Ted Brown officially renamed what was once Sherman Clay & Co, to the business we know and love to this day, Ted Brown Music Company. The location of the music store remained at 755 Broadway in Tacoma Washington for the first few years after the change in ownership.

Tacoma Public Library, (1935)

Tacoma Public Library, (1935)

In 1935, the store moved locations to 11th and Broadway. The image above pictures the storefront at this location in the same year that the business moved in. This move allowed for expansion of the store, and even provided enough room for soundproof music and practice rooms as well as a recital hall where concerts could be held! Ted Brown Music stayed at this location until 2001 when they moved again in order to expand even further.

In 2001, the store relocated to 6228 Tacoma Mall Blvd. The Tacoma News Tribune featured an article on October 5, 2000, talking about the plans of the company to transition to this location. Ted Brown highlighted many of the benefits that moving to this location. It also highlighted the reactions of community members to the news of the store’s relocation. One community member, Phyllis Harrison stated, “Ted Brown Music has been a rock that helped maintain downtown,… It’s very hard to see an old friend leave, but it’s an index to the positive- growth of a different nature that downtown is getting now.” The benefits of moving out of downtown included additional parking space and a more convenient location for music lovers to stop in and browse the stores vast assortment of instruments and sheet music.

To this day, the Tacoma Mall Blvd location is open and operating under ownership of Ted Brown’s family. You can get directions to this location here!

Tacoma Public Library (September 19, 1941)

What’s the mission?

Quality service and a great selection have always been two of the primary goals of Ted Brown Music Company. On the Ted Brown Music Website, the company site states, “At our heart, Ted Brown Music exists to make more music makers.” The mission of Ted Brown Music, from 1931 when the store opened, to present day, is to foster the passions and enthusiasm of musicians across the Pacific Northwest. The company website also states, “For more than 90 years Ted Brown Music has helped bring the joy, camaraderie, and relaxation of making music to countless people, while still being family owned.” Ted brown music has been a staple for musicians across the state of Washington. The image above portrays a group of local public school music teachers gathered at Ted Brown Music Co. in 1941, simply doing what they love, playing music.  This is a clear example of the ways in which Ted Brown Music has been able to achieve their mission.

Where is Ted Brown Music Now?

Presently, Ted Brown Music company has six locations, all of which are in Washington State: Tacoma, Seattle, Silverdale, Puyallup, Yakima, and Richland. In addition to their brick-and-mortar stores, customers can also shop online as well as access the numerous musical resources such as blog posts that are available on the Ted Brown Music Website.

If you’d like to learn more about the company of Ted Brown music from the owners themselves, check out this blog: https://www.tedbrownmusic.com/topic/blog-family-owned

About the Author

Janessa Pihl prepared this article as her final project for TARTS 225: Musical History of Tacoma, taught by Kim Davenport at the University of Washington, Tacoma. At the time she took the class in Autumn Quarter 2022, she was a senior majoring in psychology.

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