OAKLAND — As Jeffery Rowe glances around his new shop, he can’t help but laugh at the fact that his former high school summer job turned into a career calling.

When his then-girlfriend and now-wife, Haley Rowe, went off to  college in the summer of 2001, Jeffery took a job at Haley’s father’s music store, Down Home Music in Fairfield. Some two decades later, Jeffery Rowe isn’t letting his family’s footprint on the central Maine music scene slip away even though Doug Wainoris, his father-in-law, retired and is selling the property where the music store once sat.

“I never ended up going to college. I just stayed there,” Rowe said from behind his repair area at the newly opened J&H Music Store on Kennedy Memorial Drive. “We always had a plan that when he retired, I’d take it over. There were no finalized details, but that was the goal we were shooting for.”

Goal achieved.

Rowe, 39, opened J&H Music last week. The store’s lone employee, Rowe does it all. He sells plenty, but he also repairs string instruments.

Doug Wainoris, 65, owned Fairfield’s Down Home Music Shop from 1981-2020. With the Fairfield store property up for sale, the Rowes moved the business to Oakland and reestablished it as J&H Music.

Haley Rowe, a second grade teacher at Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School, doesn’t really work there too much, nor is she a musician. Her first initial is important to the name of the business, though. She ties it all together.

Jeffery Rowe of J&H Music returns a guitar to customer Trenton Clark, 9, at the newly opened music store at 835 Kennedy Memorial Drive in Oakland. Rowe was making minor repairs to Clark’s guitar. Rowe has more than 200 stringed instruments at the store. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

J&H Music stocks more than 250 guitars. It also carries other stringed instruments, drums, percussion, sound systems and accessories. Half the inventory came from Down Home Music, but the other half was stockpiled by Rowe when he realized he’d soon be taking over the business.

“She’s glad it’s out of the basement,” Jeffery said of Haley.

THE INSPIRATION 

Jeffery Rowe’s older brother played guitar. So, naturally, a 13-year-old Rowe did what would be expected of someone that age.

“He always said don’t touch my guitar, which made me want to touch his guitar,” Rowe said.

After graduating from high school, Rowe started at Down Home Music. Wainoris decided to retire and sell the four properties on the lot, so Rowe needed a new spot. Since that was the case, he figured rebranding would be OK.

Rowe wants J&H Music to keep the same “relaxed vibe” as Down Home Music. J&H Music is the only store of its kind in the greater Waterville area, and unlike many music stores, Rowe encourages a “buy, sell, trade” atmosphere. Consignments are cool at J&H Music.

Jeffery Rowe of J&H Music repairs a guitar Tuesday at his newly opened music store at 835 Kennedy Memorial Drive in Oakland. Rowe, at his work bench, has more than 200 stringed instruments at the store. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Rowe is working to expand J&H Music’s repair department beyond what was done at Down Home Music. Rowe is taking courses to be an authorized service technician for the biggest names in guitars.

“That’s my favorite part of the business,” Rowe said.

The store officially opened Nov. 2. Rowe said the first week was “amazing.”

“Everybody that was a longtime customer at Down Home Music all showed up,” Rowe said. “People who I hadn’t seen in years came to say they’d support the place.”

It also doesn’t hurt that J&H Music is located on a busy road and right off the highway.

“It was better than I expected,” Rowe said.

THE SPACE

The building neighbors Berry Stationery at 835 Kennedy Memorial Drive. Previous tenants included a video rental store and restaurant.

Rowe stumbled upon it driving by one day. He saw a landlord and a lease sign.

“And when you walked in, you just smelled the wood,” Rowe said. “Guitars and wood seem to go well together. It’s the natural aesthetic.”

When customers walk in the door, they enter the accessory room. Behind it is a place where Rowe does his repairs, leading to a room full of guitars and amplifiers.

Walk up the stairs and you get to an area with drums, keyboards, more amplifiers and public address speakers. The second floor also houses three lesson rooms, potentially a fourth.

Although Rowe doesn’t give lessons anymore, he rents out rooms to musicians to give lessons. One of the tenants is Richie Bartolo, a friend Rowe collaborated with in the most recent band in which he played, a reggae group called The Way Backs. Bartolo teaches drums and guitar.

While Rowe is the only employee, some of his friends come to help him out on a volunteer basis.

The wall on the stairwell features photos given to him by a friend and former music store owner. There are portraits of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Dexter Gordon.

“I don’t really know who this is, but it’s a cool photo,” Rowe said of the Gordon image.

But at J&H Music, Jeffery Rowe is a one-man band.

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