Business Spotlight: Blackbird's Music Store

Empowering music makers, learners, and builders to create together.


Charlotte Matis, Neal Swanger and Russel Rayfield | 612-326-5745

I love music, but am no musician, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into Blackbird’s Music Store to interview Charlotte and company.  Having put my clarinet down years ago, I never took to strings and am often intimidated by those more musically talented than I. 

Upon entering the store, I was immediately greeted with smiles, offered a choice of coffee or tea and told to make myself at home.   As I looked around, I was surrounded by stringed instruments of all kinds lining the unassuming walls. The cheery chirping of Charlotte’s resident finches filled the air rather than the usual awkward silence of some stores.  Blackbird’s has a homey, somewhat familiar feel that put me at ease.  The group likes to joke about their “folk retailing”, but it does describe their relaxed atmosphere quite well.

Charlotte opened the store about four years ago after another location closer to Nokomis failed to provide the flow of students and musicians needed to obtain the feeling of community she had hoped for.  The vision was to sell, trade and repair instruments and offer lessons and jam sessions to help their clientele excel.  Blackbird’s strives to provide a supportive community for any musician interested and works to “empower music makers, learners, and builders to create together”.

While the store specializes in stringed instruments, they are also willing to carry items upon special request, such as the clarinet reeds some local students needed. The instruments are affordable, starting at just $37 for a ukulele and top out around $1000. Besides buy and trade, they also sell on consignment, if needed. Many instruments come in on a trade, are fixed, tuned up, tightened, etcetera in the workshop and then put back on the floor for sale.

Lessons run $25 per half hour and they have instructors for banjo, guitar, fiddle and more.  Though Charlotte started as the sole owner, Neal soon became co-owner and Russ will soon be joining them as they transition the location into a fully worker owned cooperative.  This means Blackbird’s can potentially be part of the neighborhood indefinitely!

The space itself was converted from a former café and has many rooms and areas to use for lessons and plans are in the works to make the basement area available for “jams”.  Jams range from “Teen” to ukulele to French Canadian Tune jams.   All jams are listed on their website and are open to the public.

I encourage neighbors to stop in, say hello and consider shopping here if you or a family member is interested in learning a new instrument or revisiting that dusty guitar hiding in your basement.