Music store offers full experience

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Located in the Benton Harbor Arts District, 3 Pillars Music is a destination for anyone with an interest in music, both fan and creator.

Tom Ivers and his business partner opened the store in March 2014 in the space formerly occupied by Brammall Industrial Supply and the 3 Pillars Gallery, an art exhibition space used during the city’s Art Hop events. The name is drawn from the trio of columns in the store’s main show space, though, according to Ivers, “it’s more like two pillars and two half pillars” after the remodeling to make it into the store it is today.

Ivers spent 12 years in the cell phone business, owning a store in St. Joseph until the industry “became saturated and wasn’t quite as unique.” He spent a year after closing his store planning his next step, during which he saw a local music establishment, Ferris Music, shrink and eventually close.

A music fan and guitar player, Tom wanted to fill the new gap in the local scene. Acquiring merchandise and fixtures from Ferris and contributing his own record collection, he opened the new shop in the growing Benton Harbor Arts District.

“I started out with hardly any records and now I’ve got thousands and thousands.”

3 Pillars is a place to purchase music of all formats, stocking CDs and cassettes in addition to vinyl.

In the age of digital music, they are still seeing a market for physical music purchases. Tom sees adults continuing their hobby, rebuilding the collections of their youths, as well as a younger crowd just discovering the experience of tangible music. He sees the relationship of the modern music industry and that of the old as one of symbiosis, recounting his own listening habits.

“I put on Spotify from time to time. If I’m sitting in my backyard, I put on a bluetooth speaker with XM [Satellite Radio]. I think people should listen to everything.”

He describes records, CDs, and cassettes as their own experience, in addition to that of simply listening.

“You can look at who played guitar. To physically have that on hand, an MP3 can’t do that for you. You’re more likely to play an album all the way through, in order.”

Tom walked me through the variety of turntables and stereos that exist in the new age of vinyl resurgence.

The store stocks the popular Crosley manufactured portable, “suitcase-style” devices and Ion branded USB-equipped players that give long time record owners a method to convert their favorite music into a digital format to be enjoyed on more modern devices.

In addition to these and other new units, 3 Pillars handles a vast assortment of used turntables and stereo pieces. According to Tom, the classic styles are popular, with customers seeking the heavy, silver-faced, high-wattage units from decades ago.

“You walk into a Best Buy and the amps weigh about two pounds. These weigh about 50 pounds.”

For audio enthusiasts who still own such stereo equipment, the store also provides repair services for the units they hope to use again and consignment services for the units they would prefer to sell. They offer needles and cartridges for turntables and the tools needed to clean and maintain records and equipment.

3 Pillars is a resource for more than just the listener, stocking a full selection of musical instruments and instrument accessories, including guitars, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, violins, and drum accessories, as well as the strings, stands, and tuners necessary to keep them functional. They offer repair services for a variety of instruments.

They’ve also created a space for live music. Once a month, the store becomes a venue for a local artist to perform, release a new album, and expose themselves to a new audience. The store will normally cover the expense of the musician themselves, requesting instead donations from the audience for a local non-profit organization.

With digital music available on pocket-sized devices and most records and CDs available online, what 3 Pillars has built is an experience. Customers walk into a physical space, listen to live music, and put their hands on items that are tangible.

They are able to meet other music fans and enjoy the adventure of hunting for a specific title or uncovering an unusual gem amongst a collection.

“It’s almost like archaeology.”

Music fans can attend the next live event at 3 Pillars on Tuesday, Sept. 15 when William Tyler will perform before beginning his tour with national act, Wilco. Information on that event and the store is available at

Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at Feedback can be directed to