Souldier Goods flagship store, Groove School open in downtown Niles

Published 1:20 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

NILES — Last week was a busy one for Jen Tabor.

Tabor, owner of internationally renowned lifestyle brand, Souldier, and founder of Groove School, a music school in downtown Niles, saw both projects come to life last week with the opening of Souldier Goods, Souldier’s flagship store and the start of Groove School’s first classes.

Founded in 2005 in Chicago, Souldier creates custom goods in their Niles location, including instrument straps, pet collars, purses, bags, belts and other wearables from vintage and upcycled materials. Souldier has reached an international audience, with recording artists like Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, Tom Petty and Panic! At The Disco supporting the brand over their near 20 year career in the music and fashion industries. 

Located at 223 N. 4th St., the Souldier Goods flagship store is now open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with limited hours on Sunday. The Souldier store carries the full-range of Souldier  products, music and guitars, vinyl records as well as vintage clothing in partnership with Beauty Bull Vintage.  Souldier Goods also carries handmade soaps, accessories, and gifts by local artisans. Tabor said she looks forward to adding more local, handmade and vintage vendors as the store continues to grow and is currently accepting consignment inventory for musical instruments, amps, and gear. 

“It’s exciting to be able to share this with people and create a location where our customers can find us in person,” she said. “I have had a mixed music and retail concept in mind for more than 15 years. This is the realization of that retail concept in a cool, urban vibe – combined with an educational component of our music school attached. We aim to create a one-of-a-kind destination location in Southwest Michigan and bring joy to people of all ages.”

Tabor purchased the Star Building from Leader Publications in October 2022. In addition to the Souldier Goods flagship store, the building currently houses Beauty Bar 201, Souldier’s manufacturing operation and the newly formed Groove School.

Groove School aims to promote lessons in folk, rock and classical instruments. Located at 416 Sycamore St. – the former Plym family home built in the 1890s – the school offers a variety of classes including percussion, guitar (classical and electric), jazz piano and more. Lessons are currently $25 for a 30-minute lesson hosted once per week. Groove School hopes to provide group classes and summer programming in the future.

“We have teachers for each instrument and as soon as we have registration of students, then we will schedule out our teachers and get the rooms filled,” Tabor said.

Thanks to a $5,500 grant from local nonprofit Niles Music and More and instrument donations from the Roadie Clinic in Niles, the Groove School was able to provide eight scholarships for middle and high school students in Berrien County to take guitar lessons from January through June free of cost. The students are already working toward their first performance at the bandshell this summer.

One of Tabor’s goals with Groove School is to invigorate the local music scene by hosting rock band classes for high schoolers. Drop-in classes are hosted from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday nights and cost $3 to join. Those interested must be proficient with a musical instrument.

“We immediately recognized some of our high school-aged students needed help getting together and learning how to form bands so that they can create music,” she said. “We’re going to start teaching them how to play together instead of just playing by themselves.”

Tabor is excited to see her dream for the building take shape.

“Our first day I just drove around and couldn’t think of what to do next,” she said. “I was so excited. I couldn’t call enough people to tell them ‘do you know what just happened?’ Having people in the physical spaces that you created for them is magical.”

For more information regarding Groove School, checkout the school’s Facebook page at “Groove School” or email the Groove School at grooveschoolmi@gmail.com.

To see what is going on at Souldier Goods, stop in or follow Souldier Goods on Facebook and Instagram.