Steve Harner and his wife Thao were walking around the art museum one night when a question was raised: What do you want to be doing in 20 years?
In the three years prior to that walk, Harner traveled around the country installing music labs in schools while working for the SoundTree organization, along with making and playing music himself. It was then that he realized he wanted to make a music store – but why wait 20 years?
Within a week, a landlord had been found and a prime piece of South Street real estate had been secured. The initial idea had been hatched in late April, and BridgeSet Sound opened for business at the end of June.
“It’s been an absolute whirlwind of fun and stress,” Harner said. “This past July 4 was the first day in 55 days that I was working less than 10 hours a day.”
Though it might initially seem like hyperbole, Harner doesn’t sound like he’s joking. The sheer amount of ideas currently taking flight at BridgeSet is nothing short of gargantuan.
Harner’s vision for BridgeSet is that of a one-stop shop for all things music. Along with a modest selection of instruments, BridgeSet also sells new and used records, audio equipment and software and longboards.
In the back, next door to a practice room, is a fully-functioning recording studio. A person not versed in music whatsoever could hypothetically buy a guitar, get lessons and then record their music all without stepping outside of the building.
“Here’s an example: We have a 12-year-old kid coming in right now for guitar lessons. He wanted to learn how to record stuff himself, so instead of coming in for guitar lessons one week, he came in and learned about mixing and music production so he could record himself,” Harner said.
BridgeSet is still committed to providing schools with musical equipment and technology, recently visiting Massachusetts to equip the Williston Northampton School with Mac computers stocked with Sibelius for music theory students.
Another focus of Harner’s is to incorporate the visual arts in as many ways as possible. Art adorns the walls of the narrow hallway that leads from the main room and past the recording studio to the backyard.
“My idea was that each month, we could have a different local artist or group of artists display their work,” Harner said. “We had my friend [and Philadelphia artist] Dan de Jesus bring some of his pieces for a showing, and then during the showing, he played cello. So we’re always trying to combine music and art whenever we can.”
Even with a thousand different ventures tied into BridgeSet, Harner said he’s still not done expanding his scope.
“The focus right now is getting the web store up and operational, because we’ll get a lot of business from that,” Harner said. “It should be up in November.”
Though BridgeSet occupies a humbly-sized space, Harner is already prepared to occupy more room. He said would like to expand sooner than later but also keep the same address.
“We’ve already talked about just taking over this whole building,” Harner said, motioning towards the rest of the brick structure. “The landlord’s great and the neighborhood has really been receptive towards us. It’s a validation having an idea become brick and mortar.”
For all of these endeavors, BridgeSet is operated full-time purely by Harner and his wife, along with the help of five part-time employees, which is a fact Harner delivers with a smile.
“It’s just us, there’s no parent company, no nothing,” Harner said.
In Harner’s mind, the best ideas are the simple ones, and an all-purpose music store is a no-brainer. The combination of DIY aesthetics and a go-getter attitude set to hyper drive made BridgeSet Sound a reality almost overnight, so to bet against Harner seems unwise, especially at this moment when the sky really is the limit for what he can do. The only thing stopping him, of course, is time.
“The way I look at it is, you work 24 hours a day to not work a 9-5,” Harner said. “Though I think if I fell asleep, I’d sleep for a month.”
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org