Music plays on: Johnson team has made music business a powerhouse
Mississippi Music has weathered nearly 65 years in business by adapting and evolving to meet market demands in the state.
The company was founded in Hattiesburg by Jim Johnson and his wife, Mac, who are both now in their 90s. Jim Johnson, an Alabama native, was a trombone player who came to Yazoo City as a band director after receiving bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Northwestern University.
“He saw a need in Mississippi for schools to have bands,” said Rosi Johnson, Mississippi Music president and Jim Johnson’s daughter-in-law. “He kind of looked around the state and saw that Hattiesburg was a young town with growing schools, plus the university’s music department was well known.”
The couple opened The Music Shop in 1946 on North Main Street in Hattiesburg. In the 1960s, the original shop incorporated with two other music companies to form Mississippi Music Inc., and sold home organs, pianos, guitars, amplifiers and even television sets and sewing machines.
“Whatever was kind of happening at the time, we sold it,” Rosi Johnson said.
At one point, Mississippi Music had eight locations in the state. The company now has retail shops in Hattiesburg, Flowood, Meridian and Biloxi in addition to its headquarters in Hattiesburg.
In addition to selling music equipment, the company services many of the state’s school bands and offers music lessons.
Challenges have come and gone over the decades — first in the form of malls and larger department stores, then in the opening of big box stores. Next up were mail order stores, the Internet and eBay.