Brent’s Music Headquarters, which became much more than a music store in Fort Myers during the past 45 years, will be closing for good Dec. 5.
While Brent’s sold thousands of guitars, keyboards, amplifiers and just about every other type of musical instrument for more than four decades, it also served as a networking hub for Southwest Florida musicians. Even in an era of online networking, the store still operates a bulletin board for musicians looking to connect with others.
Owner Brent Wedler said the store’s closing because of roof damage incurred by Hurricane Ian. The landlord wanted him out to begin replacing the roof and air conditioning units, he said.
“After 45 years in business, I never thought it would end up like this, but I’m not going to start over again,” Wedler wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s probably a good time to retire.”
Transandina Holdings LLC purchased the building housing Brent’s and the adjacent shopping center for $4.5 million last year. Antonio Brown of Naples, one of that company’s owners, said he was unsure who the next tenant would be at Brent’s location, but only the building needed a lot of work.
At 1936 Courtney Drive, across U.S. 41 from the Edison Mall, Brent’s sold instruments to almost two generations of high school and youth musicians. It also served as an unofficial headquarters to professional musicians in town, said David Johnson, a bass player who spent 32 years living in Fort Myers before moving to Eustis.
“These guys, they’ve done so much for the area,” said Johnson, who played in the 1980s and 1990s for the Mambo Brothers, provided Sunday entertainment at the Key Lime Bistro on Captiva Island, and played for Aaron Neville and the Neville Brothers on national tours. “The sad thing is, they withstood the hurricane from 2017. And then the pandemic and having to deal with a couple of years of that, and then supply chain issues. It’s been a rough couple of years for the store, but they’ve soldiered on throughout.
“That was the best store for advice, customer service and servicing gear.”
Johnson said he bought every vital piece of musical gear at Brent’s, including three keyboards, recording gear, guitars and bass guitars.
Brent’s also provided sound services for national acts touring the region over the years.
“Brent always made sure his staff was knowledgeable about gear,” Johnson said. “They know how to play. They know how to service. They knew about all the gear coming in. They knew what was hot, what was not.”
Mario Infanti, a career musician who played guitar for the local band Cat Man Doodz, met Wedler in 1989, and they have been friends ever since.
Infanti said Brent’s figured out ways to thrive despite many musicians turning to the Internet to buy their gear. “Before I got anything online, I’d always go to Brent’s first,” he said. “He was always my first stop. He’s taken really good care of me through the years.”
Infanti recalled the time in 2000 when someone dropped off a Paul Reed Smith guitar, a model that would have sold for $4,000 just two years prior. Wedler told Infanti to take it and play it.
“So I played it for a couple of hours,” Infanti said. “I asked him, ‘What do I have to do to buy this?’ He says, pay me when you can. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s going to be missed big time.”
Darrell Nutt bought music equipment from Brent’s for 30 years.
“He would always show excitement when I walked in the store and treated me with respect,” Nutt said. “It was the local hangout for musicians for so many years. I would spend hours in there at a time. It was like a TV show. Cheers, you’d walk in, and everybody would know your name. I think what set Brent’s apart was the helpful staff. I actually got my first record deal hanging out in the keyboard department. Brent’s will forever be a place of happiness and joy to me.”
Brent Billman has been a customer at the store since 1986 and was an associate manager there for 13 years.
“There will never be a pro store like that again, where the owners, Brent and Karen, love musicians as much as music and place it above the quarterly report,” Billman said. “To walk into a professional musician’s store, find it full of friends and have a good laugh with the owner is not something we are likely to see ever again.
“There were concerts and shows over the last decades that never would have went down if it hadn’t been for Brent rushing in to replace or provide emergency gear or service. Brent barely knew me in 1986 when I went in there to upgrade to the latest Yamaha keyboard but didn’t have enough money. He let me walk out of there with it and pay him as I could. Amazing.”