Apr 06, 2016 08:08AM
By Matt Whipkey
Tim Pratt is the American success story. Raised in subsidized housing and nourished on government cheese, Pratt passed on the college experience to hone his musical and business skills in the school of hard knocks. Now president and owner of Dietze Music, Nebraska’s largest independent music retailer, Pratt’s personal journey is nearly inseparable from the company’s success. Years before the Omaha location underwent its largest expansion in August 2015 a Montgomery Ward guitar set 12-year-old Pratt on the road to music retail royalty.
“Growing up, we had a rough go,” Pratt says. “When I was 12 my mom worked a minimum wage job, and took her entire tax refund and bought me a Global classical guitar. It was off from there.”
Like many young rock-n-rollers, Pratt cut his teeth during the formative years of the original music scene in Lincoln. While Pratt and his various bands experienced certain degrees of success, his largest ovations were earned on the sales floor.
“I worked part time at a music store. I sold so many things only working 10 hours a week that I somehow became the sales leader,” Pratt says. “The desire to help people experience music was huge for me, almost more than my own musical journey.”
Pratt came onboard at Dietze Music in 1991, and, in 1994, he moved from the company’s south Lincoln location and began running Dietze’s first Omaha store. Originally a 1750 square foot single bay in the Bel Air plaza, Dietze Music has grown nearly eight times that size over its 21 years in the city. With its current expansion, Dietze Omaha’s 13,300 square feet truly make it king of Nebraska’s independent music stores.
“I wanted to expand the store so we would have a better place to service our customers,” Pratt says. “We really are about the musicians and not the sale. I would rather make a new friend and the sales will come.”
Not only satisfied with increased retail space, Pratt doubled down on the company’s commitment to musical education and instruction. Expanding to 14 individual studios, Dietze Music now boasts the largest private lesson area in Omaha.
“We have always felt that lessons benefit the store, but it is really more about benefitting the musical community,” Pratt says. “We are responsible for this next generation learning about music—otherwise our art form dies.
Over the past few years, Omaha’s musical landscape has seen the exit of several interdependent music retailers. Where Dietze has thrived, according to Pratt, is more in focusing on the company’s own goals than the presence of competition.
“I always tell the staff to focus on the customer in front of us, the job at hand,” Pratt says. “If other places offer things we can’t, my focus is on what we can. The customer is the beneficiary, what we can do is give them a more memorable experience. I have always liked that it is fun to come here. This is a very personal business. Music is personal.”