It was during the midst of a tumultuous tour in Vietnam that Ron Shuff decided he would pursue a career in music once he landed back on American soil.
After returning home, the veteran did just that: he finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Alabama, then earned a master’s in music at Georgia State. He later attended the University of Southern Mississippi to pursue a Ph.D. in commercial music, and completed all but his dissertation.
Eventually, this lyrically bound road led Shuff and his family to Williamson County in 1976, where he took a position as both the director of fine arts and music at Brentwood Academy and the music director of First United Methodist Church in historic downtown Franklin.
“It was a perfect fit for our family, and a good time,” Shuff said. “But during that time, I was still interested in pursuing my personal music career. I worked as a studio musician and a writer, and really learned the business.”
That working knowledge of the inside industry would prove valuable over the next few decades.
One day in 1978—as Shuff tells it, nearly on a whim—his late wife, Alice, became fixated on the fact that Franklin could not claim a music store. Not a musician herself, she told her husband that if he would lend her his expertise, she’d make the operation a success.
“She told me, ‘I will manage it, you just help with the music part. Franklin needs this, Ron,’” he remembers her saying. “So we started hiring teachers and buying instruments, and next thing you know we’ve bought a building.”
Shuff’s Music Sales & Studios still operates from that Third Avenue North building, a historic home that is often considered one of the most haunted in downtown Franklin (Shuff also owns the Mosley House across the street, pegged as another “spirited” space).
Using Shuff’s industry resources and Brentwood Academy students, the shop quickly became a local fixture by hosting weekly concerts on its lawn. They built their name on quality instruments and professional service, and became an invaluable resource for the community’s music education.
Today, the business is run with the help of Shuff’s daughter-in-law, Sasha Shuff. Offering everything from school band instruments and guitars to accessories and professional pianos, the music store has everything you would expect from a hometown shop—including 30 music teachers, many who have stayed loyal for more than 10 years.
“The community embraced me and I embraced them right back. Part of that had to do with the fact that when we opened up, there were no elementary or vocal musical teachers in the whole county,” Shuff said.
“We’re advocates for music education in the home and in the schools. You put an instrument in a kid’s hands, and it’s amazing to watch what they can learn without formal education. It’s life changing. I still think Shuff’s provides services that are needed and essential.”
By 1988, Shuff’s Music had grown by leaps and bounds. Shuff expanded to a second location and opened an impressive piano showroom, and later a warehouse, that sells new and used vintage grands and uprights, as well as digital pianos.
Just last month, Shuff celebrated 35 years in the community. He’s made many a memory in downtown, and says he’s seen it grow up with his three children—all musicians themselves, as are his grandchildren.
“I’ve watched our business develop with the town. It’s a great place to live, and it’s a great place to have a business,” he said. “We were involved early on in the Main Street festivals, and for years we provided all the music.
“Yep, Shuff’s has been around to see it all. Since the beginning it’s been a love, not a business. It’s all about music.”
For information on Shuff’s, go to www.shuffsmusic.com.
“Faces of Franklin” is part of a series on merchants and small business owners in downtown Franklin, Tenn. that runs in the Williamson Herald.