Hotbed of Country By Zeke Jennings

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum a destination for fans of traditional country music, but also younger generation

Even people who aren’t country music fans know that Nashville is the center of the universe for the genre. As it has been for decades, any aspiring country musician has to go through Music City, U.S.A. if they’re going to make it.

Deep in the heart of Nashville — a bustling, bright and trendy downtown area — is the 350,000-square-foot Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, a facility dedicated to all the legends and lore of the likes of Elvis, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash.

The museum isn’t just for fans of the twang of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, however. It’s a hot destination for younger fans, who are more likely to gobble up the latest offering from Luke Bryan or Miranda Lambert as they are to pop in some old Hank. That’s thanks in part to the American Currents Exhibit dedicated to today’s hot artists, said Director of Retail Christa Dyer.

“I was walking through that gallery the other day and a few girls in their younger twenties just gasped in amazement of the items on display,” Dyer said. “They were so excited to see artifacts of their favorite artists that they currently listen to on the radio.”

Dyer joined the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in early 2018 after stints at children’s museums in Las Vegas and San Antonio.

MM: What were some of your goals when you started and how are things going in tackling them?

CD: My first priority was to help get the stores staffed. We needed a new manager and some sales associates. I set out onto Lower Broadway, the land of Honky Tonks, and started recruiting those with great customer service. I focused on finding staff in this area as these candidates already work downtown, know what to expect of downtown and would probably really enjoy some of the perks of working at the Country Music Hall of Fame, like free parking.

Another goal is how can I connect to the younger crowd coming into the museum that don’t necessarily want a T-shirt. I’ve figured out what to do, but it is under wraps at the moment and I can’t spill the beans on this secret adventure until after the first of the year. It’s going to be huge!

GS: What have been some of your hottest items this year?

CD: The interest in some of our newest items in our Museum Store has been outstanding. In just a few short months, we’ve sold over 100 Gretsch guitars and over 900 ukuleles this year. We sold out of our 12 banjos in their first month on the sales floor. Instruments has sure made an impact in that store this year, which helps with the declining sales of music media due to no one wanting CDs anymore.

Another interesting hot item this year has been the trend of Nashville-themed items. In our Circa store, our NASH hat is flying off the shelves. It has shown us that more and more people want items focused on the city, not necessarily the Hall of Fame. We are bringing in more collections showcasing the Nashville skyline and just general Nashville themed product.

GS: Do you coordinate much with current or upcoming exhibits?

CD: We definitely have a lot of coordination. Being that our temporary exhibits can run from one to three years at a time, it gives us a lot of freedom to create retail product to represent the exhibit; especially since our exhibits are all created in-house. Currently, our major exhibits include Emmylou Harris: Songbird’s Flight, The Judds: Dream Chasers, Ralph Stanley: Voice from on High, Little Big Town: The Power of Four, Outlaws and Armadillos: Country’s Roaring 70s, and American Currents: The Music of 2017. We have developed products to correlate to all of these exhibits, as well as items that play off of specific items on display. We have several items for sale that are inspired by either instruments or stage wear within our collection.

GS: Any obscure or fun products that always seem to draw a reaction?

CD: Corn hole! We sell a custom corn hole set at our Hatch Show Print store. It has a really great carnival theme and was designed in house by one of our Hatch Show Print Production guys. We have it out on display just outside the store and people love to interact with it throughout the day. It’s reasonably priced and ships for free to anyone in the continental United States.

The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum has three gift shops. Here is the lowdown on the trio.

The Museum Store tends to be the most exhibit-focused. Current big sellers are banded and Studio B guitar picks, Hall of Fame Record T-shirts, branded stickers and instruments.

Circa is “our trendy Hall of Fame store,” Dyer said. That’s the spot for name-dropped items and some high-fashion clothing and accessories. The NASH Collection hat line is huge.

Hatch Show Print is a store adjacent to the iconic letterpress shop that dates back to 1879. The CMHOF acquired it in 1992 and moved it in house in 2013, which expanded its capabilities. Prints and postcards are big at the store, but so are Hatch Show-branded souvenirs and apparel.


Zeke Jennings

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