CUMBERLAND — Rick Verfaille has a new home for his Rick’s Music business at 2352 Mendon Road and is settling in after a busy winter moving there. Rick’s offers quality performance instruments, rent to own instrument purchases, repair services, and lessons by professional music instructors.
Verfaille started the business 29 years ago while doing repair work on wind instruments after college out of his parents Ovila and Doris Verfaille’s Woonsocket home and has seen it become ever more popular with the music crowd in the years since.
“It just kept growing and growing,” Verfaille said while recalling how the business outgrew several different business spaces while located at its former home in the commercial building at 10 Nate Whipple Highway for 18 years.
Verfaille, a 1975 graduate of Woonsocket High School, became interested in music instrument repair and sales after attending the Boston Conservatory of Music and earning a degree in music education.
He taught music for two years but then decided to pursue training in instrument repair and attended Western Iowa Technical Community College to learn the trade of wind instrument refurbishment.
Verfaille can disassemble any type of wind instrument you can name, from clarinets and flutes, the easier tasks, to French horns and bassoons, the more complicated, and put it back together ready to play at its optimum performance level.
It’s a talent that keeps Verfaille and his second fiddle in the repair area, Steve Trinque, always busy.
“We take a flute or trumpet completely apart, strip it down, change all the corks and pads, and make it play like new,” he said.
It is a process that should be reserved for quality instruments and Verfaille said he always advises a customer whether is it worth taking on a restoration of that old instrument from the attic. Sometimes Verfaille said a redo can reveal a hidden treasurer and sometimes not.
The repair shop is now downstairs in the new Rick’s Music, a business location converted from the former Northern Rhode Island Collaborative space at 2352 Mendon Road. The upper level of the business houses Rick’s retail operation and six classrooms for music instruction.
A major portion of Rick’s business is with school music programs around the state and he supplies both direct sale instruments and also a popular rent to own arrangement that allows a music student to try out an instrument for a period of months before deciding to buy it.
Verfaille said he sells instruments to students in more than 50 schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
A rental can cost a student as little as $17 a month to start out with an instrument and they can also choose to buy the instrument early with the help of a 40 percent discount on their balance.
Rick’s also offers top of the line instruments for music performers and college students.
Student trumpets can start out at around $800, and more expensively finished professional level instruments at more than $2,000.
That could be an expensive investment for families in school districts where cutting costs anywhere possible is the talk of the day, but Verfaille believes the benefits of music instruction for young people will keep school music programs running despite the continuing search for budget savings.
“Music is doing fine,” he said. The Pawtucket school department had cut back music programs at the middle school level several years ago and is now looking to bring them back given the proven benefits to students, he said.
“It is important for kids to learn music,” he said. The process of learning to play music helps develop the brain’s ability to handle other learning tasks and that can help a student’s overall success in areas such as math and reading.
Verfaille said there are also benefits to a child’s social development in school that come with belonging to a band or chorus.
“In any other class you might have 30 students but in band you have 50 or 60 people that have to be part of something and play together,” he said.
That many times can be a key reason students want to go to school on any given day and helps them stay focused on their school work, according to Verfaille. “The kids that study music are very good kids,” he said.
Verfaille said he knows of one music student in Cumberland who likes music so much she learned to play a variety of different instruments. That student would be lost if they didn’t have band at her school, he said.
From the people that come into his business, Verfaille said he can tell music is doing alright. “I now have the second generation coming in. My original customers are coming in with their kids,” he said. “Music just continues and it will never go away,” he said.
It was that belief that helped Verfaille decide to move into a larger business space.
When he told friends at a trade show he was moving, they asked why he would undertake such a step in the current economy.
But to someone who hardly notices a ten-hour day at work, the move was an obvious step forward. He now has more space for retail sales and better classrooms for his music instructors. Verfaille has five store employees and another 10 part-time instructors. Verfaille and Trinque have also got their work benches set up and have plenty of repairs ahead of them.
“We are swamped with repairs, when September comes we will be swamped with rentals, and we are now on a main road so we can do more retail sales,” he said. That’s a long way from a workshop in his parents’ home, Verfaille will admit.
Rick’s Music is open from 12 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 12 to 6 p.m. on Friday. Rick’s is open from 10 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and is closed Sundays.