Austin has long been considered a Mecca of Music—SXSW, Austin City Limits broadcasts and ACL Fest, recording centers like Aryl Studios and numerous live venues. Perhaps only Nashville is more synonymous with music.
Opportunities to bring these experiences to the home have been more limited, especially at the high end of performance and refinement. Austin has several new/used vinyl record stores (Waterloo Records, Sound Gallery) that sell entry-level turntables and amplifiers, new and used. Whetstone Audio has been on East 6th Street for years. Owned and operated by a local musician, the shop carries a quirkly line of boutique equipment tailored to the hipster market. The Westlake, Bee Caves, Northeast Hills, Austonian customers have typically been told by their home theater contractors that music is a convenience delivered invisibly from the ceiling and fake rocks around the pool. That is background music.
Sound Sanctuary Austin will deliver Music in the Foreground. Sound so engaging, it can’t be ignored. Our customer will be encouraged to Just Listen while comfortably seated in demo rooms surrounded by art; and equipment that could almost be considered sculpture. Sound Sanctuary Austin will be a gallery, lounge, urbane man cave experience that we offer to recreate in our customers’ homes.
Our location should be chic and safe, but is not dependent on the customer coming from the neighborhood. In fact, we will be a destination beyond the Austin, or even Texan market. Much of the equipment lines we feature have a very limited number of dealers. We will draw from Houston, Santa Fe, Baton Rouge, and even international clientele.
I, Glenn Mierendorf, am new to this business. Music has been a central joy to my life—a youth of trumpet in band and orchestra, getting kicked out of Eulogy because my bass guitar amp sucked, but indulging myself as an adult rocking with the Most Dangerous Band on Wall Street. I had my home theater phase, but when I returned to turntables and vinyl, I was shocked by how much musical information could come from a 40-year old piece of black plastic. My guide through several generations of systems has been John Iconomou of Audio Salon in Coral Gables, Florida. Every visit to my Miami Beach home, I make time for a listening and learning session at Audio Salon. John has been in the business nearly twenty years, and has operated out of the business center of the Biltmore Hotel for the last eleven years. His website, www.audiosalon.net, gives some color to the type of equipment and customers he has brought together. Audio Salon had revenues of $2.2 million last year. John is highly respected by the preeminent players in the industry, and serves as a great friend and mentor to Sound Sanctuary Austin. I continue to learn the business from him. Our websites will link and we plan on combining our trade-in inventory. Mr. Iconomou has made the introductions. The best manufacturers want to be in Austin with us.
Born in Milwaukee, my life has gone from Sioux City, Iowa, to high school and college in Ohio. My grandparents lived in Houston, Galveston and Waco, and I actually summered in Waco a few years. As an adult, I settled in New York City and its suburbs. An MBA from NYU paved my way to Wall Street, first as an analyst covering the stocks of the chemical industry and later as a portfolio manager at SAC Capital; where I survived and thrived for ten years. For the past ten years, I have transitioned from hedge fund trading towards longer-term private equity, real estate and restaurant investments. For example, I was a seed investor in Ring, the doorbell camera system recently sold to Amazon. In Miami, Monty’s Sunset has worked, but a branch of Serendipity 3 on Lincoln Road failed.
None of these activities have been the labor of love that Sound Sanctuary Austin will be be. Thirteen years ago, my parents retired to Georgetown, Texas, and my recently widowed mother now lives there in a retirement apartment. My daughter is a sophmore at University of Texas, and has become a Texan. Occasional trips became monthly visits as my daughter became a Longhorn; and for the last year I have been a permanent resident at The Bowie. I have well over a million dollars of cash cordoned off to create, build and sustain Sound Sanctuary Austin.
We are targeting $700,000 of revenue in year one. Gross margins are 40% in the business. Initially, I will be the sole full-time employee with additional programming and installation labor outsourced as needed. Most of our customers will find Sound Sanctuary Austin from dealer lists on the manufacturers’ websites. We will spend moderately on Google Adwords, but will make greater use of social media featuring my presence at a wide range of music events. An existing customer of Audio Salon is on the board of KFMA, the local classical station. Sound Sanctuary Austin will naturally become a sponsor and an active part of this community. By year three, Sound Sanctuary Austin should reach $2 million in revenues.