Seven Decades of Music and Still Playing On

Ken Grayson (left) and his grandson Connor Sobczak stand amid the many types of guitars that Grayson’s Tune Town sells. Grayson’s has served the community for 70 years.
Photo by Mary O’KEEFE

Local music store celebrates decades of serving the community.


Grayson’s Tune Town in Montrose is celebrating 70 years of business – a distinct and Herculean accomplishment in this day of business uncertainty and pandemic recovery but the business’s survival over the decades can be traced to the family who started it.

Ken Grayson was 10 years old when he first started helping his parents at the shop. Grayson’s dad received a loan from his sisters to first open the doors back in 1953. At that time Grayson’s Tune Town was in the 2300 block of Honolulu Avenue across from where Bank of America is now. His dad worked multiple jobs in those early days and his mom came in to help when his dad was at his other job. Of course, Ken Grayson was there to help on weekends and after school.

They started the business as a record store but were savvy and recognized when things started changing in the music industry.

“We transitioned,” Grayson said. “We were a record store and carried phonographs. Then tapes came out, and we used to sell these little car stereos. We did that and we got into selling 8-track tapes and then cassettes. During this time we started [offering] music lessons in the store and then began carrying guitars [for sale].”

The industry then began to rapidly change and the record industry shifted to mass merchandising sales.

“They were selling at prices that were considerably lower than normal shops would be selling them,” he said.

Grayson’s used to have surveys of best sellers, working closely with Billboard Magazine and radio stations.

“And we could see the handwriting on the wall; the record industry wasn’t the right industry for us to be in. My dad was a musician and he wanted to see us get more into musical instruments, and I felt that way too. I pushed hard to get rid of records and tapes,” he said.

Grayson’s Tune Town moved more toward selling instruments, primarily guitars, and offering music lessons. The business moved from its first location to a storefront on the corner of Wickham Way and Honolulu Avenue and was there for about 25 years. Then they built the building at 2415 Honolulu Avenue where they have been since 1985.

“My parents had bought the property about 10 to 15 years [prior] to us building our own building,” he said.

Grayson’s Tune Town uses every inch of its building as storage and has numerous rooms for music lessons.

“We have 500 students taking music lessons,” Grayson said.

It has expanded the music lessons and now offers classes on Sundays. Some of the music instructors have been with Grayson’s for decades. It offers all types of instruction including piano, string instruments, drums, guitars and vocal lessons.

The store primarily sells guitars but offers all instruments and has a vibrant repair shop, as well as providing music lessons.

Grayson’s willingness to change is what has contributed to the business’s longevity.

“When the Internet came [to be] we had to start all over again,” Grayson said. “You just have to adjust.”

Moving ahead today is spearheaded by Grayson’s grandson Connor Sobczak, who has a degree in business/entrepreneurship. Like his grandfather, Sobczak started working at Grayson’s when he was a kid on weekends and after school. He has watched the business change and after graduating from Loyola Marymount wanted to come back to Grayson’s.

“I love that our business has stood for as long as it has,” he said. “I want to bring more music to more people and eventually want to expand.”

Sobczak said the first thing he did when he started working at Grayson’s after college was to move inventory off index cards.

“We did more with e-commerce [and online marketplaces] like Reverb,” he added. The marketplace is an online place for people to buy and sell music gear. Grayson’s has been successful in using this type of online avenue.

Sobczak would like to see Grayson’s music program grow as well as its repair shop.

“We are growing repairs,” he said. “We used to have one person and now we have a team.”

His goal is to expand to other areas outside of Montrose and to be an industry leader.

“The goal is to have multiple locations but we don’t want to be a corporate chain. We want to stay family focused, and become more recognizable throughout the U.S.,” he said.

In addition he would like to see the business participate in organizations that help advance music, like the NAMM Foundation (National Association of Music Merchants).

There is always an eye on what’s new and although there has been a lot of advancement in music technology there is nothing that can compare to actually listening to live music or participate in music by holding the instrument and playing with other musicians, he said.

At its core the Grayson family has always known the value of music in so many aspects of life, from education to mental health, but there has also been a strong sense of community.

Grayson, like his dad before him, served on the Montrose Shopping Park Association (MSPA), as well as Montrose Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce. Sobczak now serves on the board of the MSPA.

It is also customer service that plays an important role in the seven decades of business. Grayson said there is nothing better than having a customer who has moved out of the area come back and visit when they are in town.

When the pandemic shut down the store, Grayson’s immediately moved to online lessons.

“We retained about 80% to 85% of our [students],” Sobczak said.

That transition to a virtual presence allowed students who moved from the area to remain with their Grayson teachers.

When asked what he has learned from his grandfather, Sobczak answered, “A lot.”

“How you do the small things is how you do the big things, treat your employees like family, community involvement [is important] and my grandfather wears his heart on his sleeve, which has rubbed off on me … he is open about who he is,” Sobczak said.

He added his grandfather is very organized and active in the business, even at the age of 80.

A few things that some may not know about Grayson is that he fought for decades for the city to purchase the property at 2462 Honolulu Ave., and he also fought for Trader Joe’s grocery store to move into its current location. He did this to bring more business to the 2300 and 2400 blocks of Honolulu Avenue, which it has.

Also his last name is not Grayson. His father’s name was Foscolo Micheli but, according to Grayson, that was a name that was difficult for many to pronounce.

“He found the name Grayson in the music union book,” Grayson said.

He not only found a new last name but his first name as well; his father became known as Val Grayson, and Grayson’s Tune Town was born.

The entire family has and continues to play a role in the success of the business, and Grayson said he is grateful that his grandson has chosen to continue in his footsteps.

Grayson’s Tune Town is located at 2415 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose. It can be found online at