For four decades, musicians in northern New Brunswick have turned to Bert's Music shop for everything from guitar repairs to strings.
The shop is a fixture in the community, with a keyboard-painted storefront on Roseberry Street in downtown Campbellton.
Owner Bert LePage is the familiar face and repair expert who keeps customers coming through the doors. He's preparing to retire but he can't find a buyer willing to take over the business.
"I was just a guitar player joining bands left and right and that's how it started," he said.
As the only full-service music store in the area, Bert's Music draws customers who drive up to two hours from other areas of New Brunswick and Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.
WATCH / Step inside Campbellton's iconic music shop
The shop is neatly packed full of almost everything a musician could need. It sells acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles, violins, mandolins, keyboards and drum sets. There's also a rack with dozens of sheet music books and a selection of sound systems.
The wall behind the counter is covered with hanging packets of guitar strings.
In the back of the building is a music school. It offers practice rooms and space for lessons.
And behind the store, there's a full workshop for repairing instruments.
An unexpected opportunity
Bert LePage never planned to open the biggest music store in northern New Brunswick.
He grew up in White's Brook, a small community near Kedgwick.
At 10-years-old, he picked up the guitar after being inspired by his sister. At 18, he joined his first band, touring the region.
LePage loved music, but he also studied electronics repair at the community college in Campbellton and did training at a local business. When the store, Ideal Service, went up for sale, he bought it with fellow employee Gerry Muholland.
Two years later, Campbellton's only store that offered things like guitar strings and drumsticks burned to the ground and never reopened. LePage saw an opportunity.
He had joined a local rock band and began searching for a new source of music supplies. He travelled to Montreal to buy keyboards and other equipment from a store.
"The guy would sell me whatever I needed so I could sell it back to the local musicians. So I started with drumsticks and guitar strings, the basic things that musicians need," he said.
"It just kept rolling and getting bigger from there."
Friendship with customers, employees
Bert's Music started out of the same building as the electronics store on Water Street.
Then when a large building went up for sale on nearby Roseberry Street, he took the opportunity to expand. He added drums, amplifiers and electronic equipment to the shelves in the new store.
He also bought equipment to do the sound for big summer events and festivals across the region, with a team of four audio technicians.
Bert's Music certainly stands out. The side of the building is painted with music notes and a treble clef, while the front is decorated with a flashing light-up guitar and a keyboard design.
Opening up the front door strums a guitar hanging above it, letting the staff know a customer has arrived.
LePage, now 69, said his client base grew quickly over the years by word-of-mouth.
"While you're doing the repair they might talk about their life. It's friendship that builds up over the years with those customers," he said.
Gerry Muholland, who has worked at the shop since the beginning, said he'll also miss the musicians coming into the store — and seeing Bert.
"When you're in a small town like Campbellton, like all the employees we've had over the years, we were more friends than coworkers," he said.
"It's been fun all along. It's fun to come to work."
'He has the answer'
Marco Landry remembers first entering Bert's Music as a customer when he was 15, being drawn to all the guitars on display at the storefront. Now 32, he teaches at the music school and helps out in the shop during the day.
"It was a store that was really easily accessible and you could try guitars and things they had there on display really easily," he said.
Landry said LePage brings a level of expertise to repairs that's rare these days, with bigger stores unwilling to take on damaged guitars.
"He knows exactly where things break and he knows how to fix them right. So being able to have a question and ask him 'How do you fix this?' and he has the answer — is quite amazing," he said.
The shop windows now have signs advertising the business is up for sale.
LePage said time is running out and he's preparing to sell off the inventory and the building if he can't find a successor interested in running it.
"I created a good crowd and a good group of people that keep coming back," he said.
"I'm glad it happened. I've enjoyed the last 40 years."