Elderly Instruments named America’s Top Small Business for 2023

Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI, a long time supporter of bluegrass and acoustic music, was named America’s Top Small Business at the US Chamber of Commerce’s first ever Small Business Summit in Washington, DC on October 19.

A full service music retailer providing new, used, and vintage instruments for all types of music, plus a full range of accessories and instructional materials, was selected from among seven regional finalists for this award. The Chamber received more than 15,000 submissions for consideration when they announced this prize, and all seven finalists made the trip to DC to attend the Summit and the award presentation.

Though a large portion of their business is transacted online these days, Elderly has retained a presence in the Lansing community, and is considered as one of the local landmarks in the revitalization of the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

The company was founded in 1972 by Stan Werbin and Sharon McInturff to bring the instruments people needed to play music into the place where they lived. Long before online marketing was part of regular life, residents of Lansing and nearby cities could come in to see, touch, and play instruments in person before making a purchase. Their reputation spread quickly for honest dealing with customers and a large inventory of guitars, mandolins, banjos, basses, violins, and other folk instruments, and brought people in from other states. Before long they had substantial mail order business going.

The move to the internet was a natural, and Elderly was at the forefront of online retailing from the start.

Now run by Stan’s daughter Lillian, who is a co-owner, Elderly continues to be a leader in retail music, and now has the award to prove it.

Werbin says that while he and Lillian accepted the award in DC, it really goes to their hard working staff, and all the folks who trust them with their music needs.

“Lillian and I are honored and thrilled to have received this prestigious award. It would not have been possible without the support of all our friends in the bluegrass world, as well as those folks in the nearby communities of roots music. Thank you all from us, and the entire staff of Elderly Instruments!”

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor was effusive in his praise for his hometown neighbors.

“The rest of the country is finding out what we already know – Elderly Instruments is one of the best. I am thrilled that this Lansing small business is being recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After 51 years in Lansing, Elderly Instruments continues to be a leader in our community and an excellent example of a small business making a big difference in the City of Lansing.”

As was the local Chamber President Tim Daman.

“The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce is immensely proud to see Elderly Instruments take home this honor at U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Summit. Elderly Instruments embodies the spirit of our vibrant and diverse community. Their dedication to making music accessible to everyone and their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the music industry is truly remarkable.”

The six other finalists in the running for 2023 included:

  • Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals LLC—Anchorage, AK (Northwest region finalist)
  • Calgo Gardens—Freehold, NJ (Eastern region finalist)
  • P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You—San Francisco, CA (Western region finalist)
  • River Rock Outfitter—Fredericksburg, VA (Southeastern region finalist)
  • Shakopee Brewhall – Taproom & Coffee House—Shakopee, MN (Midwest region finalist)
  • Waggin’ Tails Pet Ranch—Fulshear, TX (Southwest/South Central region finalist)

Many congratulation to the Werbins, and everyone at Elderly Instruments for this award, which was accompanied by a check for $25,000 from the US Chamber of Commerce.

Visit Elderly online to see all the products they offer for sale.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.