Allison and John Fowler, known affectionately as Mamma Alli and Pops John, started an online music store (smallboxmusic.com) in 2015. Now they’ve opened their first brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Maumee with characteristic custom-made, vintage, and unique imported stringed instruments.
After having lived in Florida for years, the Fowlers decided to return home, bringing their business and their family closer together. “Our baby was two months old, and we just decided that it was time to put down roots at home,” explains Allison.
Small store, big ideas
During a visit to Northwest Ohio, they saw the space that would become home to Small Box Music, the location of the former In Bloom flower shop. The historic downtown Maumee location and beautiful hardwood floors made it the perfect space. “We saw so much potential in this building,” said John. The atmosphere of Small Box Music is like an art gallery where you can also jam out with a beautiful collection of guitars.
Small Box carries mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, and harmonicas along with boutique amplifiers and effects pedals. Even those who can’t play a single chord will appreciate the artistry found throughout the store.
The owners are incredibly proud of their offerings. “We carry all sorts of brands that you generally can’t find locally,” Allison said, like Friedman amps from Detroit. John explains. “these (amps) are still produced by two people—Mr. Friedman and an assistant; they hardwire every single thing.”
Small Box Music got its name from being the antithesis of large corporate, big box music stores. You can find vintage instruments curated by John, and high quality American-made brands like Taylor and Breedlove. All of the brands they carry share Small Box Music’s passion for craftsmanship and sustainability. “There’s kind of a black hole for boutique items (that stretches) from Chicago to the greater New York area,” Allison said. “We really hope to fill that void for musicians around here.”
Helping Toledo musicians thrive
John and Allison are intimately familiar with the Toledo music scene, as John was a gigging musician, playing in several local bands. Allison is a vocalist and John, proficient in all the stringed instruments, is a certified luthier (one who builds and repairs guitars) who can help customers perfect their sound. His expertise and their shared experience in Toledo’s music scene makes Small Box an ideal shop for both new and experienced players.
“We really understand the working musician’s lifestyle, as well as the person trying to break into it,” said Allison. “Having grown up here as aspiring musicians and finding ourselves in the unique position of owning a music gallery, we are really hoping to support people trying to get into (the music scene) because it can be intimidating to navigate.”
Ultimately, Small Box Music aims to be a place for musicians, of all experience levels, to find the perfect equipment to create their unique sound, as well as a venue and support system for local musicians. “It’s all about relationships,” Allison said, “finding out what people are all about and how we can help them.”
11am-8pm | Tuesday-Sunday
203 Conant St, Maumee
419-740-3434 | smallboxmusic.com