Music Works: A Mom and Pop East Bay Charmer is worth a visit

On my time-honored walk from the El Cerrito Del Norte Bart station to a Mosier Avenue Internet Cafe, I was stopped in my tracks by a quaint music shop with a decorative facade. A red wooden treble clef, like the swirl of a barber shop icon, wooed me across the street for a closer look.

Rewarded by reams of ukeleles hanging off the rafters, but respectably organized into neat and appealing rows, I was seduced to snap as many digital frames as I could to embed in an incubating blog.

Enter a hospitable store host named Carlo Lacsina and my curiosity was satisfied.

How did this establishment thrive with so many ukeleles, properly pronounced OO-ka-le-luhs? (in Hawaii)

I felt like a complete foreigner saying YOU KA LAY LEE and my ignorance reflected in a red flush of embarrassment.

Once corrected, however, I would not retread the same mistake.

Bottom line, the store was a financial success amidst a competitive climate of instrument establishments. Corporate heavyweight, Guitar Center lurked only a half-mile or so away while small specialty instrument shops had gone under–too many to count, especially over here in Fresno. But Music Works, swarming with Yukes or OOKS, not to mention GUITARS survived the recession. (Corporate-cushioned GC, no matter where located, would not harbor annihilation anxiety) Ifshin’s, the violin specialty equivalent to Music Works would be spared, staying put at Fairmont by the Plaza.

But for the record books at least, owners, Joanne and Duane “Pudgy” Wong defied the economic odds. They boasted 30 years in the area–25 at the most recent location on busy San Pablo, in the heart of El Cerrito, California’s business, industry, and government.

If you walked a few blocks down, you’d pass City Hall, the DMV and Police Headquarters.

Enough said.

A Picture is worth a Thousand Words so…

panning around Music Works with a Sony Cybershot digital, I captured its eye-catching ambiance.

With a glut of ukeleles of every shape, size and color blowing the psychedelic imagination, the store proprietors had even preserved an area devoted to piano instructional materials and sheet music. (Hooray for the tie-in!)

Add in a petite room that housed a Kawai console for piano lessons, and the triad of ukeleles, piano books and lessons was COMPLETE.

To be sure, a specialty shop with a 3 in 1 enticement, would be a permanent fixture at 11225 San Pablo Avenue–cross streets, Portrero and Cypress.

So take a look, and be reminded that music teachers get a 10% discount on purchases!

P.S. I heard through the grapevine that percussion lessons are also offered. To confirm, I spotted some drum sets mounted high up. With instrument rentals tossed into the mix, a music lover has it made!


A fine ukelele player: