Grand Rapids – 940 West Fulton St. – Closed 1995 John Kik Proprietor/Musician (RIP)
The store owned by John Kik and was appropriately called Kik’s Music Center. It was located on the northwest side and had a small studio in the back room. John was a chain smoking hipster who immediately reminded me of Burl Ives, goatee and all. The store would often host groups of local musicians, just hanging around, smoking cigarettes and telling tales. I would listen in from behind a guitar amp to stories about nightclubs called the Rathskeller, the Grotto, The Elbow Room and the Shamrock. I heard them talk about cats that were bad, and layin’ it down while playin’ in the pocket. This was fascinating conversation to a 14 year old kid from Grandville.
The keyboard selection was sparse and usually consisted of a used Fender Rhodes electric piano or a Hammond spinet organ with a wooden tone cabinet. John was a gigging Cordovox and accordion musician, so it was not unusual to see some of these around the store, too. Greg Poltrock, keyboard player.
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Fond memories of John and Claire Kik by Russ Jansma:
Everybody loved John Kik.
It has been said more than once, “John could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.”
The first time I went to his store was when I was in the 8th grade. There was musical equipment stacked everywhere. I would go there every day after school and on Saturdays. I spent more time there than I did at home. Kik’s music store was like a second home for me.
I never missed a day. If you needed to find me, that is where I could be found.
Many times you could find me there when I was supposed to be in school.
By the time I was in the 10th grade I made a deal with John to buy my first Gibson Les Paul guitar and an amp for 100.00 down and 20.00 a week.
Keep in mind that I was only in the10th grade and this was a ‘hand shake’ deal. There was no paper work for this transaction. He gave me the same terms when I bought my first Paul Reed Smith guitar in 1985.
Even when I worked full time I always stopped in to see John after work.
You never knew who would call his store! I talked to Bob Segar one time. He was looking for a special guitar.
John had two phones lines for his store. If you heard a page over his public address system saying, “call on line three,” (but there actually was no third phone line) that was a warning that there was a shop lifter in the store and the front and back doors were to be watched closely.This didn’t happen a lot but it did stop the thieves.
Some of the things that went on there remind me of the TV show called W.K.R.P. in Cincinnatti. There was always something interesting going on.
John had all the prints and plans for Pro Co speaker cabinets and built them in the basement of his house, located next door. Originally, Pro Co was building some nice speaker cabinets, but they eventually stopped production and John received permission to start building them.
Tom Weber worked at building these cabinets before the store opened and after the store closed for the day.
These speaker cabinets sounded great. I bought four single 12” speaker cabinets.
When I got married John gave me a P.A system to use for the band that was playing at the wedding . John asked me what I needed and told me to tell the guys at the store that there was no charge for anything. On top of that, I was surprised to receive 50.00 in the mail as a wedding gift from John and Claire.
Many times I heard John say, that “if you take care of your people then the business will take care of itself.”
I will never forget when I got the news that John had passed away. I was at the store just the day before that, checking on some parts to build another guitar. That was the last thing John had put in his notes on the day he died: “check on parts for Russ.” I still have that note. His wife gave to me.
After John died, I remember going to his store and driving around the block a few times. I had a sick feeling, and it was like my heart was ripped out of me. I just could not accept that I would never see or talk to my friend again. All day long there were people stopping in from all around Michigan, just to talk and share stories about John.
I also remember playing my guitar for hours while thinking of John. That day I put a Kik n’ Ass. Sticker (an advertising sticker for John’s business) on the face of my Fender
Stratocaster– I still have that guitar and the sticker is still on it!
During the year after John died it was just like there was no drive or motivation left.
Things changed once John was gone– it was just another job to the guy’s working there. The fun was gone. They didn’t even have the ambition to run the floor sweeper or keep the place cleaned up. John would never let it look like a mess. It was no one’s fault—we were all depressed and missed John a lot. We were lost without him.
The guy’s that had been working there for years did what they could to keep the business going.
I stay in touch with some of these guys and we get together when we can.
Most have gone onto other jobs and when we talk it always reverts back to the old John Kik days. There was only one John Kik. And I’m sure John is in heaven making a great deal for someone.