History of Pepper®
The Early Years:
Pepper®'s exciting history details the company's growth from a small print shop into the world's largest retailer of sheet music. William C. and Rachel Pepper® founded their print shop in south Philadelphia in 1845. While working in his parents' shop, James (J.W.) Pepper® began teaching instrumental music lessons. The company's success in the early years is largely attributed to James Pepper®'s musical knowledge coupled with extraordinary business sense and fine advertising skills. He was shrewd enough to realize retailing music goods along with manufacturing, engraving, printing, and publishing gave him a distinct advantage over his competitors.
In 1876, James (J.W.) published a variety of journals, the most noteworthy being the "Musical Times" and "Brass and Reed Band Journal." Both journals featured quickstep marches and instrumental instructional materials. Business expanded to include the sale of musical instruments when Pepper®'s first retail store opened for business at 832 Filbert Street in Philadelphia in 1877.
Encouraged by the company's success, a New York retail outlet was established in 1880. This location facilitated an affiliation with world renowned instrument maker, John Distin. With Distin's help, Pepper® moved aggressively into the instrument manufacturing and importing business. Another location followed in Chicago in 1886. The 1880s saw numerous patents secured for Pepper® instruments and their various components. One of particular note is an improved bass drum pedal, which is the precursor of the system still prevalent in today's drum set design. Many of these instruments are on display in the National Headquarters in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
The company published and developed relationships with many leading composers through the turn of the century, including John Phillip Sousa, Charles Ives, Arthur Pryor, Max Drefus, T.B. Boyer, F. Von Blon, Harry Von Tilzer, W.P. Chambers, H.W. Petrie, and Pepper®'s most prolific arranger/composer, Mackie-Beyer. The Conservatory Collection is one of Mackie-Beyer's books.
In addition to publishing achievements, Pepper® also made history in instrument manufacturing in 1893, when according to John Phillip Sousa, Pepper® manufactured the first sousaphone. In Sousa's words, "the Sousaphone received its name through the suggestion made by me to J.W. Pepper®, the instrument manufacturer in Philadelphia. ... I spoke to Mr. Pepper® relative to constructing a bass instrument in which the bell would turn upwards and be adjustable for concert purposes. He built one and, grateful to me for the suggestion, called it a Sousaphone. It was immediately taken up by other instrument makers..."
The seven story structure located at 8th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia became the company's new home in 1890, and would remain so for the next 20 years. In 1894 Pepper® became a major supplier to the United States government by outfitting 17 U.S. Navy ships with complete sets of band instruments. This $46,000 contract was a record breaker at the time.
By 1902, Pepper®'s publishing efforts expanded to include music for band, orchestra, piano, banjo, and mandolin, as well as collections for all brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. In addition, Pepper® published the monthly "Piano Music Magazine," featuring new publications by leading contemporary composers. Customers purchased the magazine at newsstands.
A new location at 33rd and Walnut Streets became Pepper®'s home in 1909, at which time the company discontinued its instrument manufacturing operations and the sale of imported instruments. During World War I when all import avenues were shut off, the company continued to supply instruments since James Pepper® had placed large orders prior to war time restrictions on importing.
James Pepper® died in 1919, at which time the presidency was turned over to his son, Howard E. Pepper®. Under Howard's direction, the company continued to publish new titles through 1924, after which time, publishing efforts focused on reissuing older titles. Howard Pepper® died in 1930 at the age of 48, and was succeeded by his wife, Emma. Despite Emma's efforts, the company declined until bankruptcy was declared in 1941. After extensive negotiations, a group of businessmen, headed by Harold W. Burtch, purchased the company, which now consisted solely of the Philadelphia location. The company was then turned over to Mr. Burtch and a group of stockholders.
While it was Harold Burtch's intention to renew Pepper®'s publishing efforts, he also began selling music of other publishers as a retailer. By 1943, the company was being run entirely by the Burtch family. Under this direction, publishing of new materials was minimized and the sale of music by all publishers to schools, colleges, and churches became the main focus. By concentrating on mail order advertising, by 1953 the Pepper® catalogs had become the primary print music source for educators.
By the early 1960's, Dean Burtch, Harold's son, assumed leadership of the company.
By this time the company had moved to 231 North Third Street. Greater sales potential
in southern states was realized by opening an office in Atlanta,
Georgia, in July 1966. Sales grew dramatically due to this expansion, so based
on the same premise, Pepper® opened its third location in Detroit
(Troy), Michigan in 1968 to better serve mid-western customers. Further southern
expansion occurred in 1970 when Pepper® purchased an existing music business in
Pepper® reactivated its publishing efforts in 1971, with the creation of Charter
Publications, however, retailing remained the focus of the business. In 1973,
the National Headquarters left Philadelphia for the first time and was relocated
in the Valley Forge Corporate Center near King of Prussia. Ten years passed
before the next branch location was added, when in 1983, Los
Angeles became the fifth strategically located distribution center. The
following year, Pepper® moved the National Headquarters to its present location
in the two-story modern complex in Paoli,
Pennsylvania. In that same year, Pepper® agreed to carry out the retail, wholesale,
and rental tasks of European American Music, as well as house European American
stock in the Paoli location.
In 1986, Pepper® closed the Florida branch and absorbed its accounts into the
Atlanta branch. The next several years saw tremendous expansion in Pepper® distribution
centers, with the opening of the Dallas
(Grand Prairie), Texas location in 1986, and Minneapolis
(Eden Prairie), Minnesota in 1988.
In June of 1990, Pepper® at Paige's
became the first satellite sales office in Pepper®'s history. This unique business
relationship allows Paige's Music of Indianapolis to concentrate on selling
music instruments while Pepper® at Paige's focuses on the sheet music end of
the business. Two additional satellite locations followed with Pepper® at Duncan
opening in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1991, and with Pepper® at Summerhays
in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1993. The music stores' commitment to provide top
quality music instruments coupled with Pepper®'s ability to ship music quickly
and accurately, gives their customers the best service in the music industry.
Further expansion occurred in July 1994 with the opening of Pepper®'s seventh
branch, Pepper® at Ted Brown,
located at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma, Washington. Pepper®
of Chicago was opened in July of 1997, in Chicago, Illinois, located on
the same site with Lyons Music. Pepper®
at Eckroth, opened in July of 1998 in Bismarck, North Dakota, and is located
within the Eckroth Music store. Pepper®'s
partnership with these nationally recognized and respected companies has proven
to be a rousing success for all parties involved, especially the customers!
In July of 2001, Pepper® opened a new branch in the San Francisco Bay area of California. Pepper® of San Francisco, in Fremont, serves the music needs of Northern California, as well as providing yet another warehousing and shipping location for Pepper® customers nationwide.
In the spring of 2004, Pepper® acquired Malecki Music and Wingert-Jones Music, adding two additional locations in Kansas City and Grand Rapids. Fourteen locations now stand ready to serve customers coast to coast. New members of the Pepper® family of employees have raised the level of musical expertise and customer service even higher.
In its commitment to customer service, Pepper® has come full circle. In the 1870's, James Pepper® declared "satisfaction guaranteed or money refunded" in his "Musical Times," and in 1992, the company once again surpassed its competitors with their "Total Satisfaction Guarantee." Customers, both then and now, buy with confidence that their music purchase is guaranteed to fit their needs. Pepper® fine tunes order taking, order filling, publisher backorders, shipping, and billing procedures to assure the quickest possible service. In 1995, Pepper® introduced the ability to order music over the Internet using the Pepper® Music Network, allowing customers to browse and order 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 1997, Pepper® provided for the changing needs of its customers with its comprehensive music technology catalog.
To be accessible to customers throughout the country, some employees in the National Headquarters began working from home offices in 1991. By linking personal computers and remote phone extensions with in-office systems, employees are able to answer customer calls 12 1/2 hours a day, all from the call center in Pennsylvania.
In 1986, the company was running on an IBM System 38 computer system, whose capabilities appeared endless at the time. Employing this system allowed the implementation of a new program called Pepper® Cares (Computer Assisted Research). This program was one of the most innovative advances Pepper® has made in the music industry.
In 1989, Pepper® developed the Pepper® National Music Network (PNMN), the first computer network designed for use by music directors. The Pepper® Cares program was the basis for the text-based PNMN. PNMN enables music directors across the country to log on to Pepper®'s computer system to place orders, check inventory, check on the shipping status of their orders, search for specific music, find music that meets their criteria, upload and download files to public libraries and private users, and communicate with other directors and industry specialists. PNMN was tested in 1989 by a select group of directors across the country. Successful testing opened PNMN to Pepper® customers in 1990, where it has grown to over 16,000 registered users to date. Continued growth in this area is certain as increasing numbers of directors use their personal computers to meet their music needs.
In 1991, IBM and Rolm presented Pepper® with the most advanced phone technology available. This new application called Call Path/Call Bridge created a partner in the AS/400 and the Rolm phone system to track customer accounts through their phone number, allowing account information to appear on the order-taker's screen before the call is answered. This amazing technology allowed customer calls to be handled efficiently as demonstrated on January 6, 1997, when the tele-service staff answered over 3,000 customer calls in one day. At the same time, a Rolm Phone Mail system was also installed, allowing employees to respond to customer and industry calls received at any time of day.
Pepper® upgraded its phone technology again in 2000, with the introduction of a Siemens phone system utilizing voice-over-IP technology. In addition to the enhanced communication between the headquarters in Pennsylvania and branch locations, the new system allows at-home employees to replicate an in-house digital extension. The Siemens system also allows for future expansion into video-conferencing, integrating email into the call center, and centrally connecting the branch phone systems.
In 1995, Pepper® once again rocked the music industry with the introduction of the Pepper® Music Network on the Internet, made possible by the addition of an IBM RS/600 computer. Like PNMN, customers can browse and order music on line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. PMN offers several ways to browse and order: the Online Catalog, which is broken down into sections much like the traditional printed Pepper® Catalog; Special Sections, such as Editor's Choice, New Titles, and Bestsellers; Feature Sections, which introduce seasonal or thematic titles; comprehensive State and Festival listings; and a powerful Search engine for finding specific titles.
A major advantage to using the internet site is the ability to listen to digital sound clips and view pieces of music prior to purchasing, using the free plug-in programs Real Player and Adobe Acrobat Reader. PMN offers the ability to check on order and account status, giving customers access to information previously available only by phone. The online Music Clubs keep members apprised of new titles and events that are specific to their area(s) of interest using opt-in e-mailings. The Pepper® Music Network also contains links to numerous music related web sites on the Internet.
The high level of customer service Pepper® maintains would not be possible without the dedication and talent of its employees. An innovative internal program in the company, resource allocation, allows the best use of Pepper®'s human resources by concentrating the work force where they're most needed. Put into place in August 1988, resource allocation is the brain child of former company president Ron Rowe, and a committee of employees from various departments. Resource allocation is overseen by a group called CEO (Company Enrichment Organization).
CEO members serve on a rotation basis, and are responsible for prioritizing needs within the company, as well as ensuring employees are trained and scheduled to complete the work. Since the needs of a music retailer are somewhat seasonal in nature, such as in order taking and order filling in the fall and early winter months when order counts are highest, the greatest aspect of CEO and resource allocation is the inherent flexibility of the system. With rotating membership, there is ample opportunity for input from all departments, and from all employees.
1997 marked another milestone in Pepper®'s history in the development of the Annual Pepper® Employee's Children Scholarship Fund. As of 2001, Pepper® has awarded 12 Scholarships to children of employees. Pepper®'s commitment to both its employees and its customers will ensure Pepper®'s place as a leader in the music industry into the next century.