Mitch and Casey Moehring love downtown Kilgore as much as they love music. Now, both of those passions will find a new home in the heart of the city at 116 S Kilgore St. next to the Crim Theater.
Mitch Moehring Strings, a musical instrument store and repair shop with space for music lessons, is set to host its grand opening Friday, Aug. 30, from 4 to 7 p.m. Mitch and Casey are sharing the space with Kilgore Middle School orchestra teacher and East Texas Children’s Orchestra director Shannon Roberts to create a one-stop destination for music students and performers unlike anything else in East Texas.
“I’ve been doing it out of the house basically full-time,” Mitch said, referring to his instrument repair and set-up work.
A Former Kilgore ISD music instructor, he’s been working on instruments like violins and double basses for about a decade and took the practice up full-time about three years ago. Recently, he found Roberts had a similar vision for moving into a new space with her work as director and owner of ETCO and Roberts Violin Studio.
“She had been trying to do something like this for awhile. She’s been doing it at home too and then she has the orchestra based out of an extra annex building at a church. That’s where she would rehearse. She’s been trying to get it out of the house as well.”
"I needed a place to do my private lessons and my group lessons and I also have the East Texas Children’s Orchestra," Roberts said.
"Mainly, I started (the orcestra) because there was nothing for home-schooled students out there. There are a lot of other schools in the area that don’t have orchestras, it’s grown out of that."
Roberts added that, while she was grateful to St. Luke's Methodist Church for providing her with space for orchestral rehearsals, having space in the new shop would make things easier for her and her students. No more will she have to haul music stands and equipment between her house, the school and the rehearsal space.
"Downtown Kilgore is the perfect place. It’s kind of cool because, to brag about Kilgore a little bit, the orchestra program at Kilgore is one of the biggest in East Texas. We’re hoping to be able to serve the school orchestra there too."
The building is ideal for other reasons, as well.
"(The students) love it and the acoustics are great in the building, so much better than my living room. It’s convenient to most people. I’ve got kids that come over from Henderson, Sabine, Gladewater, Longview. Kilgore’s a great spot for that because we’re central to all these communities that don’t have something like that."
Roberts also enjoys being located across from the historic Texan Theater and near the Old Post Office, where she hopes to hold orchestra concerts in the future.
Mitch, Casey and Roberts attended an “Imagine the Possibilities” tour of historical buildings in downtown Kilgore May 18. The self-guided tour showcased buildings downtown where those interested could check out spaces for opening a business or finding a residence.
Community Relations Manager Sonya Waters followed up with the group after the tour and talked with the landlord of the property about their ideas.
“They were all for it. That’s something that’s exactly what (they) want in downtown Kilgore,” Mitch said.
The building hosted the Crim Theater’s 80th birthday celebration June 21 and, since that time, renovations have been taking place, from installing new floors to applying a fresh coat of paint.
“No one’s been in here for years,” Mitch said of the space, which formerly housed a cable office where residents could pay their cable bills.
“It took a lot to get it going.”
The front of the building will be primarily used by Roberts for offering lessons and ETCO rehearsals. There’s also a private rehearsal room in the space. The front will also serve as a display area for instruments being sold. On Thursday, a row of violins and violas were hung with care near the front of the space as a bass rested on a stand.
The rear of the store houses Mitch’s workshop where he repairs instruments and builds basses, a practice he took up a couple of years ago and for which he won an award this summer.
“It works out for both of us. We are here during the day and the shop will be open during the day. Shannon is a full-time orchestra teacher at the middle school so after she leaves, she can come here and she does lessons for a couple hours. It works out. It functions really well as a dual-purpose space,” Casey said.
Following the grand opening, the shop will be open Tuesday-Friday from 12-5 p.m. Since they got the go-ahead to open, Mitch has been seeing customers by appointment.
Casey will handle the front of the business, from instrument rentals and sales to appointments while Mitch will focus on instrument repair and construction.
The grand opening Aug. 30 is a “come and go” event and anyone is invited, not just musicians. Hors d’oeuvres will be served and the violin studio will provide music from students as Mitch leads tours of the workshop space.
For the couple, opening a shop in downtown Kilgore is part of what makes their new venture so exciting.
“We’ve been in love with downtown for 10 years. We’ve both always had a love for downtowns but Kilgore has a pretty special downtown,” Casey said. “There are so many people that want downtown to thrive as well and to be able to be even a little part of it is really special.”
Mitch said there has been “a lot of excitement” from people eager to see the store open. He recognized a niche this kind of shop could occupy.
“There’s a need in the community for violins and the repair work. There’s nowhere in East Texas where you can go and get things like this worked on. They need someone local that will work on the instruments at a high level.”
Orchestra rehearsals will begin the first Tuesday in September, along with rehearsals for group ensembles and large ensembles. Roberts has already started hosting private lessons in the space.
To learn more about Mitch Moehring Strings, visit www.MitchMoehring.com, www.Facebook.com/MitchMoehringStrings and Instagram.com/MitchMoehring. To learn more about East Texas Children’s Orchestra and Roberts Violin Studio, visit www.ChildrensOrchestraET.com.