From theory to business

Indy String Theory owners Mike Opp and Brent Schindler settle into their Fountain Square location

Indy String Theory owners Brent Schindler and Mike Opp are pictured with an Eastman E200M and hammer dulcimer, White River Dulcimer, respectively. *Photo by Nicole Davis

When Mike Opp proposed the idea of purchasing a hammer dulcimer company to Brent Schindler, the idea was intriguing.

The hammer dulcimer, a percussion-stringed instrument, was something Schindler didn’t know a lot about at first. As he learned of the range of music played on it, from “fiddle tunes to church music,” and the communal experience that can take place when players come together, it was an opportunity the two couldn’t pass up. The two friends combined their talents to form Indy String Theory, building hammer dulcimers, along with selling and repairing other stringed instruments.

“There are so many people out there trying to make guitars and that’s cool, they do awesome work, but this is something different,” Opp said. “Also there is an aging population upon the makers of the hammer dulcimers, so we’ve given ourselves a head start there.”

Schindler is from Martinsville, having moved to Indianapolis in 2005. He spent two years at school in Minnesota, where he met Opp. Opp is from Jamestown, N.D., studying audio recording and later instrument repair in college. They went their separate ways, but a year after they graduated, Opp called Schindler with that business opportunity.

They opened Indy String Theory in the Southport area in May, 2016. That business quickly transformed to include a repair and retail side as well building hammer dulcimers.

“Southport was cool for a little while,” Schindler said. “It was nice to have a place to work, a place that handled the wood shop stuff fairly well. The building we were in was in disrepair. The retail side was doing better and we needed more space.”

Just as they were searching for a new location, the spot at 1354 Shelby St., Ste A, Indianapolis, became available. Indy String Theory reopened at that 4,000 square-foot Fountain Square location in April 2017.

“It’s improved, as far as foot traffic. Being around other businesses and venues has helped out,” Schindler said. “We’re in a more centralized area as well, which helps to draw from around the city.”

Opp and Schindler, both Perry Township residents, are still building instruments, as has been the goal since the beginning. It’s the repair and sales side of the business that has grown the most – guitars, violins, hammar dulcimers, anything with strings.

“We try to do as much single-man operation stuff as we can,” Schindler said. “There isn’t anybody that I know of in the city that’s really trying to push that stuff. It’s usually the name brand. We have some name brands, too, but we’re trying to set ourselves apart that way by carrying some things that other people don’t, like the Nechville Banjos, a brand we’ve been carrying since the beginning that’s made in Minnesota.”

Settling into the neighborhood, Opp and Schindler said they are trying to become a part of the Fountain Square area as much as possible. They are members of the Fountain Square Merchants Association, as well as the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). They are looking to not only continue to grow the company, but to continue adding more instruments that they can build to their repertoire.

Indy String Theory is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m. For more information, visit indystringtheory.com.

Getting to know Brent and Mike…

– “I play Hurdy-gurdy, a european folk instrument. I play and teach that at the only Hurdy-gurdy workshop in the states which is here in Indiana.” – Mike

– “My hobbies these days are based around (the business). I’ve been learning how to use photoshop. I’ve been playing a lot of guitar… I used to play in my own band, for a very long time: Gwen Stacy. We actually toured and earned a name from it.” – Brent

Best advice: Don’t fall in love with your inventory. Try to have a good balance of stuff that is appealing to us but also have a broad spectrum of things. Some of the best advice I’ve received is home runs don’t win games. It’s the small sales that you make everyday that run your business as far as success goes.

Worst advice: People might expect you to do things a certain way but you have to try and do things your own way. I don’t feel there’s any terrible advice that’s been given. Everyone pretty much wants everyone to succeed.

Best business decision: Moving out of Southport. For so many reasons, in that building we were at a disadvantage. It’s such a big improvement.

Secret to success: Trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Take each day as they come. Then, broadening our services and diversification is a big help for revenue stream. I want to drive more business to folk instrument stuff. We have more to offer than to just the guitar players.

In 5 years… Here, more well adjusted to what we’re doing with processes perfected. Hopefully we’ll be building instruments on the regular.

Indy String Theory

1354 Shelby St., Ste A,

Indianapolis, IN 46203

indystringtheory.com

(317) 502-9184