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Drumming up an empire
Greenbrier Music thriving with online drum sales

 Greenbrier Music employee Mikey Golas fills orders at the company's warehouse facility in the Battlefield Industrial Park.
photos by PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/25/2012

BY BILL FREEHLING

In an unassuming warehouse in Fredericksburg's Battlefield Industrial Park, 27-year-old Stephen Whitesides is trying to build an online retail empire.

Whitesides owns and operates Greenbrier Music, a company that specializes in selling drums through various online outlets.

Due to its tucked-away location inside an unflashy building on Tyler Street, Greenbrier Music could be easily overlooked. But that would be a mistake.

Inside the 15,000 square feet that Whitesides rents from the Janney family are thousands of drums and related musical accessories. The company, which has 18 full-time employees, has a smaller business selling guitars.

Greenbrier's handful of packaging and shipping workers fill up a UPS truck daily with new and used equipment people have ordered from around the world. Last year the company did $3.2 million in sales, and Whitesides expects that to more than double this year. He travels around the country meeting with executives of drum manufacturers that supply his products.

Whitesides' sales staff fields emails and calls from potential customers who have found the company through eBay, Google, Amazon or word of mouth. The marketing staff makes sure Greenbrier has a strong presence on those sites and others. A studio has been set up to shoot YouTube videos of Whitesides playing equipment that's for sale.

The company decidedly has the vibe of an online startup. Employees, who are shuffled into and out of various tasks as the business changes, wear jeans and listen to music while they work. Whitesides says some have traded the long commute to Washington for a lower-paying but more enjoyable job with Greenbrier. There are three classrooms for student lessons. Whitesides' wife has an artist studio there.

The roots of this growing company, which Whitesides hopes is the first of many online-focused retail ventures, date to a childhood love of music.

Emulating his older brother, Whitesides started playing the drums when he was a young boy. He began teaching drum lessons as a freshman at Chancellor High School, realizing he could make $50 an hour compared with $9 lifeguarding. And he's played in bands, including a stint with Elby Brass and now a Celtic folk group.


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