- Associated Press - Sunday, April 26, 2020

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - Rob Kittle stood in his workshop last week as he packed some of his instrument repair tools in preparation to sell to another individual.

He sorted through the tools in the shop, located toward the back of Kittle’s Music, as he talked about the pending closure of the downtown business, which has North Platte roots that stretch back to 1949.

“I am going to miss a lot of people - the customers from over the years,” Kittle told The North Platte Telegraph. “You see a lot of the same faces every week and I will miss that. As far as doing this - tackling the day-to-day stuff to keep a small business going like this? No.”

Kittle became a part-owner of the store in the late 1990s and has run it with his wife, Danielle, for nearly two decades. The couple posted on the store’s Facebook site on April 4 that the shop at 104 E. Fifth St. would be closing for good in three weeks.

The store, which has been a staple for local musicians as well as high school music students and programs, is holding a liquidation sale on merchandise and fixtures that ends on the April 25 closure date.

A dozen music instructors provide lessons in the store, and Kittle said those will still be available after the business closes.

“I have been ready to do something different for the last five years,” said Kittle, who has worked for UPS for the past year as well. “It was just time and the opportunity came along with (UPS) and it was just perfect for my personality and I jumped on it.”

He tried to leave the business in February 2017, when the Kittle family moved to Oregon, but the proposed sale of the business broke down in the end. By May, the family was back in North Platte and in control of Kittle’s Music again.

The music store dates back to its origins as Murphy’s Modern Music, started by Edith and Harry Murphy. Kittle became co-owner in 1999 with Tony Pantenburg, focusing on the school music side of the operation.

Kittle took over sole ownership of the store in 2003, and two years later he moved the business from 520 N. Dewey St. to 106 E. Fifth St. The store then made a short move to its current location last July.

Kittle started piano lessons when he was 8 years old and has been a lifelong musician. While he is a proficient guitar and bass guitar player, his instrument of choice has always been the drums.

He was raised in North Platte and involved with the school music programs. Kittle said he was a regular at Murphy’s Music and said the store helped shape his career choice.

He graduated from Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City, Iowa, with a focus in instrument repair.

Kittle said he will consider repairing instruments after the store closes, but it won’t be at the same level as what he became accustomed to.

“I was making my living in the shop,” Kittle said. “In the summer I was in here about 80 hours a week and still couldn’t keep up (with the demand).”

While he is stepping away from the business, Kittle’s passion for music won’t end.

Kittle has been in some form of a band since his late teenage years. He is in one now with longtime friend Jeff Johansen, the co-owner of Excel Screen Print, on guitar.

“We hope to start gigging out this summer,” Kittle said.

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