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The best way to find Mountain View, Arkansas might be to head to the northern part of the state and from there, follow the music.
A good portion of the tunes will likely come from all around at one of the town’s lively spring-to-fall musical festivals or small, spontaneous jam sessions. Some of the music will certainly be found on Washington Street at a shop owned by Shay and Scott Pool.
Mountain View Music welcomes visitors in their Airbnb, instrument-shoppers in their store, and tune-pickers on their porch. Their business is always bustling, as one might expect for the owners of an instrument shop raised up in the “folk music capital of the world,” a distinction held by the town for as long as Shay Pool can remember.
Mountain View is in the Ozark Mountains, roughly halfway between the Oklahoma and Tennessee borders. The short version of how the Pools arrived involves an eclectic backstory and a whole lot of nature.
Photo courtesy of Shay Pool/Mountain View Music
As Shay tells it, she and Scott met as raft guides on the Chattooga River in Georgia. They spent their first year of marriage living in a tent while building a cabin. It worked because even as Shay points out her “tendency to break everything,” Scott has the ability to “fix anything.” That relationship dynamic alone sounds like an intriguing story, and it looks as if it’s worked for them. After this adventurous beginning, they moved to Cabot, put each other through college at the University of Central Arkansas and became middle school science teachers.
After their time in Cabot, the couple turned a corner. On the heels of several life tragedies, the Pools sold everything they had and moved to Mountain View where for a time, they owned and operated an inn.
And then they purchased a struggling little music store.
Mountain View Music serves the needs, wants, and perhaps the dreams of its customers, guests and students. They make and sell a variety of stringed instruments including guitars, fiddles and cellos. Their Facebook page shows handmade instruments in several stages of repair and creation. Shay, described on the site as a “multi-instrument teacher and store everythinger” teaches fiddle and claw hammer banjo. Students can sign up for lessons in guitar, mandolin, upright bass and voice. Scott plays guitar and concentrates on instrument builds and repair.
photo courtesy of Shay Pool/Mountain View Music
The Pickin’ Park Cottage, their Airbnb, takes up the loft above the store and is booked every weekend, and many weekdays, during the season. Shay says guests love to sit on the balcony and enjoy spontaneous music from the porch, or from any of the festivals hosted by the town throughout the year.
“Music here is impromptu, and weather permitting, happens every day during the season.”
The Pools stay involved in the local Music Roots program and allow their lesson space to be used free of charge by other music teachers in the area. Between hosting guests, making guitars and fiddles and violins by hand, teaching lessons and supporting the town’s musical culture, Shay says there isn’t much time to sit around. “There is no boredom here.”
Safe to say, that little music store struggles no more.
This bustling enterprise, and the music that drives it, is a definitely family affair. There’s a son who helped in the business, went off to the Berklee College of Music (in New York), and now has an instrument store outside of town. He and his wife, national champions on banjo and fiddle, respectively, build high-end banjos and offer a subscription at Ozarkbanjo.com. The Pools’ oldest daughter also plays fiddle but took a different route after graduating from Johns Hopkins. She lives and works in Greece with her husband and children.
Photo courtesy of Shay Pool/Mountain View Music
This fall, their youngest daughter will head to college. She makes cellos and fiddles, having apprenticed at the shop since the age of 12. Described by her mom as “a beast at sales,” she’s an asset to the business and holds the distinction as a past Arkansas Fiddle Grand Champion.
In the past, the family had a whole string band. Since the pandemic, they’ve enjoyed playing on the town square.
The Pools aren’t slowing down just yet. They sell many of their instruments as soon as they are built. Shay says that fortunately when the economy is down, more people bring in instruments for repair, a component that helps keep the business recession-proof.
“Our Mountain View guitar business is the newest part of our custom instrument builds and it’s picking up rapidly. People are finding that they can purchase boutique hand-built guitars that can often out-perform some of the well-known brands.”
Despite their success, the past pandemic year took an emotional toll. Every day they dealt with irate customers who didn’t want to wear masks. Still, Shay is quick to point out that most people have shown support.
“We really appreciate people coming in and shopping local and buying instruments made in Arkansas. At least we know our little store can weather big storms.“
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