Under the Sun

Under the Sun: At Ziggie's, the Music Must Go On

Ziggie's Music is an iconic store in Phoenix, but some family members want the owner to sell.
Ziggie's Music is an iconic store in Phoenix, but some family members want the owner to sell. Robrt L. Pela

click to enlarge Ziggie's Music is an iconic store in Phoenix, but some family members want the owner to sell. - ROBRT L. PELA
Ziggie's Music is an iconic store in Phoenix, but some family members want the owner to sell.
Robrt L. Pela

On the first Saturday in March, a group gathered to talk amps outside Ziggie’s Music. One guy had a Pignose five-watt one-by-five combo he wanted to unload. Another fellow hunkered down in front of it. “It’s small, but it’s in great shape,” he told the seller.

“I named her Myrtle,” the first guy said.

Next to him, on a blanket he’d spread on the pavement in front of Ziggie’s, a man who once played in Pat Boone’s touring band had placed a 1954 Fender Esquire. “I played that hooked up to a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier,” he said more than once. “Sounded sweet, I’ll say.”

Inside, a young man stood on Ziggie’s black-and-white checkerboard tile floor and shot the breeze with owner Dionne Hauke. He loved this monthly swap meet, he admitted to her, because he could talk to old guys who’d been musicians for a long time and maybe could teach him something about the road. He wanted her to know about the band he was putting together.

“We sound a little bit like El West meets Dwight Yoakum,” he said, and Dionne nodded. “We’re trying to gig at Alwun House, or maybe that ale place on Roosevelt,” he explained.

Dionne had heard it all before. “I grew up here,” she said a few days later. She meant in Phoenix, but she also meant in Ziggie’s. “Most days, I feel like I’ve spent my whole life in this store.”

Her grandfather opened Ziggie’s in the late 1920s. “He didn’t mean to open a music store,” Dionne explained. “Ziggie was on his way to California to play music for talking pictures, and he stopped in Phoenix to visit his wife’s sister. He’s sitting outside on Polk Street, over by the bus station, playing his accordion, and this guy comes up and says, ‘Do you want a job?”

The guy was a banjo player in a radio band at the Westward Ho, and the band didn’t have an accordion player. “So right off the bus, Ziggie’s got a job playing on the radio,” Dionne said, and shook her head. “He started getting offers to play weddings and barn dances, and to teach Little Johnny to play accordion. He said, ‘I’m staying.’”

Ziggie rented a place on West Washington, where the police station is now. He hired a lap steel player and they got busy teaching music. “One day a guy comes in and says he’s making these guitars called Fenders, and he wonders if my grandfather wanted to sell some here. So my grandfather became the first Fender dealer in Arizona, on a handshake.”

After the Depression, Ziggie bought a house on Third Street and moved his business there. But his wife hated music students traipsing through her living room, so in 1958 her brother built an addition onto the house with a loan from Valley National Bank. Ziggie’s has done business there ever since, selling guitars and guitar picks and repairing accordions. Every music teacher and working musician came by for supplies and hobnobbing. Famous people dropped in often: Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Dick Dale. Jerry Riopelle bought guitar picks and nylon strings there. One day in 1968, Dionne walked in and there was Sonny Bono, speaking Italian to her grandfather.

Music lessons have been Ziggie’s mainstay since the 1920s.

“In the old days, they had lessons day and night, seven days a week,” Dionne recalled. “On Wednesdays, they went until 9 p.m. because they had so many students.” These days, Ziggie’s offers guitar, bass, and accordion lessons. “I don’t have any place big enough to put a piano,” Dionne admitted.

Soon, she may not have anywhere to put anything. Some distant relatives who are part-owners of the building have decided they want Dionne to sell and give them their share. She couldn’t talk about it, she said; her lawyer didn’t want her to. She’d set up a GoFundMe to help defray the legal cost of saving the business she literally grew up in.

“I wanted to play guitar but I ended up studying accordion,” remembered Dionne, who will turn 60 this year. From the time she was 11, she spent every weekend at the music shop with her grandfather. By 14, she was apprenticing as an accordion repairperson. When Ziggie died in 1988, she took over the business.

“I was at ASU studying anthropology when he died,” Dionne remembered. “I quit school to run the shop. I figured I’d go back but I never did. My grandmother changed her will and left me the business.”

The house and music shop were left to Dionne’s mother and uncle. Over the past 30 years, Dionne figured she’d dropped about $300,000 in equity into the building. Her cousins would like half of that.

“I’m trying to raise money so I can make the Zigmart an historic landmark,” she said. “I’ve already started the paperwork.”

There’s still a need for a local music shop, Dionne said, a place where someone can come buy a violin case or talk to another musician or take an accordion lesson. Even with all the distractions in the world today, kids still want to learn music.

“I want to be here for that kid who decides he needs to learn the alphabet of music,” Dionne said. “I want my daughter to be here to do that, and my daughter’s daughter, if she decides she wants to run a music store. Ziggie’s needs to stay where it’s been in order for that to happen.”
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela