November 05, 2019

It has been so lovely to get to know Alex and his team at SUS (Southern Ukulele Store). Since most of our ‘talk’ happens via email, seeing Alex at NAMM this year was a real treat.  It was especially nice to have a chance to speak to someone with their finger on the pulse of what the people of the UK want in a ukulele. It's always a lot of fun to catch up and see what’s becoming popular across the pond— and Alex always seems to have the latest on the UK scene.

If you happen to be in the Southern UK stop by this excellently curated space. No UK trips planned this year? Check out their YouTube channel for honest comparisons and advice on all things ukulele.

The Southern Ukulele Team // Image Source: Facebook
 
Company: Southern Ukulele Store
Name: Alex Beds
Position: Manager
Years at Company: 10
Main Focus: Instrument retail, Ukulele accessories, String specialists

How long has your company been in business?

12 years

 

What makes your store stand out?

We have the largest, broadest selection of Ukuleles in the UK with several lifelong Ukulele enthusiasts. I can't imagine another store in Europe that installs more pickups or carries out more specialist Ukulele setups and repairs. Finally, we are 5 minutes from the beach, which is like our own little slice of Ukulele culture (for about 12 weeks of the year when it doesn't rain).

 

Image Source: Facebook

 

Community programs you’re involved in?

We help coordinate instruments and accept donations for the Ukulele Kids Club (UKC) which puts Ukuleles in the hands of children suffering from long term illness.

 

How did you get started in the musical instrument sales?

Rob, the owner, had a dream of owning a quiet family music shop where his kids could come after school. Several months after the shop began, he took delivery of some Lanikai and Ohana Ukuleles. This was back in 2008 when buying a decent Ukulele was practically impossible here in the UK. The instruments sold online practically overnight and things here at SUS just continued to take a positive turn towards Ukuleles.

I joined in 2009 as the Saturday boy, but it was clear to me I had found 'that thing' I knew I would always want to do and within 5 years I became the manager. We have a fantastic team of six people here at SUS and we all have our little roles that suit our skill sets. I really couldn't imagine a better place to work or a more interesting thing to sell. The Ukulele has taken me around the world to places and I continue to learn more about it every day.

 

Any favourite tales from retail?

I polled some of the staff to see what came in to their heads first.

Alex, Guns and Phil: GILES!!
Guns: Giles is one of our most memorable customers who sadly we don't see so much of nowadays. Giles is a classic English eccentric; the kind of man that would turn up looking cool wearing colourful dungarees, a pink shirt and a ciggie behind his ear. When he visited the shop, he would be here from open to close and then we would all have a beer up the road before he went home. Great guy!

Phil: I have a regular customer called June that I now consider a close friend - I went from helping her with her first Ukulele purchase to recording her play and singing some of her favourite songs at her house in about two years.

Alex: I get asked this question quite a bit and for me the best stories seem to centre around the regular customers that you genuinely look forward to catching up with. I have a couple of customers that ring me about Ukuleles every week! I regularly get to meet some of my favourite musicians like James Hill, Sarah Maisel, Craig Chee, etc., and learning other musicians stories and picking up on their enthusiasm is the kind of thing that makes me smile.

Phil: Being a specialist shop - we get to share quite a bit of common ground with our customers and that quite often breaks down a lot barriers that you normally encounter when you walk into a shop.

Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel at SUS // Image Source: Facebook

 

Favourite age to teach to, instrument to teach?

Phil here at SUS teaches in the evenings and on weekends, and he said to me that he most enjoys teaching retirees that have never picked up an instrument before. There is something so satisfying about helping somebody break new ground knowing that they have lived a rich, full life before discovering just how amazing playing an instrument can be.

 

Studio Space/Host Performances/Regular Community-Open Events?

We hold free in-store workshops and performances from international and UK based touring artists. The spaces are limited, but if you check the events calendar at ukulele.co.uk - you can usually find someone exciting is coming to town soon. All we ask is that you contact us and reserve a space. Maybe one day we will get Ohana artist Cynthia Lin? (Call me if you see this, Cynthia!)

 

Daniel Ward and Heidi Swedberg Workshop at SUS // Image Source: Facebook

 

Why are Ohana Ukuleles a good product for your space?

Ohana makes Ukuleles in every size and style imaginable, and that is what we are trying to stock. If you want a Ukulele smaller than a Sopranino - Ohana makes one. If you want a 6 string Concert - Ohana makes one! A great variety and attention to detail means Ohana will always have a home here at SUS.

 

What’s the best part of working with Ohana? Any fave models? 

Because Steph at Ohana is the best!

I can confidently show people an SK-39/CK-39/TK-39 and know that it's a world-class Uke for about 1/8 the price of the vintage Martin equivalent.

The -50WG Ukuleles are favourites of the team here at SUS because from the front they are understated and look nice and traditional on display and then you turn them around and BAM! They are quirky and cool whilst still looking and sounding great.

For more be sure to check out Southern Ukulele Store at https://www.southernukulelestore.co.uk/ or on their YouTube Channel!