Having worked in electronic trading for the last decade, David Kalt enjoys buying low and selling high. His other love is music – Kalt collects guitars and has a recording studio at home. In 2010, he was able to combine his two passions. The former CEO of online brokerage OptionsXpress, Kalt bought Chicago Music Exchange (CME) from owner Scott Silver in June two years ago. Since taking over the company, he has improved its e-commerce capabilities, as well as added a drum shop and in-house video recording studio to the 10,000-square-foot showroom located on Chicago’s North Side.
Serving professional musicians and avid collectors, Chicago Music Exchange buys and sells new, used, and vintage instruments. The company also offers expert repair and restoration services and claims to have “seen and repaired just about everything you can think of, for everyone from your neighbor to rock stars.” One of those rock stars is Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, whose guitar got damaged in a stage collapse last year. “I know places all over the world, but [CME] has the expertise,” he says.
Indeed, CME boasts of a staff consisting of actual musicians and technicians who know what they’re doing and talking about. In other words, CME’s employees are passionate about their jobs. “The carrot of more money in front of them does not matter,” Kalt says.
In addition to being a renowned marketplace for musical instruments and gear, Chicago Music Exchange also hosts workshops, clinics, and live in-store performances every now and then. The company’s annual revenue is $8 million; Kalt’s goal is to reach $10 million to $12 million without increasing the number of stores or staff. He plans to expand the CME showroom to 25,000 square feet next year and launch an auction site for used instruments sometime in the future.