Hubbard Music Founder Sells Stores to Local Musician

HUBBARD, Ohio – Mark Tirabassi said he started Hubbard Music in 1990 “with twelve-hundred bucks and a wing and a prayer.”

Over the next three decades, he grew the business into a regional pillar in music industry.

With its main store at 51 N. Main St. and a satellite store in Eastwood Mall, Hubbard Music also became a place where young musicians worked, taught and learned to play. Now, after 30 years, Tirabassi is selling the business to one of those musicians.

As of Dec. 1, Robbie McFarland will take over as owner of Hubbard Music. He had been running the main store for the past two years. 

Tirabassi, of Hubbard, will now focus his time on his wholesale company, Cardinal Percussion, which he co-owns with business partner Jim Bickley. Now is the right time to sell the business he started, Tirabassi said.

“My wife and I have one child, Mason, who is 25,” he said. “I had always planned to keep the store in case that was the career path he chose. He is now close to graduating and becoming a podiatric surgeon. With his career path, he will not have time to continue the family business.”

Another reason for selling Hubbard Music is that Cardinal Percussion has grown fast and takes most of Tirabassi’s time.

Cardinal was launched in 2018 as a wholesaler to music stores, distributors and drum makers. The company also owns several brand names, including Attack drumheads and Wuhan cymbals and gongs. Cardinal purchased those established product lines within the last two years. Cardinal is also a cymbal supplier to Ludwig Drums.

Under Tirabassi’s leadership, Hubbard Music expanded in several directions. The Eastwood Mall location was added six years ago. About 20 years ago, Tirabassi had opened Calcutta Music near East Liverpool, but that location folded after three years.

“I was in [the rock band] Vertigogo back then, and we had gotten signed by Atlantic Records,” said Tirabassi, who is also a drummer. “I didn’t have a lot of time for the second store.” 

Hubbard Music had also branched into rentals, offering amplifiers and other gear for music events. However, that had been shrinking in recent years. Tirabassi sold most of his rental equipment two years ago and used the money to start Cardinal Percussion.

“I got out of that business at the right time because there is no live production anywhere now [because of the coronavirus pandemic],” he said.

Owning Hubbard Music for 30 years helps him to better run Cardinal Percussion. “We sell to stores and distributors, and I know what they want and what they need,” Tirabassi explained.

Over the decades, Hubbard Music became a gathering place for musicians, employing them as music lesson instructors and encouraging their careers.

McFarland, the new owner, is one of those musicians. As of press time, he could not be reached for comment.

“We became the Johnny Appleseed of the area, planting seeds,” Tirabassi said. “It’s a thing we do very well.”

The store also started Rockstar University, which teaches aspiring musicians age 5 to 16  in the ways of performance.

“We put kids together and teach them real life stuff about how to be in a band,” Tirabassi said. “Things like commitment and working together, and compromise. You don’t learn that stuff elsewhere. [Being in a band] is not just about the music.”

Pictured: The main Hubbard Music location is at 51 N. Main St., Hubbard. The company also has a store inside the Eastwood Mall in Niles.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.