DOWNTOWN LEGEND: ALLEN MUSIC SINCE 1945 (from the Paducah Sun, June 22nd 2001)
It all started in 1916, when 4-year-old Annette Outlaw stepped off a riverboat at the foot of Broadway with her family. They had traveled with all of their belongings from Stewart County, Tennessee and settled in the Arcadia area at 3212 Adams Street.
In 1937 she married C.E. Allen, who was district supervisor for Singer Sewing Machine. In 1945, they opened their own store, Allen Sewing Machine Exchange, on 5th Street and then later moved to south 4th Street next to Leroy’s Music Store. C.E., who loved to sing and play his $9 Stella guitar, had been a church song leader in Arkansas.
Their daughter, Alidia, was fourteen when Elvis was huge in 1957, and her seven-year-old little brother, Boyce, would go in her room and play her 45’s, memorizing every word while standing and holding his daddy’s guitar. During the late 50s, Boyce started going next door to Leroy’s to eye the new electric guitars, finally getting his own in 1961 at age eleven.
In 1959, Allen’s moved a few doors down the block to 210 South 4th Street, next to the old City Hall. Annette had saved enough cash in a brown paper bag she kept in her hall closet to buy the nice two-story building, which had an apartment on the second floor.
In 1965, Mr. Allen passed away, but Annette had no intention of ever closing the shop. In 1966, Mr. Leroy closed his music store. The two met in the street one day and Annette told Mr. Leroy she thought she could sell a few guitars in her shop. He obliged her with the address of a supplier in St. Louis.
Boyce was now sixteen and rockin’ and rollin’ every weekend with his band called The Palisades. He would come in Saturdays and tune up the few guitars Allen’s had on display. They then moved to a new location at 132 South 3rd Street where the rent was a whopping $60 a month. The store was renamed Allen’s Sewing Machine & Music Co., which Mrs. Allen ran for the next ten years with Boyce’s occasional help.
On March 1st 1976, Boyce took over as owner. Mrs. Allen, already Social Security age, began helping her daughter at another family business, Price’s Barbecue at 30th and Broadway. She worked there until 1998, when her health failed at the age of 85.
Over the next few years, Allen Sewing Machine evolved into Allen Music and the musical instrument business really started taking off. It was a one-man shop with Boyce selling, repairing, and also teaching guitar, bass, and mandolin. The lessons would start at 5pm. In 1982, the Martin Guitar franchise was obtained, which Allen’s still proudly sells today.
In 1983, they bought their 3rd Street building and in 1984 Cheryl started helping in the business. Their daughter Shera plays flute and is now a senior at Murray State. In 1993, their son Brandon took over all the guitar lessons. Brandon and his wife Nikki have a daughter named Ashley.
In 1995, Boyce and Cheryl bought a much-needed larger building at 215 Kentucky Avenue, just around the corner from the old store on 3rd Street.
In 1998, Brandon took over the store, although Boyce and Cheryl are still involved along with three other employees. With the oncoming of the internet, Allen’s now ships musical instrument and accessories all over the world on a daily basis.
Boyce and Cheryl also participate in Downtown After Dinner with their old-time rock and roll band Vintage Alley. They will be entertaining most Saturday nights at their storefront on Kentucky Avenue.
Allen Music has been a downtown family business for 35 years. Counting the sewing machine days, the Allens have been downtown retailers for 56 years, with all locations within a three-block radius.
Cheryl says that God has richly blessed them with a wonderful business for 26 years and a beautiful family.