As the owners of one of the only musical instrument stores in Baltimore, the Roman family has music in their blood.
Julio Roman played violin in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. His brother, Rodolfo, now 95, used to play the saxophone, flute and clarinet and still practices to this day. For more than 25 years, Rodolfo Roman’s sons, Fernando and Alvaro, have run Ted’s Musicians Shop, just steps away from the Peabody Institute.
Located on Centre Street, Ted’s Musicians Shop sells and repairs a range of instruments, including saxophones and guitars and has a violin repair shop next door.
While it has moved over the years, the store has always been in the shadows of renowned music schools. It was founded by its namesake, Ted Martinez in 1931 in New York City next to The Juilliard School. After marrying his wife Evelina, who was a violinist in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Martinez moved the store to a space next to the Peabody Institute.
Fernando Roman moved to Baltimore from Colombia in the 1960s as a child and worked for Martinez in the music shop part time. Roman got involved in the shop through his uncle, who played violin in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Martinez’s wife.
In 1989, Roman and his brother bought the business and have been selling and repairing instruments for Peabody students, local marching bands and other musicians in the city ever since. Roman lives next to the store with his wife and father.
“Have to keep an eye on the business,” he said.
In the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who died in police custody in April, Roman’s family was doing just that. Around 4:30 p.m. on April 27, a group of more than 15 teenagers broke into the shop’s front window, stole saxophones and guitars, money from the register and destroyed showcases, the family says.
A neighbor had warned the Romans that looters were headed toward Mt. Vernon. Roman had locked the front door as a precaution. But his father insisted on standing by the window to keep watch.
“I told him to go back, but he didn’t listen,” said Roman on Monday as he looked at his father who was sitting in a chair near the front of the store.
Rodolfo Roman caught a teenager’s eye who was walking down the street with a group of other young men that day. They reacted by breaking into the shop, said Roman. His father was unhurt.
Since the riots, Fernando Roman has increased security at the store by installing cameras that are clearly visible from a TV screen above the register. Roman also installed a better alarm system that can be controlled remotely.
The front window was repaired, and displays were restored. But the road to the shop’s recovery has been slowed by an unexpected injury caused by the looting.
While dealing with the stress of rehabilitating his shop, Fernando Roman starting having serious health problems with benign tumors in his brain that started affecting his behavior, likely triggered by stress. Roman has had surgery and may need radiation therapy, he said.
Since Roman’s diagnosis, his brother, Alvaro, has taken over some of the shop’s managerial duties. Altogether, recovery has been slow and steady.
“We’re still trying to catch up to what we were doing before,” said Roman.
One of the shop’s biggest challenges existed before the looting: competing with growing Internet sales for instruments and instrument parts.
“The Internet doesn’t help much,” said Roman, adding that he’s looking into selling online.
Having a brick-and-mortar store comes with one big advantage. On Monday afternoon, Peabody student Nick Saia broke a string on his guitar during a recording session. He quickly ran to Ted’s and got an emergency replacement. He said later that he’s in the store about once a month.
“It’s right in the neighborhood, people are nice,” he said.