Ron Royse says he has only had two jobs in his life – law enforcement and music – but what a ride they have taken him on, and the end is not yet in sight. Royse had previously retired from law enforcement reserve programs when he recently sold Tigard Music, which he operated from November 1976 until this February, although he still plays gigs with his three-piece band, Sandpoint.
A guitar player, he formed a rock band called the Cheetahs when he was a sophomore at Reynolds High School. “We had a five-piece band and played every weekend,” Royse said. “We were a cover band, which means we played everyone else’s music. We made enough money that I didn’t have to pick berries or work at McDonald’s.
“While I was still in high school, I started working at Gateway Music. I worked there under three different owners and learned about the music business through osmosis. I graduated from high school in 1966 and went to Mt. Hood Community College, but I was the only guy to fail the business machines class, and there weren’t a lot of business machines back then.”
In 1967, the band was playing a two-month gig in North Bend in a “pretty rough” nightclub when Royse’s mom called him to say he had received a letter from the Selective Service System’s Draft Board.
The Vietnam War was raging, and after basic training and advanced infantry school, Royse was sent to Vietnam, assigned to the 25th Infantry Division for a year in 1968-69. He turned 21 while he was there and spent “a couple weeks in the hospital” during his tour before returning stateside and working as a drill instructor at Fort Dix, N.J.
“I really liked the military and the regimentation,” Royse said. “I called my first sergeant every Christmas for 30 years and am still in touch with his family. He told me to either get out of the military or become an officer. I decided to extend my time in the military for six months and take a law enforcement class called Project Transition, which would allow me to apply to some police departments on the East Coast. But I ultimately decided to leave the military.”
Royse thought he survived the war relatively unscathed until a Veterans Administration doctor told him he had served in an area with a high concentration of Agent Orange and was classified as 40 percent disabled.
Back in Oregon, Royse worked at “the same music store” and played music four nights a week in a club while also applying to police departments. Over a year later, the Oregon State Police offered him a position. He was assigned to The Dalles and a training officer who also became a lifelong friend.
“I absolutely loved the work, my fellow officers and the people in The Dalles but found myself driving into Portland on my days off for something to do,” he said.
After a year, Royse left the OSP and you guessed it, returned to the music store, again played music four nights a week and also joined the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve officer. “I told the music store owner that we needed to hire someone and called Reynolds High School,” Royse said. “This 17-year-old girl in a mini-skirt walked in the door, and I hired her.”
Royse and the owner of Gateway Music talked about Royse buying the business but it never happened. Fred Meyer was their landlord, and Royse said Mr. Meyer would come in occasionally and ask, “How are you boys doing?”
Royse applied for a Small Business Administration loan to open up Tigard Music in the Tigard Plaza in 1976 and married Becky, the girl he had hired a few years earlier, in 1978. (Royse and Becky have now been married 44 years and have two kids and 1 ½ grandkids.)
Even when Royse was busy running his music store, serving as a reserve police officer and playing in a band, he said, “I never missed my kids’ games and activities.”
In 1979, Royse switched to the Tigard Police Department reserve program, where he volunteered for 11 years, and in 1985 he moved Tigard Music to the Tigard Fred Meyer shopping center, where it is still located.
“In my first seven years owning Tigard Music, I didn’t pay myself,” Royse said. “I put all the profits back into the store. In addition to the normal sales of musical instruments and accessories, I knew that a relationship with the school districts’ band, orchestra and general music instructors, parents and administrators was essential to a successful operation. Over 46 years, I have had the privilege to work with dedicated teachers from all over the state.”
Tigard Music is multi-faceted, selling and leasing instruments and repairing them. “But the success of the store is the employees,” Royse said. “I have been so lucky with my employees over the years. Some have been with me for more than 10 years and even decades. The employees make the store, and I have the two best repair techs in the business. I’m lucky and a little spoiled.”
Royse said about a year ago, he was getting tired and decided the time had come to sell the business. He ultimately sold it to Music & Arts, a company with more than 150 locations in the U.S. that, according to its website, is the nation’s leading provider of private music lessons, band and orchestra instrument sales, rentals and repairs.
“It has been a good ride so far thanks to one common thread – people,” Royse said. “This includes parents, aunts and uncles, a real smart brother, bandmates, teachers, mentors, fellow soldiers, police officers, customers, employees and most of all, my supportive wife and family.”
On the side, Royse has been president of his neighborhood homeowners’ association for 29 years, and he has been involved with Tigard’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration since its inception more than 30 years ago.
What’s next? We’ll see.