Harkins says, “With Chane’s Wonder Lab around the corner — artists, painters, photographers — and now musicians, a bakery kitchen, and, down the hall, tattoo and glass artists, even the Fondren Corner basement is a hub. As if Fondren wasn’t already creative enough. That’s way cool.”

Fondren Guitars is going underground.

The neighborhood’s guitar sales and service shop on Fondren Place, who recently celebrated nine years, has added three new lesson rooms and rehearsal space to the basement level of Fondren Corner.

“In Fondren, every (space) is spoken for,” says Fondren Guitars owner, Patrick Harkins, who has overseen the addition. “I’ve been looking forever to find a spot close by where we could expand our lesson program.”

Talking to Tim and Nathan Glenn, owners of Rooster’s, Harkins says they had an imperfect space, but one that had potential. “We thought about their storage room under the restaurant,” he recalls. “It consisted of one light and concrete and plaster walls and twelve years of stuff. I thought, ‘we can move this to the side, throw up some walls and lights and add rooms,’ making a space for our music school. The Glenns are happy to help me expand my business and give me a platform to grow.”

With practice rooms maxed out in the guitar shop (on nice days, some students do their lessons on the store’s front deck) and sessions running until 8pm, the additional rooms in Fondren Corner give Harkins greater potential to book more students. “We’re kicking it up a notch to a more professional level with a true ‘school of music’, teaching a curriculum, so I’m really excited,” he says. “It’s a natural, awesome expansion.” In addition, Harkins says he has hired more instructors to handle the increased load and offer lessons on even more instruments.

Studies have shown that music helps children with their attention spans, and academically, in math and reading. But Harkins says it’s a mood and confidence booster, too. “We have kids who first come in, looking at the floor and mumbling,” he explains. “Learning an instrument brings them out of their box.” He recounts the success of one of his former students who was, just this past weekend, playing a music festival in the Delta. “He’s singing and playing and was really quiet before. I’m proud we had a hand in helping to open him up.”

It works for the adults, too. “So many folks around here are so stressed out and need an outlet, a release,” Harkins says. “Music is fun!” He tells the tale of a school teacher who comes for lessons every Friday, who promised, upon his retirement, he would grow his hair out and play his guitar. “He has a ponytail now and just this past week, we played Merle Haggard and George Jones. He says it’s the highlight of his week.”

Living in Austin, Texas nine years ago, Harkins always knew he would come home to open a music shop. While he’s reached one goal, he says the next nine years will be about another. “I want a guitar in my hand most everyday, all the time” he tells. “Whether that’s with adults and our blues jam, or a ten year-old who has never played before and teaching him a chord, or playing in my band. I want everyone working for us to play an instrument. And, I want everyone in the neighborhood playing one. I’m ready to bust through a new level, especially in Fondren, the creative community. Everyone wishes they played an instrument. So sign up — and let’s do it. It’s fun.”

Related: Next Level: Fondren Guitars Rock Band Giving Students Opportunities | In Tune With Community: Meet Patrick Harkins