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Fri, Feb. 28

Gateway Music fills many diverse niches

After years of squeezing everything he could into one storefront, Lu Carle, owner of Gateway Music, finally has space enough to move around.

“I removed all of my old radios and audio equipment and my pianos and made two stores out of one,” he said. “I have radios in one and a music store in the other.”

His store, located at 206 W. Route 66, looks a lot different this week than it did last week, Carle said, because he expanded to 212 W. Route 66, formerly Autumn Buffalo.

“If you need a guitar cord, I can get you one,” he said as he walked over and picked one up from a display on his music store wall.

He said before expanding he sometimes couldn’t get to items. The music store offers a variety of musical items including instruments, guitars, drums and all sorts of accessories.

“Now you can see into the store,” Carle said. “People can sit down (to try out an instrument), and you can see the merchandise.”

The music store also offers a variety of specialty items.

“I’ve been getting in all sorts of different colorized instruments,” Carle said. “The kids love them.”

Black and purple saxophones are just two of colors Carle has in the store.

The expansion store is filled with old style and antique tube radios, along with a selection of items to rent.

“All these radios are reworked and work,” he said.

The store also has high-end PA systems, bass and guitar amps for individuals, bands or parties to rent.

Over the years, Carle said he’s refurbished more than 300 tube radios.

“It (all the radios) started filling the store,” Carle said. “You couldn’t walk in here — I was loosing business.”

The story of how Carle arrived in Williams is one that requires looking back 20 years into Williams history.

“Actually, Judy and I eloped from California,” he said. “She was a telephone operator and I was working in a music store.

“We didn’t run to Williams. We were going to Poteau, Okla., because I could be 18 and get married.”

The couple stopped in Williams in a yellow Volkswagen bug to get gas. While at the gas station, the attendant told them the circuit judge, Spike Way, would marry them without Carle having to be18 years old. So the couple headed to city hall to meet Way.

“Judge Way said, ‘I can’t marry you today — how about Monday,’” Carle said.

So the pair headed to the Grand Canyon and went hiking. After hiking around eight miles in and out of the Canyon, they realized they hadn’t set up a time to get married so they visited the judge. According to Carle, Way said he couldn’t do it Monday but “What about right now?”

“Judy was barefoot because her feet were to blistered,” Carle said. “When I went out to get the ring from the car Judy goes, ‘get my sandals too.’”

Heading to his car, Carle heard the noon whistle that used to sound in town.

“That was how we found Williams,” he said.

After tying the knot the Carles headed back to California. Between this time and their return to Williams, the couple owned and operated two music stores in California.

“I actually came here in 1980,” Carle said. “When I came here, I didn’t want a music business — I was burned out.

“I wanted to come here to Williams and really retire.”

While closing the stores in California, Carle commuted back and forth. This is when Carle met Fred and Janet Cothren, who owned the El Rancho Motel at the time, where Carle became the night watchman in exchange for housing.

“They provided an apartment for us and a salary,” he said. “They were very, very nice.”

Carle said it was 1982 when his whole family moved to Williams. At this time, he decided he wanted to pilot air tours instead of run the music store, so Carle became an air taxi pilot in 1983-84.

“I did it for a summer and hated it,” he said.

For the next five years, he worked as a school bus driver for the Williams Unified School District. At the same time, he was also taking emergency medical technician classes from Dana Stewart, former owner of the ambulance service in town.

“I worked three years as a bus driver and EMT,” Carle said. “That was one of the jobs I really enjoyed. I had a real good feeling about what I did.

“All this time, I was hanging out at the music store without knowing what was going to happen.”

The next step was taking a course on wastewater management. This led to other courses and eventually the completion of state licensing. Carle said he was instrumental in getting the Cameron and Valle reclamation plants up and running. He said he also helped Williams.

“The first thing I did was fix up the sewer plant and got all the equipment fixed,” he said. “Then I looked at the water situation.”

He said he approached city council with a list of items the system needed, which they purchased and installed.

“I actually had a water lab — Certified Water, Waste Water Operations of Arizona — and I was testing everybody’s water,” Carle said. “I was married with the water.”

After the work in water fizzled out, Carle said Bill and Carol Kernion became a part of the music store. Bill was repairing old tube radios. Eventually, the Kernions moved on, but Carle was still getting calls for repairs. Because he has a background in electrical engineering, Carle picked up a repair manual and started on his way.

“Each job became a learning experience,” he said.

With over 300 repair jobs under his belt, Carle is now considered an authority.

"I specialize in older things," he said. “Record players, tube radios and tube amplifiers — things that people love."

“People are calling me from all over the nation and the world.”

He said he also to works on reel-to-reel tape players and any old electronics. The extension store Carle opened last week is filled with these old radios.

“This is a neat store,” he said.

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