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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Jukebox Restorer Still Plays Songs

Don Muller has restored jukeboxes for more than 50 years.His company, Jukeboxes Unlimited in Granada Hills, was born in 1971. The jukeboxes he used to sell when he first started his business would go for $125 once he properly repaired them. Now, the average price of a jukebox from Muller is between $9,000 and $12,000. The most expensive models he sells clocks in at $20,000.  The company’s website displays a fraction of the 265 jukeboxes he has in his inventory.

Muller’s clientele varies by age and location, often spurred by a fascination of vintage artifacts or seeking the ultimate nostalgic music trip. Collectors drive or even fly long distances to see the merchandise.“Of the people who actually come to see me, 98 percent of them eventually buy a jukebox from me,” he said.  Muller’s jukebox journey started with a scrappy idea while listening to the radio in 1964. He thought to himself, “I could do better than that.” Soon he found himself working at multiple radio stations. His ultimate plan: establish a jukebox company that he could later sell to buy his own radio station.  However, it wasn’t just a desire to gain disk jockey autonomy that spurred Muller to start selling jukeboxes. His decision was also based on an insight gained from his first business, Parties Unlimited.

Turntables, four-track tapes, reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes never seemed to match the flow of the collegiate parties he would help throw.

But jukeboxes did.

People asked Muller where they could get their own jukeboxes.

So, he did his research and bought 40 jukeboxes from an old man in Prescott, Ariz.

Muller also made the discovery that business owners were dumping or destroying their old jukeboxes out of fear that scavengers would clean and paint those same jukeboxes to look like new.  The scavengers would relocate the jukeboxes and profit from whatever they collected.

“So, I came along and said, ‘Well, I’ll sell them to homes. You don’t have to worry about me competing against you.’ And they loved that,” Muller said.In the early days of his jukebox journey, Muller was buying jukeboxes for around $6 a pop, restoring and then selling them as a means of turning a profit.“All kinds of things have happened in my life, but I didn’t expect to be doing jukeboxes,” Muller said. “I thought I’d be running radio stations. And right now, radio stations are not worth running.”Muller’s success as a salesman is supported not only by his one-year warranty for parts and labor, but also by his expertise in the bygone field of jukebox mechanics. He credits some of his success to his Catholic upbringing and the need to be able to sleep at night knowing he has done right by his customers.

“I just had a really cool life. The more I think about these things and (think) back to all the stuff that we did … it has been good,” Muller said.  

Antonio Pequeño IV
Antonio Pequeño IV
Antonio “Tony” Pequeño IV is a reporter covering health care, finance and law for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. He specializes in reporting on some of the biggest names in the Valley’s biotechnology sector. In addition to his work with the Business Journal, Tony has reported with BuzzFeed News on the unsupervised use of Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition technology. Tony, who also conducts freelance reporting, graduated from the USC’s Master of Science in Journalism program in 2021. He is in his fifth year as a journalist as of 2021.
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