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International House of Music, 'Casa del Perro'

By Monk Turner
Published: Tuesday, June 08, 2010, at 01:36PM
Jazz, the dog, and Oscar Monk Turner [Flickr]

Jazz Armento and Oscar Naranjo stand with the RCA dog outside International House of Music.

I've walked by the RCA dog in the glass case more times then I'd like to admit. Not once have I stopped to ask myself what the dog in the glass case had to do with the music store. Not even during the interview did I think to ask about the dog.

Business owner Oscar Naranjo, on the other hand, was not going to let it slide.

As it turns out, the original owners were the first business in the area to sell RCA products and the dog was given as a gift from the company many moons ago. The dog has stayed with the business since and has become an icon. In fact, most of the clientele don't even know the name of the store and instead refer to it as 'Casa del Perro' or 'House of the Dog.'

Lucky for musicians in Downtown, it isn't just the dog gimmick that has kept International House of Music in Downtown for over 100 years. Instead, it's the people.

Recently, I sat down with two of the people who keep customers coming back to get a better understanding of how the shop is serving the Downtown music community.

MONK TURNER: Tell us a little bit more about International House of Music...

OSCAR NARANJO: I'm working for a company that has been here since 1902. I don't know how many stores in the downtown area have been here longer than us. Before we were International House of Music, the name was Schireson Brothers which was there for 75 years. It originated on Main and 75 years ago they moved to Broadway. We used to be across the street...

MT: Were you part of the business then?

ON: Yes. Since 1988.

MT: So what happened?

ON: The building was sold and the rent was raised up to the point that we couldn't afford it anymore. We found this great location and we're so happy here.

MT: The moving cost must have been cheap. Just grab the instruments and run across the street. [laughter]

ON: It was actually expensive because we had to remodel the building.

MT: What was this space before you moved in?

ON: A clothing store for many years. But, it was also vacant for many years.

MT: So what do you sell here?

ON: We're a full music store with musical instruments, sound, and lighting.

MT: What clientele do you service?

ON: We were focused on the Latin community because there were so many touring groups that weren't serviced at other chain stores. They have their own systems and lighting. Now everything is changing. A lot of people are moving to downtown and we want to service that area as well.

MT: Do you find most people are coming to the store because of the location or the because of the business?

ON: I think both. We've been in downtown and we want to stay in downtown. Now we are trying to bring product that customers moving to the area need. So instead of customers going away from the downtown area, we want to have them buy from us here in downtown.

MT: How do you compete with the big corporate stores like Guitar Center?

ON: We don't sell just boxes. We service the customer. We tell them how to use it, we install it, we help them understand the product. That's the difference.

MT: Service-oriented instead of profit-oriented...

ON: Exactly. That's why were still in business. Customers understand they can get it from other stores for a little less, but they like the service.

MT: Anything to add, Jazz?

JAZZ ARMENTO: Well... like my boss said, we're not just any store. One way that we show the personalized service that we provide is that we're out there. You know, Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. We're there. They send us an email through any of those social networks, we're there.

MT: And you're not just saying that because he's your boss, right? [laughter]

JA: No! [laughter] That is the reason I work for this company. To be out there and let everyone know, we are not just any store. We are people that love music.

International House of Music, Inc is located at 339 S. Broadway. They're open Monday thru Saturday from 9 to 7 and Sundays 10 to 6. They can be reached at 213-628-9161 or online at From the website, socially network to your heart's desire.


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