Happy Get to Know Your Customers Day! Or at least one of them (they happen every third Thursday of each quarter)! While every day is special to us because of the people who walk through our doors, it seems only right today to share a celebration of these customers – near and far, young and young-at-heart, new visitors and old friends – who come to see us at the Birthplace of Country Music.
And so I decided to consult our frontline staff, our best and most relatable customer associates, to ask them about their experiences working at the museum and their favorite moments with our patrons. I hope you enjoy learning about their experiences as much as I did!
I met first with Baylor Hall, our museum manager. A native of Lebanon, Virginia, Baylor oversees all of our frontline staff, assists in customer service and special events, and keeps The Museum Store stocked with a variety of wonderful gifts and souvenirs. Baylor has been working as BCM’s museum manager since January 2018. At first, when I asked her about her favorite museum memory, she drew a blank – it was hard to pinpoint just one! Then she went on to say that “things are exciting and always changing,” which she likes, but she has found that a high point of her position is being able to meet the many artisans that partner with us to sell their work in the store as they are always so thankful to have an opportunity to showcase their work here at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Baylor also always enjoys interacting with our museum visitors and seeing how music can be a unifier for all types of people. She said, “One day a couple who loves country music came in and they were talking about when they saw Johnny Cash at The Carter Fold. Another customer in The Museum Store had also been there as a bassist and one of our guest DJ radio hosts had been there too, enjoying the same musical experience.” Baylor thought it was wonderful to see three strangers bonding over their shared musical ties!
Next, I spoke with Cheryl Wedel and June Marshall, two of our other welcoming frontline associates, both from Bristol, Tennessee. Of all the frontline staff, Cheryl has been at BCM the longest, with this year’s Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion marking her third year with the organization. Cheryl told me that her favorite part of the museum is the Immersion Theater, which screens The Unbroken Circle film, and that her favorite part of her job is encountering people from all over the world – the museum has seen visitors from all 50 states and over 45 countries! Cheryl’s only wish is that locals were more aware of the museum and what it can offer them. And despite the museum’s many world travelers, one of her favorite customer encounters isn’t one from across the world, but one in our own backyard: “There were two elderly ladies from Southwest Virginia that came in one day who told amusing stories about going to music performances in the late 1980s. They were so full of excitement as they reminisced.” This story underlines the enthusiasm our visitors have for the music of this area and how a visit to the museum often prompts them to share that love and enthusiasm with us – a real perk of our jobs.
June began working at the museum in October 2017 and thoroughly enjoys working with customers daily. When I asked what her favorite part of her job was, she emphasized that it was both fun and exciting. One of her favorite facets of the museum is that it has a working radio station as part of its permanent exhibits – Radio Bristol – which gives visitors the chance to see the work of the station and often to see and hear the music it plays live. She also has many great memories about her customers, but one sticks with her the most: a visitor named Ellie. She met Ellie, a woman from Australia, one day when she was visiting the museum, and the two instantly hit it off. Recently, Ellie got married in the museum’s chapel exhibit, and she still continues to catch up with June on her visits here – the beginnings of a beautiful friendship!
I also spoke with Tracey Childress – she works primarily at the BCM offices as the administrative assistant and group tour sales associate. Tracey has been with the Birthplace of Country Music for five years, and her favorite memory is of her very first day working for the organization. She said, “I was so excited and honored to be a part of this organization; I was over the moon!” Tracey feels privileged to meet people from all over the world, but some of her favorite customers are a sweet set of twins that come to visit her every year to buy tickets and a poster for the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival. They could do this online or at the museum easily, but they come to the offices so that they can take the time to visit with Tracey.
Finally, Scotty Almany, formerly a frontline associate and now the museum’s digital resources manager, joined the museum in July 2014 right before it opened. As a frontline associate, Scotty’s favorite part of his job was interacting with visitors, learning about what brought them into the museum, whether it was a planned or spontaneous trip, and hearing visitor reactions to the museum before and after their tours.
Scotty has also enjoyed meeting country music fans from across the world – especially from Scandinavia, where country music is alive and thriving! His favorite customer memory, however, is of a man from Northern California who knew all about the Birthplace of Country Music’s content – a true fan of the history and the music – and was on the board for a shipyard museum. They kept in touch, and the man helped Scotty during a project for his master’s degree in Museum Studies.
As the collections management intern here at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, I loved hearing from our staff about their daily happenings and the incredible people they get to meet every day. I don’t get to meet our visitors as frequently as I’d like, but I’m always glad to hear about you from our welcoming staff. I hope to get to know more of you soon!