Cascio Interstate Music
Cascio Interstate Music is one of the largest musical instrument retailers in the U.S., with its headquarters and retail outlet in New Berlin, Wisconsin and its distribution center located in nearby Waukesha, Wisconsin. Cascio Interstate Music owns and operates Internet retail operations through the InterstateMusic.com e-commerce domain.
For over 63 years, Cascio Interstate Music has been a key national player in the music products industry through its multi-channel retail, wholesale, and manufacturing operations. The company’s history has its roots in post-WWII Milwaukee, when the son of Italian immigrants decided to make his dream come true.
In the early 1900s, Rosario and Concetta Cascio emigrated to the United States, bringing with them a love of the music of their native Sicily. They opened a neighborhood grocery store in Milwaukee. In 1937, Rosario Cascio died, leaving 16 year-old son Frank Salvatore Cascio to run the business. Frank discovered a passion for music by playing an old piano in the back room of the store. He eventually mastered the accordion and played live on local radio stations.
After completing his service as a corpsman in the US Army in the Philippines, Frank and his wife Marcie founded Cascio Music Company in 1946, opening a small teaching and accordion studio with "$500 and a dream" on Beloit Road in West Milwaukee, called the West Milwaukee Accordion School. Besides giving lessons and selling accordions, the store also carried Motorola televisions and radios.
In 1951, Frank S. Cascio turned down a chance to join the famous Lawrence Welk Orchestra, and instead, built a larger, new Cascio Music store on Lincoln Avenue in nearby West Allis. Frank and Marcie's son Michael was also born in 1951. The Lincoln Avenue store prospered with the addition of sheet music and lessons. A normal week would see as many as 600 music lessons given by a staff of 40 instructors, with the accordion being the most popular. In the 1960s, a decade that saw the coming of the British Invasion and a dramatic cultural explosion of revolutionary musical artistry, Cascio Music grew and adapted to meet the changing musical landscape.
A mail order division, Interstate Music Supply, began in 1970, initially with a small flyer to service regional school band directors in the far corners of Wisconsin, but which eventually grew into larger catalogs that today continue to serve band directors and the military across the nation.
In 1973, a second location, Cascio Music-West, was added in the rural New Berlin suburb of Milwaukee, to house Interstate Music Supply and a small retail outlet to mostly handle instrument rentals. The New Berlin store grew and eventually replaced the Lincoln Avenue store, which closed in 1976. Shortly after, Frank sold the sheet music side of the business to Eric and Trudy Metz, and Metz's Sheet Music World rented space inside Cascio Music, until Eric's death in 1996. (Metz's was then acquired in 1998 and incorporated into the store's operations.)
The mail order side sustained major growth during the 1990s, with the birth of the Interstate Musician Drum Catalog in 1993, followed by Guitar/Bass and Keyboard/MIDI Catalogs, which eventually combined into a single catalog, but have since been discontinued. The school music catalog for band directors continued as well. A warehouse was added to the back of the store to handle this growing mail order business.
The Cascio Music retail store gradually absorbed adjacent businesses to expand its operational and floor space. A major remodeling in 1997-1998 almost doubled the retail floor space, to 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2). The warehouse in the back of the store was moved to a much larger, 46,000-square-foot (4,300 m2) facility in Waukesha. The warehouse's removal in New Berlin allowed for another major retail expansion in the Drums, Guitar, and PA departments, including a separate acoustic guitar "cabin," a cymbal room, plus separate wind instrument tryout rooms.
In 1997, Frank S. Cascio died at age 76, leaving the company in the hands of his son Mike. Additional store locations were opened in the Milwaukee suburbs of Mequon and Hartland, but were subsequently closed in 2003. In 2000, www.interstatemusic.com was born and grew into a full featured e-commerce website over the next decade.
Preparing and guiding the company for the future, Mike Cascio formed an advisory board in 2003 where he met Michael R. Houser, a retired Vice Chairman, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Fresh Brands, Inc. Houser also served on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of Milwaukee's World Festivals, Inc. who operates and manages Summerfest, the World's Largest Music Festival. Michael Houser was then named Chief Executive Officer/Chief Marketing Officer of Cascio Interstate Music in 2004. Elwood Winn, former President and CEO at Fresh Brands, joined the Cascio team in 2005 as its Chief Financial Officer. These three Executive Committee Officers comprise the Company's complete operational leadership.
Michael Houser also provides the marketing oversight for Cascio's three proprietary musical instrument brands, Union Drums, Archer Guitars, and Ravel Band Instruments, introducing them to new markets via non-traditional retailers, along with obtaining and expanding artist endorsements, including stage and studio performers Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton and Josh Rouse among others.
Cascio Interstate Music is an active participant in southeastern Wisconsin's musical community, by providing free in-store educational/performance clinics with well-known musicians at the retail store. The company sponsors the Cascio "Groove Garage" Stage at Summerfest, the World's Largest Music Festival, featuring a Live/Local/Original music lineup. Cascio Interstate Music has also entered into a partnership with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks franchise to sponsor a 21-member "Bucks Wild!" Drumline, which performs during Milwaukee Bucks home basketball games.