November 23, 2017
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Ahead of the Curve

The chapel sanctuary in the Linda E. White Hospice House is just one space of the building recently designed by Hafer.

No matter the location or size of a project, there is one philosophy that ties together the architects, designers, and engineers of Hafer — passion for their community.

 “We, on purpose, have stayed focused here,” says company president Jeff Justice. “We do projects seven or eight hours away, but the ones that really get us excited are the ones helping this community.”

Evansville and the surrounding areas are dotted with work from the architectural, interior design, and engineering firm. From the Griffin Center, a recent addition to the University of Southern Indiana campus, to the office space at 21 S.E. Third St., which Hafer calls home, the influence of the firm is seen and well-known throughout the Tri-State.

Hafer’s beginning is a story not too different from many small businesses in the southern Indiana area. Ed Hafer laid the groundwork in 1978 when he opened Edmund L. Hafer Architect, Inc. and hired fellow architect Steve Pugh. The team would grow by one with the addition of David Wills three months later.

Since that time, Justice says the company has spent the last 39 years growing organically. Today, Hafer boasts 44 employees across its disciplines. When he thinks about it, Justice says he’s not surprised by the outcome at all.

Part of that growth included expanding the firm from solely architects to include engineers and interior designers as well. It was a move Justice says changed how Hafer was able to approach projects.

“Having all services in house enhances collaboration making our solutions better,” he says.

Hafer vice president Ron Steinhart most likely would not have a position at most architectural firms. As a mechanical engineer by trade, it would be more common for him to be at a separate firm brought into a project to work with an architect.

At Hafer, however, things are a bit different.

“In other cases, you may hire a consultant who has other priorities or other goals,” he says. “Now, those goals all are Hafer goals. It makes for a much better project.”

A graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana, Steinhart has worked at Hafer since 1994. He along with Justice make up the eight principals of the business. These eight owners of Hafer represent both the architectural and engineering branches of the company.

“Therefore, we have a balanced perspective on the direction of the firm,” says Justice.

▲ Hafer’s eight principal owners Ron Steinhart, vice president; Vince Martin, architect; Amy Barnett, electrical engineer; Tom Blythe, architect; Jeff Justice, president; Jack Faber, architect and design; Matt Brockman, electrical engineer; and Ryan Steinhart, mechanical engineer. Justice says having many disciplines represented by the owners helps balance the firm’s perspective. 

Over the last four decades, Hafer has had their hands and solutions in many projects. Evansville airport’s move to Highway 57 north of the city; the Vectren headquarters along the riverfront; work on the Deaconess Gateway campus; the USI Rice Library; and the new Linda E. White Hospice House all tout the design of Hafer. Both Justice and Steinhart attribute the diverse background of Hafer employees to the achievements of their projects.

“We have experts in health care, education, corporate, and civic work. I’m looking forward to how that’s going to continue to help our clients in the future,” says Steinhart.

Success for Hafer has not only been attributed to the employees, however, but also to the fact the firm is willing to take on projects of all sizes.

“We do the small, the dirty, the tough,” says Steinhart. “It’s great to have the big projects — they are prominent in the communities we live in. But we tackle all kinds, all sizes.”

Not limiting the firm to certain size projects has helped maintain client relationships as well, adds Justice. Because not every project is large for a client, working on smaller needs helps Hafer learn more about what is important to a client, how they keep their business going, and keeps the lines of communication open.

“So when the big projects come, they continue to trust us and there is not a learning curve because we understand,” says Justice. “There is a number we use all the time and that’s the fact that about 90 percent of our business comes from repeat clients on an annual basis.”

▲ Above, interior designer Rebecca Brady, architect Vince Martin, project manager John Mann, and graduate architect Jason Epley discuss plans for a project. 

Jeff Justice has built his career at Hafer.

“I was born here,” he jokes with a broad smile.

The statement is not far from the truth. Justice has built his career at the firm, starting in 1981 when he took on an internship during his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati. Through a co-op program, he worked at Hafer doing a little bit of everything from running prints to completing errands.

“I came back after graduation (with a bachelor’s degree in architecture) just to kind of get my feet on the ground and figure out where in the country I wanted to go,” he says. In the end, he never left.

“At the time we were working on great projects. My first project out of college was the State Office Building in Indianapolis. I also worked on the Swonder Ice Arena and Victory Theatre restoration. I was excited about those,” explains Justice. “The firm offered great opportunities for me. I got to wear lots of different hats, got to understand all aspects of the business, and those experiences never stopped.”

A native of Evansville, Justice would capitalize on those opportunities over the years and build his career. He and his wife Nona and their two children continued to grow in Evansville as well. Eventually, Justice was named president of Hafer in 2004. Along with offering perspective on the firm’s many diverse projects, he was given the responsibility of shaping the strategic vision of the company.

Though he was excited to be given the opportunity to lead the firm where he had made his career, he says his first thought was about sustaining the culture of Hafer.

“I soon realized it was going to be very easy because of all the people around me,” he says.

So Justice began to look at ways Hafer could take what the firm had learned and build it into the next generation — taking advantage of the creative talents of a younger generation of employees, combining it with the well-established practices, and furthering that growth even more.

“When you give people opportunities, it’s surprising what we can accomplish,” says Justice. 

▲ By working on a variety of projects, Hafer president Jeff Justice says the firm keeps relationships going with clients. Above, Hafer has a hand in the design of the new Bluegrass Music Museum & Hall of Fame. 

People who come in to work at hafer are not there by chance, says Steinhart.

When a designer, an architect, an engineer, or marketing coordinator is hired to the Evansville or Owensboro, Kentucky, office, it is because they not only bring in a special skillset, but they fit into the firm’s culture as well.

“We have a fun atmosphere and a hard-working group — one that takes a lot of pride in what we do,” says Steinhart.

For marketing director Jill Rawley, that fun culture manifests in telling Hafer’s story to the community and prospective clients.

“It’s an easy story to tell because we have such great people and such great projects,” she says. “Everyone is driven with a passion to help other people. I think that’s the basis of what we do — designing to make this a better world.”

The firm doesn’t shy away from a family-like, close atmosphere. Celebrations for milestone birthdays, a viewing party for the recent solar eclipse, and office-style Olympic competitions are just some of the activities held to keep things light at the office.

“We do a lot of things that get people together, to spend time together, not just all work,” says Rawley. “I think that helps build the team.”

“You have to be able to laugh at yourself to work here at Hafer. Nobody is immune from a joke. Although I am getting a little tired of the short jokes,” adds Justice with a smile.

Jokes aside, the employees and associates at Hafer strive to use their skills for the betterment of local business and community. Justice, Steinhart, and Rawley all agree the philosophy of putting clients first not only pays off on current projects but future projects as well.

“Our goal is to make everyone around us — the people who we work for or the team — be successful,” says Justice. “If they are successful, then that success comes back to us in a great measure.”

It’s a belief among Justice and the others that success for all parties comes through trust. Clients trust Hafer because employees go above and beyond without question, says Rawley.

“They work so hard. They are not just going to quit at 5 p.m.,” she adds. “They are accessible around the clock.”

“Once a client or organization understands we really are motivated by being good stewards of their resources, they look at us in a different light,” says Justice. “That’s part of the trust.”

The legacy of Hafer’s commitment continues to pay off as projects near and far are awarded to the firm. Current construction projects like the Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, the new McCutchanville Elementary school, and Tropicana’s land-based casino will give way to new work at the Evansville Regional Airport, Jasper Parklands, a new urban park in Jasper, Indiana, and more. The team at the firm believes from those relationships, even more projects are sure to come.

“For us, we’re just excited for the next wave,” says Justice. “And with everything happening in Evansville, we’re confident it’s coming.”

For more information on Hafer, call 812-422-4187 or visit


In a Word: Courtesy

We asked three community influencers to share their thoughts on one word.

“To me, courtesy is more than being polite or civil to each other; it is paradigm — an approach to how we should live, work, and interact with others. The ‘Golden Rule,’ as Christ quoted in the New Testament, is to ‘do to others what you would have them do to you.’ Living by the Golden Rule is courtesy. It can be as simple as greeting people with a smile and a friendly hello. It also can be difficult and hard to show courtesy when people treat you wrongly or are mean-spirited. But, if your approach in life is to be courteous, then it will lift you up and lift others up as well. As the saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ Whether at home, at work, or at play, courtesy is a word to live by; it’s the ‘rising tide’ that lifts us all up. It is infectious, so show your courtesy.”  

Kiefer is the president of Hahn Kiefer Real Estate Services, currently serves on the Vanderburgh County Council, was a former county commissioner, and served two terms as an Evansville city councilman.

“Grantland Rice ends his poem ‘Alumnus Football’ with ‘For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name — He marks — not that you won or lost — but how you played the game.’ When I think of courtesy, I think of treating others with respect. In athletics, courtesy also is known as sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is showing your opponent, as well as your teammates, courtesy. It is shaking hands after a game. It is helping a fallen player up. By showing courtesy on the field, the court, the mat, or the track, it helps us to truly enjoy the sport for what it is — a game. This same courtesy extends into our daily lives. Encouraging others, lending a helping hand, and showing respect are of the utmost importance. In athletics, if you show courtesy, you are deemed a ‘good sport;’ in life, if you show courtesy, you are a good person. If we are to look at life as a game, if we are to extend courtesy during our time of play, then in the end it doesn’t matter who is deemed the winner, because we can all take pride in how we played the game.”

Owen is the director of athletics and physical activities for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.

“Correct forks aside, courtesy is more than good manners. It shows a person has an understanding for other people’s feelings and needs. Whether it’s holding a door open for a stranger, taking a moment to write a thank you note, or just saying please, a person who is courteous goes a long way toward creating a better community for all of us. However, a courteous person does not just happen; becoming a kind, compassionate member of society starts early. From promoting first words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to providing experiences where one learns to serve others, a person’s character is built as confidence grows through practice. Encouraging courteous behavior also takes a village. For example, it can come from home, church, school, a sports team, or a Girl Scout troop meeting. As leaders, it’s our job to be that village and work to create the next generation of thoughtful, courteous leaders who will make the world a better place.”

Stachura is the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana.


One Weekend in September

One of my favorite truisms goes like this: When you are under the age of 35 and you turn in on Sunday evening after the weekend with your spouse, partner, or in this day and age, whatever floats your boat, the conversation usually sounds something like, “What a great weekend. Party at the lake on Friday night, concert Saturday night, and lying around watching sports all day Sunday.”

At 35 years of age and beyond, a Sunday evening usually goes something like this: “Man, we sure got a lot done this weekend.”

At Tucker Publishing Group, we have long been the de facto keepers of the community calendar. When you edit every word of the calendar listings, you quickly learn one thing by default — there are a lot of happenings and events going on in our community on any given weekend. The weekend of Sept. 22-24 was certainly no exception. With a house full of guests in town to attend University of Evansville’s opening swim meet to watch my cousin’s son swim, we took special note of what was available should anyone wish to avail themselves of local offerings. For guests ranging in ages from 16 to 85 (a damn active 85 at that), the weekend was a treasure trove of things to do and decisions to be made. So here are some of the major events one could choose from:

•  High school and college sports — The best high school soccer in the state is played here, and football, as well.

•  An incredible display of vintage buses Downtown.

•  Huge quilt festival, Harvest of Quilts

•  Evansville Member Wander — An event celebrating the city’s seven culturalinstitutions by encouraging members of one to visit the other six free of charge.

•  Hilliard Lyons Bridge Run from Reo, Indiana, to Owensboro, Kentucky

•  USI Art Day

•  An Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra concert, featuring Bela Fleck

•  WNIN Kids Fest

•  Gilda’s Club Carnival

•  River City Faith Fest

•  SWIRCA’s annual Brewfest at Bosse Field — Featuring 400 beers!

•  Vanderburgh County Extension Fine Arts and Craft Show

•  Funk in the City — Which continues to be better every year.

•  British Car Show at the Old Lock and Dam in Newburgh, Indiana — Always a terrific event.

•  Race for the Cure — If your lip doesn’t quiver at least once during this event check your pulse. One of the largest in the nation, up to 6,200 people participated this year.

This was but one weekend in the River City. My rationale for this exercise? The next time I hear someone say there is nothing to do here, nothing going on in our community, I will know it was their own fault they didn’t have anything to do.

The best part of that weekend? I didn’t go to bed Sunday night and say, “We sure got a lot done this weekend.”

What about new local restaurants? Too hard to even try to keep track. But as anyone who reads this letter knows, I digress. Again.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. 

Todd A. Tucker


Land Ho

Tropicana Evansville opens state’s first land-based casino
Construction process of Tropicana’s new land-based casino facility.

River City residents will no longer be able to take their luck to the boat as Tropicana Evansville’s new land-based casino aims to change the gambling game in Indiana.

Set to officially open Oct. 20, the new $50-million facility will be the first land-based gambling facility in Indiana after legislation passed in 2015 to allow casinos on land — Indiana was one of the last states to pass such legislation. Tropicana Evansville was involved from the beginning to prepare and move the law forward, even hiring a lobbyist to work with elected officials locally and in the statehouse.

“We started working on discussions for the land-based casino well ahead of the 2015 session, probably even back through 2012,” says Stacey McNeill, Tropicana Evansville’s executive director of marketing.

The new facility hopes to expand the entertainment experience in Evansville and appeal to a broader audience — one interested in more than just gambling.

“A riverboat is a gambling destination. The only reason people go on the boat is to gamble,” says General Manager John Chaszar. “The significant difference is it goes from being a gambling establishment to being an entertainment establishment.”

Since its beginning in 1996 as Casino Aztar, the casino has undergone many transformations, beginning with the purchase of ownership by Tropicana Entertainment in 2010, rebranding in 2013, and now the opening of a land-based casino.

In the Evansville Business August/September 2013 cover story, “Name of the Game,” McNeill shared Tropicana’s goal of increasing customer growth in southwest Kentucky and Tennessee. Since then, she says they’ve seen continued growth from all of their MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Area), but especially Kentucky and Tennessee, a trend she thinks will continue with the new facility.

“If you stop growing, you essentially stop being successful,” says McNeill. “When you look at entertainment, and not just the casino industry, there always is a need and constant demand for change.”

For more information about Tropicana Evansville, call 812-433-4000 or visit


Hitting the Books

Cyndee Landrum strives to keep EVPL involved in community
Landrum says the energy and growth in Evansville right now is interesting — and she’s excited to be a part of it.

It is not surprising to Cyndee Sturgis Landrum that most of her career has involved libraries. The Chicago native grew up in libraries.

“My mom, probably when I was about 10, took a job at a medical library. It was down the street from where I attended grammar school,” says the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library chief executive officer and director. “So you can imagine every day after school I would walk to the library.”

Landrum came to Evansville’s library system in January 2016. She holds a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; a master’s degree in library science from the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and is a doctorial candidate in managerial leadership for the information professions from Simmons College, Boston. Her career has taken her all over the country, working in libraries in Oak Park, Illinois; Pittsburgh; and Glendale, Arizona. Landrum had interviewed for a position at EVPL before, but in the end was unable to join the library.

“I used to jokingly tell my friends Evansville was the one that got away,” she says. “But it goes to show, what is meant to be will be.”

Landrum’s job at EVPL has put her in a prime position to see the recent rebirth of Downtown Evansville, and she aims to make sure the libraries play a role in the growth being seen throughout the city.

“We are sort of asking ourselves the question, ‘Do our policies really reflect the experience we want to have with our users or that our users want to have?’” she says. “So you’ll see the library outside of itself … you’ll find us many places.”

The hope for Landrum is for the library to be a part of many community events to connect with residents by issuing cards and working with patrons to remove barriers to using the library. Plans also include growing community capital, which Landrum explains is the type of capital that helps the area grow.

“I see the library as one of the most democratic spaces in the community, in the sense that we’re open to all,” she says. “We have the potential to really spur change.”

And change is what she hopes to continue to instill not only in Evansville, but in her staff as well.

“Being able to contribute to building the community, whether it is civic awareness or social and cultural inclusion — helping people change their lives or broaden their perspectives — for me that really is rewarding,” says Landrum.

For more information on the EVPL, call 812-428-8200 or visit


Talk the Talk

TEDxEvansville shines light on community speakers

After falling down a rabbit hole of watching TED videos on YouTube a few years ago, Zac Parsons knew he wanted to be a part of bringing the experience to others in Evansville. In 2015, the city hosted its first TEDx gathering.

TEDxEvansville is an event sprung out of the nonprofit TED, whose mission is to spread ideas and start conversations through short video talks. TEDx, a program of TED, is designed to help communities create their own local talks and events.

Now in its third year, TEDxEvansville is moving from its previous location at the Koch Immersive Theater in the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science to the University of Southern Indiana’s Performance Center.

“It looks like what this space was designed for was hosting a TEDx event,” says Parsons, TEDxEvansville’s licensee and co-founder of Honey Moon Coffee Co. in Evansville.

This year’s event on Oct. 27 will feature 11 speakers from local professors to city employees. Lisa Wube, the program service director for the department of parks and recreation, will give her first TEDx talk this year on the topic of meetings.

“I’ve learned it’s OK to express yourself,” says Wube. “What I thought may be small, in comparison, actually is something people want to hear.”

Each talk will fit into this year’s theme of “grow.”

“It fits with what our community is experiencing right now,” says Parsons. “Either you’re here growing, or you’re declining as a city. And it feels like we’re growing.”


Hot Dam

Army Corps of Engineers keeps river traffic flowing

“Newburgh to Crystal Taylor. Newburgh to Crystal Taylor.”

Lockmaster Tony Barron pages an Ingram barge preparing to go through the Newburgh Lock and Dam. He starts the process of closing the gates to the 1,200-foot chamber and lowering the water in the lock before allowing Crystal Taylor to continue its journey down the Ohio River.

Since 1974, the Newburgh Lock and Dam has assisted boats on journeys up and down the river. Operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, the lock and dam is maintained by a staff of 16 full-time employees who work all day, every day, year round.

“A lot of people walk by and see it,” says Barron. “It’s something cool to see but they don’t know the ins and outs of it.”

Aside from getting boats through the lock, the team also is responsible for maintenance of the lock and dam. At the Newburgh Lock and Dam, upkeep is essential with its location by the park in the public eye. It also is one of the top five locks and dams in the country for tonnage of product like steel, stone, grain, petroleum, and, of course, coal — not including the many recreational boats using the lock and dam.

“We are very vital to the economy in this area,” says Barron. “We average probably around 400 towboats per month, and we average more than 4 million tons of commodity per month.”

Eight minutes after closing the gates for Crystal Taylor, the chamber has been emptied to the proper water level. For boats going down the river, the water is lowered by two 16-foot emptying valves pumping water into the river. To go up, two 16-foot filling valves raise the water level. Barron sounds a whistle twice and Crystal Taylor departs to continue down the river. There already is another boat below waiting to go up.

“It’s a great place to work. It really is,” says Barron. “Every day is a challenge and an adventure because you never know what you’re going to run into from day to day.”

For more information about the Newburgh Lock and Dam, visit


Energy Efficient

Christine Keck keeps life on its toes
Keck says her role as the director of government affairs with Vectren & Energy Systems Group almost is like having two jobs.

Christine Keck says the theme of her life is that it’s nonlinear. Looking back, her journey has taken many unexpected turns that ultimately led to her current position as the director of federal government affairs with Vectren and Energy Systems Group.

“If you charted out my career — I don’t know that we would write this in a textbook of how to do what I do — my career path is not linear,” says Keck. “It will look like an odd career path.”

This tendency for Keck to move with life’s surprises can be traced back to her college days. A transfer student from McGill University, Montreal, Canada, to Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, her ultimate goal was to continue to law school. However, Keck chose to go in a different direction at the last minute.

Around 1996, after moving around with her husband Jim Keck’s job in the hotel management industry, Keck moved back to the area where she joined Old National Bank. She had worked for the bank in college as a teller and rejoined through its management training program.

She eventually shifted toward corporate lending, which was her primary focus at the bank and would give her relevant experience needed in her future positions with ESG and Vectren.

“When I’m going into a loan committee, I’m really there advocating for the customer — that they need this line of credit to expand their business or start up their business,” she says. “I’m in that forum then advocating for the customer while still being an advocate for the bank. That background really prepared me for what I do now.”

Keck was on track to excel to the top of Old National. Then, in October 2008, she left her role with the company to join Energy Systems Group (ESG) — one of Vectren’s subsidiary companies — as the director of strategy and business development.

She says the decision was not an easy one. In fact, it is the biggest decision she has made so far in her professional life. Earlier that same year, a longtime friend and officer at ESG Lawrence Roth approached Keck about a new role with the company.

“I was highly immersed in my work for the bank and our clients, incredibly proud of the bank’s leadership team and our colleagues, and couldn’t really envision making a change,” she says. “Over the next several months, I began to do a lot of industry research and a lot of praying and thoughtful consideration over what a career change like this might entail. Increasingly as I did this, I was really drawn to the opportunity and the possibilities that a move like this could bring, especially given how important — how essential and fundamental to our lives — energy and the energy industry is.”

After her transition to ESG and with her work focused on renewable and federal energy projects, the role quickly evolved into a government relations position. In 2011, ESG developed an actual position for a director of government relations, which Keck took over. As a result, she started closely working with colleagues in Vectren’s government relations area. Then, in the fall of 2013, Keck became the director of federal government affairs for Vectren, while maintaining her role with ESG.

She says it’s like having two jobs — she has two business cards and email addresses (one from ESG and one from Vectren) to prove it. Walk into her office and visitors will see four different computer screens on her desk — two for her work at ESG and two for Vectren.

“People always come up to my office and say, ‘Are you a day trader? Why do you have all these screens?’” says Keck.

The largest portion of her position is advocating on behalf of ESG and Vectren to federal representatives about the companies’ initiatives like energy efficiency and sustainable infrastructure projects. A core function of ESG also is energy savings performance contracting, an audit in existing government facilities as well as other institutions, like K-12 schools, of everything creating a major utility spend — lighting, windows, heating and air, and water systems. Through the energy savings performance contracting, the company determines opportunities to upgrade infrastructure to make it more energy efficient. The savings — guaranteed by the company — from the increased efficiency then pay for the project.

Part of advocating on behalf of the companies means monthly trips to Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill where she meets with members of Congress and their staff — a process she likens to speed dating. Members of Congress and staffers can have 10 or more meetings in a day with people like Keck. Each person typically only has 30 minutes maximum.

“They’re hearing from all different people from all walks of life on all different issues all day, running the gamut from animal rescue groups and tax reform to you name it,” she says. “It’s everybody and everything.”

Making connections, establishing rapport, creating understanding, tying in to constituents, and asking for what she needs, has been a process developed over time and with practice for Keck.

“She’s one of those people you could call out of a crowd of 10,000 people to give an impromptu speech, and she would have no trouble,” says Jim Keck. “She would have no fear.”

She admits, however, it can be intimidating to go in knowing a member of Congress already is extremely well versed on the issue. She has found herself in meetings being asked the hard questions. “Why is it the role of the federal government to support this particular tax measure?” “Why is that proper policy for the federal government?” She has to have an answer, one that is supportable and also addresses where they’re coming from.

“She can really reach high, knows a lot of people, and has great political instincts,” says Jennifer Schafer, the executive director of the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition. “She is able to secure meetings at the highest level. She’s dogged in pursuit of her companies’ goals.”

Building rapport, relationships, and connections is at the core of everything Keck does, through all of her path’s many twists and turns.

“Christine is adept at rallying stakeholders behind a proposal or issue, which is essential to impacting public policy outcomes,” says Stefan Bailey, a managing director of Prime Policy Group, a public affairs agency that works closely with Vectren. “Christine has reinforced for me the importance of being persistent in bringing people together around a common cause.”

Aside from the connections and relationships she builds, it’s the environment that truly inspires Keck. She says there’s not a single time — even in the midst of a snowstorm — she has visited Capitol Hill and hasn’t been in awe of her surroundings. The key to her job is respecting the institution, the roles, the service, and the process.

“It’s inspiring to me every single time, and I think that’s important,” says Keck. “I respect it, and that give me a lot of enthusiasm for what I do. It’s very exciting to be able to be a part of this and to be a small voice in the process of where our nation is going on these really important issues.”

For more information on Energy Systems Group, call 812-471-5000 or visit

For more information on Vectren, call 800-227-1376 or visit


On Beat

Moore Music strikes a chord in the Tri-State
Brett Mulzer got his first guitar from Moore Music as a kid. Today, he owns the store and has significantly grown the business.

The walls of Brett Mulzer’s office are lined with guitars — exactly what you would expect from the owner and president of Moore Music. An orange guitar hangs on the wall. It was his first Paul Reed Smith he found in Florida when he was 24. Another guitar once belonged to Keith Urban while he was on a tour, but Mulzer is quick to point out that’s not his best story.

The best story belongs to an old, hollow-bodied guitar. It was his best friend’s dad’s guitar — the guitar and the man gave Mulzer his love for music. He can recall the first time he played it with his friend as a kid in the family’s shed.

“We weren’t supposed to be playing this stuff. We grabbed it, plugged it in, and almost burnt the shed down because we didn’t know what we were doing. We just started banging around,” says Mulzer. “That night I went home and asked my mom if she would buy me a guitar, and we came to Moore Music and got it. That was where I bought my first guitar.”

On May 28, 2012, Mulzer’s musical journey came full circle when he officially took over the store from the original owner and founder Patrick Moore. After working as a band director for several years at Tell City High School, Mulzer purchased the building from Moore, who continued to run the music store out of the front half of the building while Mulzer used the back half as a location to operate a recording studio.

Until this year, Mulzer has operated Moore Music out of the location on Morgan Avenue. In July, the store made the official move to a new location at 301 N. Royal Ave. after the acquisition of Opus 1 Music in the previous home of Buxton Plaza.

“Our main goal was to get in this area,” says Mulzer. “We needed a lot more space, and, with Opus 1 and Dr. Buxton wanting to retire, it was just a perfect fit for us to move in and take over a space that already was known for being a music store.”

The new location has given the business desperately needed room, increasing the space from about 12,000 square feet to about 27,000 square feet. At the new store, customers can shop from a stock of almost 1,300 different guitars. Five years ago, the store had 30 guitars. In the beginning, Moore Music only offered two drum sets. Now, the store boasts 15 to 20 sets at all times. Cymbals have increased from 20 to almost 50, and amplifiers from 5 to well over 100.

“When I bought the company, the inventory was very, very small,” says Mulzer. “The footprint was very small. There was no online presence. There was no website at all. I ultimately wanted to end up with an amazing store for the Tri-State. Our goal was to buy the store, put it online, and let the online grow to get revenue up and support the amount of inventory we have.”

This strategy has been successful for Mulzer and his team. About 65 percent of his revenue comes from online sales and the other 35 percent from shoppers in the Tri-State.

“For a long time, the online sales supported the inventory of the store,” says Mulzer. “It still does, and we couldn’t support the store without online sales. But I don’t want anybody to think we could do it without the Tri-State either. Our online business couldn’t support itself right now without the help of the Evansville people.”

Mulzer realizes, in today’s retail climate, shoppers don’t go out simply to shop. If customers don’t need knowledge or guidance, they will go online — a reason creating a successful retail website was critical for Moore Music’s growth and success. This mindset, however, also affected how the company approached the design and vibe of the new storefront.

“We figure the only way we’re going to continue being successful as a brick and mortar store is to create an experience where people can feel comfortable, where people know they can come and talk to knowledgeable staff members,” says Mulzer. “I try to not have much turnover with my employees because that leads to better relationships with customers.”

Many of the employees were longtime customers of the store, like store manager Allen Clark III. He has been at the store for four years and is the resident drum expert, playing since he was a year old. The day Mulzer offered him the position was the day Clark graduated from EMT classes, but Clark didn’t skip a beat before saying yes.

“It’s the coolest music shop in town, so, of course, it was a no brainer,” he says. “I like interacting with the musicians, those are my favorite people to interact with — talking music, talking drums, talking guitars, being able to get people those tools to make better music. It’s cool they come here to get that gear.”

Another approach to increase the success of the brick and mortar store was the company’s purchase of the Evansville Music Academy. Students can take lessons on most instruments like guitar, bass, drums, piano, band instruments, fiddle, ukulele, and banjo. After buying an instrument at Moore Music, customers receive one free lesson through the academy.

Along with the acquisition of the Evansville Music Academy, Mulzer, who has a 5-year-old daughter, also is passionate about creating opportunities for female musicians, as mostly boys are exposed to drum and guitar. The store is hosting a day for daughters specifically for parents to bring their daughters and expose them to music. The event will have a date announced later this year on the company’s social media and will feature the female musical duo The Honey Vines.

“We are seeing a really big uptick in females learning guitars. A lot of them are starting from ukulele,” says Gloria Orange-Barnett, the store’s operations manager. “I have two granddaughters. For one of them I bought a ukulele, and she’s playing guitar now. My other granddaughter got to take an introductory drum lesson from Pat Moore, and now she definitely is an aspiring drummer.”

Whether it is the store’s vast inventory, customer service, or partnership with the Evansville Music Academy, sharing a passion for music is at the heart of the business.

“We spend time with our customers and we listen to all of their questions and concerns, because we want them walking around out there with something they can be as happy with as possible,” says Clark.

Moore Music’s priority isn’t selling instruments or music gear, but creating a community of musicians in the Tri-State who truly enjoy making music.

“We don’t just try to sell you something and then say, ‘Hope you come back some day,’ We want to know a month later if your guitar still is playing like it did before. Is your amp still working correctly? Do you need help tuning your drums?” says Mulzer. “It’s out of a genuine humility and kindness we want to help you, because we know it can be frustrating. Our focus is to make sure the person, once they take an instrument home, will want to continue playing it, not just try it and forget about it. We want people to continue to want to play.”

For more information about Moore Music, call 812-479-9595 or visit


Ben Shoulders

Education: Harrison High School graduate; bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana; bank management certificate and Commercial Lending School graduate from the Indiana Bankers Association

Resume: Corporate Relationship Manager and Vice President, Old National Bank, 2013-present; Vanderburgh County Commissioner, District 1, January 2017-present

Family: Wife Shannon; children Emma (7) and twins Sadie (4) and Parker (4)

Faith, family, friends, and community. That is how Ben Shoulders prioritizes his life.

Between his family, position as vice president and corporate relationship manager at Old National Bank, and recent election as commissioner for Vanderburgh County, the 39-year-old knows how to stay busy.

Did you ever imagine as a kid this is what you would be doing now?
I knew I would be in some sort of relationship-driven occupation. I’ve always loved people. I’ve always loved problem solving and collaboration. All the many hats I’ve worn in banking, I honestly can say, have all been related to helping people. The foundation my wife and I try to instill in our children is the same set of values my mother and father instilled in my brother and me.

Is there anything you wish people understood about being commissioner?
I will speak to any local, regional, state, or national elected officials — I have a whole newfound respect for them. When your name is out there, anyone has freedom to critique you at any time. Oftentimes that discourages people from serving in government, so I respect any individual who decides to run for office. What I hope people know is, when people decide to run, they’re doing it to serve and make our community better. At least that’s why I did.

What’s your advice to someone wanting to be more involved in the community?
Find what your passion is, and find someone who already is involved in that organization or has been in the past. Sit down with them and ask how you can be involved. First and foremost, we’re grateful to have people who want to be involved. We need more of that. I truly believe in servant leadership, community engagement, and paying it forward. Individuals who are passionate about making a difference are what make good communities great.

What is your favorite part about living in Evansville?
I think our No. 1 asset in Vanderburgh County is the people. People here are passionate about being from here. Whether you’re from the West Side, East Side, North Side, South Side, there’s a passion in your alma mater, your church, your community I think is second to none.