A downtown Kennewick icon is packing up and moving to Chicago.
Music Machine, a guitar-centered music shop on West Kennewick Avenue, had its official last day on Saturday but will remain open this week as owner Rick van Heel sells out the remaining inventory and packs up the long-time business.
It’s a bittersweet moment for owner van Heel, who has worked at the store for 32 years.
As the final hours ticked off, van Heel said he was getting a little teary about the last days of Music Machine. But he recently moved to Chicago where his wife, Kandace, is a rising executive with Ulta Beauty and the distance was too far.
“The commute is getting a little difficult,” he joked.
Van Heel’s long affiliation with Music Machine began when he was 14 and signed on as a janitor, working for founder Dave Carpenter.
In 2004, he bought the business, continuing its tradition of selling guitars and other equipment for musicians. The store hosted music lessons, recording sessions and van Heel gained a reputation for supporting music education with gifts of instruments and other items. In 2014, he spearheaded an instrument drive to support the Boys & Girls Club.
He is a 1988 graduate of Kennewick High School who performed with the band Nasty Jack.
He rejected selling Music Machine or moving it to Chicago, choosing to use the move as an opportunity to make a clean break.
“Now I have to go find a new job,” he said.
Music Machine will soon be a memory, but its sidewalk Elvis is sticking around. The Elvis statue that greeted passers-by on West Kennewick Avenue has relocated to Warner Auto Sales Center, 407 W. Columbia Drive.
Van Heel said he picked up the popular figure from a failed Portland rock and roll-themed restaurant.