News Column

Music, lights and 'I do'

September 2, 2014

By Dan Nielsen, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Sept. 02--TRAVERSE CITY -- Scot Gardner and his wife, Angela watched people dance at a wedding reception seven years ago and chatted about the DJ's performance.

"He was so bad," Gardner said. "We kept saying, 'He should do this, or he should do that.'"

The reception ended and life went on.

Some time later, Gardner, now 40, said he "Woke up one morning and said, 'I'm gonna do it.'" His wife had to ask what he was talking about.

At the time, he was working as purchasing director for Teter Orthotics and Prosthetics, a Traverse City-based company with 19 locations across Michigan. After Gardner's morning epiphany, in his spare time, he put together a collection of tunes, bought some inexpensive sound equipment and started working weekends, spinning songs during wedding receptions, as Northern DJ Connection, LLC.

"I had never DJ'd before," he said. "I didn't know anything about it."

The only thing he did know from the start was that he loved it. His enthusiasm shines through his smile when he talks about running the business. For four years, weekends were a labor of DJ love as he paid the bills working for Teter. About three years ago, he gave up the day job and devoted all his energy to the DJ business.

Revenue from the operation has grown steadily since over the years, with a massive, six-fold jump between 2010 and 2011. About 85% of his business involves destination weddings, celebrations sited in Traverse City by couples who live elsewhere. He regularly plays music for couples from Detroit, Grand Rapids, Chicago and as far away as Montana.

The growing clientele allowed him to upgrade his services and gear over the years.

"We started with really shoddy equipment," Gardner said of his early days in the trade.

These days, he owns four state-of-the art mobile DJ units with sound and lights. He contracts with three other DJs to help operate those units. A big chunk of his bread-and-butter comes from an exclusive contract with the owner of Frog Pond Village, an event and wedding venue just west of Chum's Corner.

Northern DJ Connection provides entertainment for about 90 weddings each summer.

Last year, Gardner added to his repertoire of offerings with the purchase of a trolley bus. He bought the vehicle from Frog Pond Village, which had acquired it from BATA. Wedding-related parties and tours account for about 70 percent of The Trolley's total business, Gardner said. The other 30% of his bus revenue is generated from winery and brewery tours.


(c)2014 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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Source: Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI)

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