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‘It’s part of our history’: Downtown Winona furniture store turns back the clock as a music venue

December 7, 2018

Since 1939, Sean Burke’s family has owned the building on the corner of Franklin and Third streets in downtown Winona.

And for much of the time it’s been a place to buy furniture. But at other times, it’s been a place to listen to music.

Now the longtime furniture store is coming full circle and is again finding its way to music and live events. Burke’s Music House will host this weekend’s “Christmas Radio Show” from Theatre du Mississippi and has plans to host more events in the future.

Back in 1939, Burke’s great grandfather went from selling funeral caskets to furniture. But with a passion for music, he would host “Listening Concerts,” featuring both records and live performances in the store.

“They would bring in the latest 78 record and listen,” Sean said.

Later in the years, when the second and third generations of Burkes took over, it went back to focusing on furniture. And up until a few years ago it stayed that way, selling living room sets to countless Winonans.

Then the furniture market began to evolve.

Most furniture is bought online, Sean said, and now his business mostly works specifically with custom furniture orders.

But within the Burke’s Furniture Mart, there is still quite a handful of couches, chairs, and cozy living room sets waiting to be sat in.

That’s why Burke — and his wife, Shaune — decided, after some inspiration and encouragement, it’s time to bring it back to music.

“I’m a musician,” Sean said, adding that the 40-by-50 foot space is there and it seemed like a great way to use it.

But they’re looking to make it a bit different than other music venues in town.

“We’re not interested in large (crowds),” Shaune said. “It’s a small, intimate space.”

The two explained that it’s best for an audience of about 60 people, but it could hold a little more. For the Christmas Radio Show, they’ll have seating for about 75. The two said they want to keep the living room type feel with space in between couches and chairs and with plenty of end tables scattered throughout. They’re also looking to have shows that don’t go too late into the night.

The two said they’re excited for the new direction and performances like the radio show. In the future, they would love to get solo and duo musicians in there to bring back the feeling of the listening concerts from long ago.

“It’s part of our history,” Sean said. “It’s a neat circle that we’ve come.”

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