FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — If Sweetwater President Mike Clem was worried about how to grow the company when he becomes CEO Sept. 29, he didn’t show it; he simply recited from the winning playbook.

“We always focus on one customer at a time and one detail at a time,” Clem said. “And that’s straight from Chuck.”

As in “Chuck Surack,” founder of the online music gear retailer and current Sweetwater board president.

Clem told WANE 15 Surack had cautioned the company about growing too quickly at the expense of its “white-glove” customer service.

The privately held company reported record sales of $1.57 billion in 2022. In 2021, Surack stepped away to focus on other business and charity interests. He was replaced by longtime COO John Hopkins, who will retire later this month.

Clem, a drummer and Monroeville native, was tapped as CEO last week. He reaffirmed the company’s commitment to northeast Indiana, adding he expected the campus to continue to host concerts for the public.

He would also like to see a hybrid model for GearFest, which brought thousands of customers to Fort Wayne to shop and learn from music experts. The event went online during the pandemic and has yet to resume in person.

“We’re very committed to getting people into this building,” he said.

Clem joined the company in 2003 at a time most sales were over the phone. He helped spearhead the online efforts without sacrificing customer relationships. He championed free shipping, free warranties and free tech support.

“A lot of digital innovation here, more than you would expect between two cornfields.”

Clem laughed when asked if Sweetwater, famous for including candy in every order, might be Bit-O-Honey’s biggest customer.

“We’ve got to be up there,” he smiled. “What’s funny about the candy is we will now get customers who say, ‘Hey, I want a little more Bit-O-Honey and not the Tootsie Rolls’ or ‘Hey, my spouse says I could order this if I could just get a little bit extra.'”

Clem didn’t consider the move as a passing of the torch because, he said, music transcends age and generations.

“There’s so much energy and talent in this building,” he explained. “We get excited about taking everything that Chuck taught us and keeping that true into the future.”