The online sales business has helped him generate more than $10 million in sales and he has shipped instruments to customers in Australia, Israel, Canada and other countries.

PLAIN TWP.  A man walked into Akron Music in 1999, looked at the guitars the store offered and claimed he could sell them all in two weeks.

Brian Robinson, who worked for Akron Music at the time, scoffed. But it happened, Robinson said. Two weeks later, the guitars were sold thanks to an online sales service called eBay.

Robinson now owns Music Farm at 4900 Whipple Ave. NW and he uses eBay to generate sales around the world. The online e-commerce platform recognized Robinson and Music Farm as one of its top sellers and invited him to be part of its 13th annual United State of eBay seller advocacy day in Washington, D.C.

In mid-May, Robinson was among representatives of 20 small businesses selected to participate in the advocacy day and meet and members of Congress and their staff to explain how they have succeed thanks to eBay and online sales.

The eBay advocates talked with elected officials and their staffers about how the Internet, technology and different platforms have changed how they operate. They also explained that lawmakers need to keep small businesses in mind when they consider policy initiatives. One concern, according to eBay officials, is a proposed Internet sales tax that would place small online sales companies on the same level as billion dollar retailers.

Robinson said working with eBay allows him to do what he loves, which is being part of the music business. He grew up in Canal Fulton and as a teenager started helping at his church operating the sound system. He then learned about recording and production in school, before going to work as a keyboard salesman for Akron Music.

"They took a chance on me," he said.

After more than 10 years at Akron Music, Robinson took a chance on himself and launched Music Farm from his home near Doylestown. He initially handled all sales online using eBay. He opened his first store in Orrville in 2007, with roughly 90 percent of his sales coming online.

As online sales fluctuated, Robinson decided to seek a higher profile location. He moved in 2012 to the Belden Village area. His in-store sales have grown but online sales still account for about 40 percent of his business.

Most of Music Farm's online sales involve guitars, but there is demand for amplifiers, public address equipment, drum kits, horns and other instruments, Robinson said. About 28 percent of his products are exported, with equipment being shipped to Australia, Canada, Israel and other countries.

While Robinson uses other online sales platforms, he believes eBay offers the best option for small businesses. "I appreciate how eBay is involved with small businesses," he said.

Top griller

Need some grilling advice? Canton area resident Michelle Cerveny can offer some help.

Cervenya, a grill master at LongHorn Steakhouse in Cuyahoga Falls, won the restaurant chain's Steak Master Series during a competition last week in Orlando, Fla. The honor netted her a $10,000 grand prize along with bragging rights.

She also is the first woman to win the company's Steak Master Series competition.

But it also means that she — and six other contest finalists — will be available on Wednesday to provide award winning grilling advice through the LongHorn Steakhouse GRILL US hotline. You can call 855-LH-GRILL (855-544-7455) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday, which is considered the most popular grilling holiday of the year.

Cerveny said she was humbled, overjoyed and in shock after winning the competition. "I never win anything," Cerveny said in a company statement. "This means the world to me. It's not about being a man or a woman; it comes down to skill."

She has worked 11 years with LongHorn as a grill master, server and trainer.

More than 5,000 LongHorn employees had the chance to enter the competition when it started in February.

Award winning steel

The American Metal Market presented an award for steel excellence to the Endurance line made by TimkenSteel Corp.

Judges with steel industry leadership experience selected winners of the AMM awards, which recognize innovation and excellence in steel and steel-related industries.

TimkenSteel's Endurance line includes high-strength and high-toughness grades, along with three new, patent-pending, ultra high strength and toughness steels designed to provide longer life, more power and lighter weight in gears and other highly engineered components. The lines were designed by collaborating with customers in the industrial, oil and gas, and automotive industries, the company said.

"We're honored and humbled to be part of such a distinguished group of industry innovators," Ray Fryan, vice president of technology and quality, said in a press release.

"Innovation has been a TimkenSteel core value since we were founded more than 100 years ago," Fryan said. "The focus on making cleaner and better-performing steels to meet our customers' needs is something our company — and especially our team of materials science and manufacturing experts — are particularly proud of."

Timken expanding plant in South Carolina

Timken Co. plans to invest $2.5 million for new equipment to increase capacity at its Tyger River plant in Union, S.C.

The 350,000-square-foot facility opened in 1966 and makes bearings and bearing components. The company entered an incentive agreement with the Union County Council. The company will pay "certain negotiated fees" in lieu of taxes.

Investments are critical to the long-term success of the facility, Bob Hart, manager of the Tyger Rive plant, told the Union Daily Times after the agreement was finalized.

Housing sales flat

The Ohio Association of Realtors reported a slight dip in housing sales during May.

Statewide sales are down less than 1 percent, with 56,366 units sold through the end of May. Meanwhile, the average price per unit has risen 6.6 percent to $175,333. During May there were 15,133 units sold, down 2.2 percent from 15,481 sold a year ago.

In the the 20-county listing service that covers Northeast Ohio — including Stark, Carroll and Tuscarawas counties — 18,136 units have been sold so far this year, a slight gain from 18,121 units sold. The average price has climbed 6.2 percent to $158,525. The number of units sold in May rose 1 percent to 4,979 from 4,928 last year.

Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or

On Twitter: @epritchardREP