Metro-East News

Business briefing: Heil Sound adding on to its music legacy

Heil Sound is adding to its warehouse of microphones, speakers and other audio equipment it supplies to the world from Fairview Heights.

President Sarah Heil said the company has run out of room at its 5800 N. Illinois St. shop, which is currently being expanded. Another 3,200 square feet of space is being added to the warehouse.

“We are just desperately out of room,” Heil said.

Bob Heil founded the now-international company in 1966 when he opened Ye Olde Music Shop in his hometown of Marissa. Heil, who is now semi-retired, is an accomplished organ player and tinkered with speakers and microphones.

In the early 1960s, he inherited two huge speakers the Fox Theater was discarding. In 1969, the day after he opened his Marissa music shop, the theater called Heil with a problem: a band was in town, but the FBI had arrested its sound man under suspicion of carrying drugs the night before, after the band’s previous gig in New Orleans. The band, whom Heil had never heard of, was without amplifiers. The theater manager asked Heil if he would talk to the band leader.

That’s the night he met Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. It was the start of a musical relationship. Once news spread of his saving “The Dead” from canceling its show, other bands came calling and Heil’s star rose within the industry.

Today, Heil Sound manufactures microphones and sound systems around the world for both professional and amateur clients. The business Bob Heil founded in 1966 relocated to Fairview Heights in 1994. Sarah Heil said the company has ceased its home-theater division but remains in high demand. She said the company was looking at possibly relocating, but later decided to expand into an adjacent lot.

“This is the third expansion,” she said. “I don’t think we have room for another one.”

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-Will Buss, BND business writer

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