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After creating the office supply superstore concept and running Office Depot, what does Mark Begelman do for an encore?

The 51-year-old Mr. Begelman-an amateur musician with a band of his own-married his passion for retailing to his love of music to conceive Mars: the Musician's Planet, Earth's first music and recording superstore.

Mars opened in Tampa, Fla., in March 1997 and has since expanded to include 23 concert hall-sized stores containing $3 million in inventory. Mars claims to offer 60% off retail prices and this year anticipates sales of $200 million, up from $60 million two years ago. It trails Guitar City and Sam Ash in the marketplace.

It's the fine tuning of the Mars promotional efforts that distinguishes it in the $6 billion industry. Each promotion bears the imprint of Mr. Begelman's philosophy as it reaches for consumers aged 8 to 44.

Mars offers Rock University where adult amateur musicians can learn, play, rehearse and perform with local talents on the store's in-house stage, recording studio and demo rooms. The concept comes out of Mr. Begelman's own experience as a member of an amateur band once called Eraserheads, now known as Men From Mars.

For kids, Mars offers "In Tune With Kids," the Young Musicians Talent Showcase and the Mars Music Foundation in conjunction with Music Educators National Conference. Mars provided 160,000 lessons to children in 1998. That number is expected to exceed 200,000 this year.

"Education is one of the guiding principals of Mars," says Mr. Begelman. "By bringing the joy of performing to not only amateur and professional musicians but to new participants, our goal is to create an ever larger pool of music

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