Megan V. WInslow/Town Crier Tiffany Petrossi founded Rockin’ Kidz, a music education studio and store that recently expanded into Los Altos, above.

Rockin' Kidz, a music education studio and store that recently expanded into Los Altos, started with Whole Foods Market stock money and a dream, according to founder Tiffany Petrossi.

A mom of four, Petrossi and her then-husband were accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck at the time. Her twins were 2 years old, and there were always medical bills, she said. Petrossi had been teaching private music lessons out of her home for some time but felt like she was always dividing her time between cleaning and creating a professional environment for her students learning guitar, piano, voice, drama or songwriting.

Her search for studio space led to bigger things.

"I had about $1,500, and so I asked the landlord if they could waive the deposit," Petrossi said of her actions seven years ago, when she noticed a "for lease" sign in the window of a Los Gatos storefront. "(In total) it was $2,500 a month or something. I could not afford to lose any money the next month. And then that turned into all this."

Rockin' Kidz succeeded in its first location and moved to another spot in the building before opening a site in Saratoga. That felt like a homecoming of sorts, Petrossi said, as she had attended high school in the area after being raised in Burlingame for the majority of her childhood.

But she wasn't done yet. She launched another location in San Jose's Almaden area.

"You know how people say you should write your goals down?" Petrossi said. "I actually like the places (where the stores are) myself. I think they are nice communities, and Rockin' Kidz is really a family-run business."

It doesn't hurt that each location is within a 12-minute drive from her house, in different directions. Los Altos, her fourth site, is the farthest away at 15 minutes. Located in Rancho Shopping Center, the Los Altos studio demanded the biggest leap out of Petrossi's comfort zone - both because she needed to hire additional teachers on the Peninsula and because she was not initially planning to open another Rockin' Kidz this year.

"When I saw the (opening) in the Rancho Shopping Center, it was kind of an accident," she said. "I wasn't necessarily going to open a location this year and then I saw the ad. ... I look at a strip mall that has things that are convenient for the family for when their son or daughter is in a 30-minute lesson."

Balancing passions

Petrossi loves her job, a combination of the teaching work she used to do prior to opening her business and the professional training she has as a musician (when Gavin Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, he named a day after her, Petrossi casually dropped into conversation). Fostering a love for music in young kids not only fulfills her desires, but also the needs of the area.

"I felt like there was a real need for (music lessons for kids) that was missing from the market," she said. "When you go to Guitar Center or Guitar Showcase, they are wonderful places, (but) they are not geared toward young kids. When you go in there, it's all rock 'n' roll."

To meet the need, Petrossi first opened an after-school program. It filled up almost immediately. Her idea to open a studio/store combo that exposed children to playing instruments and sold ones made for them came to life shortly after.

Petrossi said she's able to monitor her four stores from her computer now, but she prefers to be more involved than that. She wants people to have faith in her brand, and that requires being present. While that means sacrificing time she could be using to produce her own music or practice for the play she is learning lines for ("Mamma Mia" at Evergreen College in San Jose), it's worth it.

"I am an active owner, and I don't know if that makes a difference," she said. "I have kids and I am a musician myself. I understand what it has given me in life and I do truly want to give back."

Music has always been an outlet Petrossi could return to, and that's the relationship she aims to cultivate for each of the students at Rockin' Kidz. Many music studios adhere to a strict, traditional model that preaches a set number of practices, but each child learns differently, according to Petrossi.

"I don't want to have this blanket approach to every student," she said. "Every student and their families are very important to us."

Some parents even take lessons themselves so that they can understand what their kids are practicing. At the Los Altos location, there are multiple practice rooms that students of all ages can use to improve their skills, which Petrossi unveiled in a sneak-peek video on the Rockin' Kidz Instagram account (@rockinkidzmusicco). Lessons are available for kids ages 3 and up.

Rockin' Kidz is located at 636 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, visit rockinkidz.com.