A Conversation with Lillian Werbin of Elderly Instruments


A Q&A by Lansing Made’s Melik Brown

Tasked with talking to people who are Lansing Made, one of the first who came to mind was Lillian Werbin. A welcoming and passionate voice behind the operations of Elderly Instruments of Lansing, Werbin’s thoughtful approach to business and life is impressive.


Q: you’re elderly instruments.

A: I am, well the Werbins are. I am in an industry that is completely based on the friendships and relationships outside of business. The music is a conversation that is friendly and familiar. The transaction is a conversation. My passion is a simple exchange of ideas and words. Without that, it’s a lonely life. That’s the spine of who we are, is making sure people come back to see us.


Q: How is it when people find out who exactly you are?

A: I’m Stan’s daughter. I run operations.


Q: Let’s put that in perspective. stan is white of skin.

A: Yes, I’m adopted. I’m a black female. What is difficult about that position is forever having to explain that position. I’ve never felt that who I was would hinder my business’s ability to move forward in the world that we are living right now. In this world that we’re in right now, who I am is becoming more important to the overall conversation.


Q: you had to learn so much more than the business. How did that make you feel?

A: At first a little irritated. Irritation turned into thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness turned into patience. Then patience turned into willingness to communicate.


Q: can you speak about the famous people that shop at elderly?

A. You’re going to be disappointed. We don’t treat them any differently. We are matching uniqueness to individuals. We match individuals to uniqueness. We don’t care what is in your pocket. If you want to come in and play it, we encourage you to do so.


Q: how have your parents transcended with your presence in their life?

A: We are so grateful for each other. I hope the essence of who I have become teaches them that they are just as good as they hope and believe they are. They are most certainly the best people I’ve ever known.


Q: what is one of your pinnacle moments as a business person?

A: The growth in myself. You couldn’t have told me six years ago that I was running a business with 45 employees and everything that comes with considering each of them and their needs. But I’m humbled by my own ability to keep them all at the same level of respect.


Q: what is one of your biggest business accomplishments being a black business owner?

A: Navigating like it doesn’t bother me. What I have to balance is ensuring that my personal fears cannot affect my business.


Our conversation lasted nearly an hour and could have gone longer. Werbin’s words ring true and inspire emotion … just like a song.

Let the music play.

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