Winter Afternoon, With Guitars

This afternoon I visited a few local guitar shops to do interviews for a freelance gig I have and saw some really spectacular stuff. One of the places happened to be my go-to for gear and repairs, Main Drag Music in Williamsburg. These guys do top-notch work and, contrary to any negative stereotypes or conceptions people may have of the ‘Burg and it’s inhabitants, I’ve always been treated well there. (In a previous post I admitted to being less-than-kind at work, but hey, employment in the service sector can be rough going. I do my best to be courteous and helpful to my customers. But I digress…)

The other two spots I visited were shops I hadn’t heard of previously. Retrofret is a rare/vintage stringed-instrument shop in Boerum Hill, hidden down near the Gowanus Canal in a mostly industrial strip of Butler St. Initially, I missed the building entirely (there’s no sign outside, just the name on the door buzzer), but it’s a real treasure if rare and vintage is your thing: guitars, basses, violins, cellos, mandolins, ukeleles, banjos, even medieval-looking lutes! Also, the guy downstairs runs a pipe-organ repair shop.

Over in Manhattan Rudy’s Music Soho is essentially an art gallery for guitars. Rudy Pensa came to the city from Argentina in ’72 and, after a couple years, decided to stay and open a guitar shop. He’s a real character and we chatted about soccer (he loves Leo Messi, of course, and extolled the phenomenon that is the current Barça side) and how his father taught him about guitars from the age of 7. Rudy’s original shop on 48th St. was a bit of a game-changer for instrument retail: the instruments each had their own floor, so that acoustics, electrics and basses weren’t vying for space with one another. Recently Rudy collaborated on a compendium of vintage guitars and photos that will be part of an upcoming exhibit at The Met. The in-store collection, though, is pretty marvelous, full of high-end eye-candy right at home in Soho. Some of the craziest models in there are custom AM Guitars made of repurposed metals and woods that are just beyond belief. If they sound half as spectacular as they look, they’re still far better than anything I’ve ever used.

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